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Interview Team : Jyothsna

He was Satish Godbole, the insensitive husband of Sridevi in English Vinglish. He has been a part of films like Ishqiya, Kaminey, Life of Pi, Agent Vinod, Lootera and many more. An alumnus of National School of Drama and also a faculty there, Adil Hussain’s roots are in theatre.  The acclaimed performer comes to Tamil cinema through Vishnuvardhan’s Yatchan. In conversation with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Adil Hussain discusses about his first Tamil film, the Tamil film industry, his future offers and also the delineations between good cinema and bad cinema. 


What makes you accept a script? 

First of all, it has to be interesting. What is interesting to me may be uninteresting to someone else. The script should not be the run-of-the-mill types. It should not be something that I don’t like to watch. But I had to be a part of such films once or twice and I did not watch them.


Besides being interesting, it should deal with social issues and my role should be such that I can munch on, something that I had not done before. Roles that I already know how to do, do not interest me. I like characters like the macho Indian husband in English Vinglish because it is a territory that I had not visited and I would go for it head on shamelessly. I had to be shameless, because if I judge the role, then I will not be able to play it fully.


I would opt for films that deal with something which is more complex, something that is not one dimensional, something which is not just about hero and villain - these things are very difficult to find in the Indian film industry.


Therefore, first it has to be the script and the second factor is that it has to be made by good people. I must like the director. I try to meet the director or at least try to speak to him or her over phone, because I have to spend at least a couple of months with him or her. 

I must like the director


What about instances when you had liked what you saw on paper and accepted the project but the translation of that onto the screen was not what you expected or liked? How do you deal with such situations?


I just let them go! I don’t want to name the films. It happened that the script was superb and the director was an excellent human being. But after watching the film, I was like ‘oh my god’! He wanted my opinion and I had to tell him point blank without disrespect about the scenes which were not working and which had to be scissored out. Eventually, when you watch the film you realize you have made a mistake and have to be careful the next time.

You realize you have made a mistake and have to be careful the next time.


You have worked with Sridevi, Tabu and Vidya Balan. Tell us few words about them


I have been one of the very few lucky men who have worked with these beautiful women.


With Tabu, I worked in Life of Pi. Tabu is homely and is warm. She is an established actress in cinema but I had no problem connecting with her. She had accepted me as a co-actor.


Sridevi is very quite on the sets. She will crack jokes out of the blue and you will laugh away to glory. She is someone who knows what is to be done precisely. She is very observant at the sets. She can foresee and foretell. There were many occasions where she had suggested how we do the scenes. It had been a wonderful journey to have worked with her. She is very good and I was thrown away by her histrionics at the rehearsals. I had seen her Sadma and did not eat for two days. She was touched when I told her that.


Vidya Balan is like an open book in terms of attitude. I got sweets delivered to my house in Delhi for her marriage. She is one actress who keeps connections. I worked with her in 2008 but she still is in touch with me. She is a darling. 

Vidya Balan is a darling 


How did Vishnuvardhan’s Yatchan happen? Did you know him before?


Not at all! Absolutely not! I did not know Vishnuvardhan before! A casting director from Mumbai got in touch with my manager and stated that director Vishnuvardhan wants to work with me. I immediately googled and found out that he has made interesting films that are accepted by the audience. I was interested and then Vishnu talked to me over phone and I instantly liked him. He is very warm, cheerful, exuberant and full of life. I agreed to work and the formalities were completed. 

Vishnuvardhan is very warm, cheerful, exuberant and full of life


On Yatchan sets


I am absolutely enjoying the shoots. Vishnu directs very beautifully. If he is not happy with something, he would tell and we would go for another take. He is clear about the character and the shades he requires. As I don’t understand the language, I do it in English to get the hang of the scenes. When he okays them, I ask for Tamil lines. 


What is your role like in Yatchan?


Well! I am not allowed to talk about it. It is multilayered and complex. It is one of the central characters. It has grey shades. It has an antagonist’s side but there are other dimensions too. You will be surprised by my role. 

My role in Yatchan is multilayered and complex


Do you have combination scenes with Arya and Kreshna?


Yes, I have!


What is your general feel about the Tamil film industry as such?


Tamil film industry is extremely professional. Whatever they say in words, they maintain that in action to the fullest. They are very professional, know what they want to do, are prepared, foresee the problems and accordingly take measures. They are very good at that. They value time. Everybody is at the sets on time so that we all finish work and go home in time and are ready for the next day with enthusiasm. Their love for actors from outside is quite heartwarming. That’s the feel I get in Tamil Nadu. This is my first Tamil film and I am looking forward to do my next film in Tamil. 

