Adil and Ushasie shoot for Infected at SRFTI on Wednesday. Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Adil Hussain, Sridevi’s chauvinist husband in English Vinglish, is in town to shoot for the short film Infected, a psychological thriller being directed by the second-year students of Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI). In between shots, t2 caught up with the TDH man and his Tolly co-star.
After the success of English Vinglish, you now have Ang Lee’s Life of Pi releasing next week. How did the film happen?
See, in Hollywood, stars audition for roles. That’s the trend. For instance, Penelope Cruz auditioned for Pirates of the Caribbean four times, but unfortunately in India, that doesn’t happen for the stars! (Laughs) So, I was called by a friend who is a casting director and was asked to read a piece. I gave a full audition and later on was called by the main casting director from Hollywood, who told me that the director (Ang Lee) would like to meet me! I was like... absolutely anywhere! (Smiles)
Tell us about your role in Life of Pi...
I am not allowed to say much... but I play the father of the protagonist (Pi). He is how fathers are perceived in the Indian middle-class patriarchal family. A man who believes in his principles, ideals and values, and he is the last word in the family. At the same time, he has love and compassion and would like to see his son financially secure.
How was it working with the Oscar-winning Ang Lee?
He came across to me as a co-musician with the added responsibility of a conductor. He was always there beside me and working all the time, but he was like that with everyone. He is extremely humble and not a dictator who is directing and asking you to do this and that! His way of co-creation is great.
What made you take up this students’ film?
One of the students kept pursuing me relentlessly for this role. I had no dates till March but interestingly, one of the films got postponed so I thought, five days... let’s shoot it! (Smiles) Also, I have a weakness for students. I understand the excitement and passion they have in making a film. This is probably because I teach and I have gone through that phase. So, I always feel like doing these types of projects.
Mine is a very interesting role. The character was with the government, someone who’s hired to do dirty things. A person who has done atrocious things like slaughtering people and so on, in the name of maintaining law and order. Now, he is retired or has left his job for reasons unknown and is suffering from the trauma of what he has done! The film is about his conscience talking to him... basically, he is having a chat with himself.
[Enters Ushasie, who plays Adil’s wife in Infected]
So what kind of roles are coming your way now?
Fortunately, I am not getting only negative roles! (Laughs out loud) The roles I am getting now have lots of layers and shades.
Ushasie: I haven’t watched Agent Vinod yet, but I liked you in Ishqiya. Tell me something Adil, was Ishqiya your first Bollywood movie?
Ushasie: What do you enjoy most as an actor — masala Bollywood movies or the serious roles that you do?
Adil: You will ruin my career! (Laughs) I actually find both challenging.
Ushasie: Now, that’s too diplomatic an answer! (Giggles)
Adil: No, I am not kidding and I will explain why. See, what Govinda does is not easy. I cannot do that actually. I have to work a lot to have masti. When Govinda dances, I am like ‘Wow, look at him!’ He absolutely goes for it but I will have my judgement about it.
Ushasie: But I don’t think you have to believe in a role in order to play one.
Adil: No. I think you have to believe in the role you are doing. You don’t have to agree with it or idolise it but must believe in it.
Ushasie: I still am not convinced with the explanation.... Okay, I want to ask you something but tumi rege jabe na toh (you won’t get angry, right)?
Adil: Oh my God!
Ushasie: What do you like most about Bengali women?
Adil: Oh! My first girlfriend was a Bengali girl! (Smiles) We had a platonic relation as I never touched her... later she got married.... I feel Bengali women have a lot of grace and inner beauty. The warmth that they have is very interesting. I just love it.
Many people hated your character in English Vinglish...
Adil: I personally hated the character (Sridevi’s husband Satish). It was worse than what I did in Agent Vinod.
Ushasie: Are you a chauvinist in real life?
Adil: Absolutely not! I am neither a chauvinist nor a feminist. Women are any day superior than men. The character I played in English Vinglish is completely opposite to what I am. My wife and my girlfriends can confirm this. (Grins)
Did you find the role challenging?
Adil: Not at all! I see so many people around me who are like Satish... my friends, my neighbours!
You have always been into theatre. Do you still find time for it?
No, I am not that regular now but I am focussing on one play called Karmanistha which is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. I absolutely have no intention of giving up theatre because theatre keeps me alive!