Tamil's love for actors from outside is quite heartwarming.


Have you signed any other projects in Tamil?


I am already approached for a big film. Director Suseendhiran met me. They want a lot of dates. And also there is another project, but I am not happy about my role. So I am not too sure!


Why so late to Tamil films?   


Nobody called me before! I am late also in films. I have always been acting most on the stage and I never went to Mumbai for work. I shot for a Telugu film four years ago with director Dharani. That film got shelved for some reasons. 


Have you been following the Tamil film industry?


Not as much as I should have although I come to Pondycherry regularly. Of course I am aware of the work of the great Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Ajith, Arjun, Nagarjuna and Chiranjeevi. I live in Delhi where we don’t get to see Tamil films. But these days they show a lot of Tamil films dubbed in Hindi on TV. I am sure with my current film Yatchan, I will know more about the artists here. 

I am aware of the work of the great Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth and Ajith


As regards Tamil film industry, are you keen to work with any director?


I have no clue as of now. I have heard all good things about Suseendhiran. We met one day during lunch break at Yatchan shoot. He had come with his co-director. I liked him instantly. He is a very down to earth person. 

Suseendhiran is a very down to earth person


Is it right to divide the films into arty and commercial? Or should we simply say good film or a bad film?


I guess I would go in for good and bad. When I say ‘bad’, they are also good for some people. It is a very dicey area to talk about. Successful movies could be bad.


To me, a good film is one that engages me and not titillates me. I like movies that are made with an understanding of the craft of film making. Every director has a different idea of film making but there are some fundamental laws which are prevalent since the beginning of history of film making.


The intention behind making a film- is it profit? Or is it also about telling a story? Unsuccessful films are also made with an intention of making profit but failed. For instance, in Hindi, Paan Singh Tomar starring Irfaan Khan was a beautiful film and did well at the box office. It does not have to earn 100 crores. What is this 100 crore or 200 crore club business? It should do enough money so that you can do your next film.


Therefore, to me, a good film is one which is made with an intention of not making profit. Intention should be telling a beautiful story. When I say beautiful, it does not mean wishy-washy or romantic.


A good film is also one which is done with a lot of care and sincerity. Story is the hero and not the actors because actors are just vehicles who play certain roles. Of course, there are good actors and bad actors and people come to watch good actors. Actor’s responsibility is not to show off who they are but rather their role. 

What is this 100 crore or 200 crore club business? 


In terms of your performance, what would be your approach to an art film and a commercial film? Would you view them differently?


No, I don’t view them differently at all and I do it with equal sincerity. If the role is written flat, in a one dimensional manner, I try to bring in multi dimensions to it. Let me use the term good cinema instead of art cinema. In a good cinema, a director or the writer has already done the job of shaping the role in a particular fashion. Can I put in something more or can I simply embody what is written?  The work is equally difficult in both the films. My job does not change. I don’t look at commercial cinema flippantly. My level of involvement is the same to both kinds of films.

I don’t look at commercial cinema flippantly 


You are completely involved in your role while shooting. How do you get out of it post ‘pack-up’?


It is a difficult question. I did a play called Othello for ten years. It was very difficult to get out of the character in the initial five years. Coming out of the role had been very important aspect of acting that I had been looking out for. That was troublesome for me and it was the subject of my thesis too. I need to know the exit door. You have to know how to get in and come out. You have to have the map subconsciously. It is not easy; it’s the map of feelings and emotions. Your breathing changes, your thinking pattern changes and your dreams change. That’s why perhaps most of the actors are scared to go deep inside a role because it takes a toll. But I have found the way to get out just like that which came with a lot of practice. The technique is simple.


I can explain you with a metaphor. You are anchored very deep within. Imagine the sea and you are the ship. You have the thick anchor on the deck. The ship is on the surface. There is the storm and you enjoy the storm. But you know you are connected and you will not be toppled over. So you enjoy the storm. It’s also like a roller coaster ride. You get into it knowing very well the excitement but you still get into it because there is fun in it. So this is the practice. There are too many practices that will enable you to go deep, anchor yourself and enjoy the storm. It’s like you have the key to the room, you open it, go inside, the room could be dark or colorful; enjoy it and then you lock and come out. We all have it within us and we can do. What is required is practice!



Here is wishing the very best to the talented Adil Hussain and welcoming him to Tamil cinema!



Most of the actors are scared to go deep inside a role because it takes a toll



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