Bollywood’s anti-hero

Actor Adil Hussain has shot to fame quickly but he consciously avoids the trappings of stardom, living in Delhi and riding a motorbike, says Sarbani Sen

  • Published 14.06.15
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Photo: Rupinder Sharma

Adil Hussain has never been a man in a hurry. He was 27 when he joined the National School of Drama (NSD), 43 when he fell in love and got married, and 44 when he made his Hindi film debut.

But Hussain likes to look at things differently. “Bollywood was late, not me. I gave my first autograph at the age of 17 in Assam as an actor with a travelling theatre company,” says the actor nonchalantly. From his first Bollywood outing, Ishqiya in 2010, it’s taken Hussain just five years to establish himself as one of India’s top actors.

Movie buffs love him for his roles, however minor, and his impactful appearances in a variety of films. Whether it was Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera, or Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Hussain walked away with rave reviews from the critics. Hussain starred opposite Sridevi in her comeback film English Vinglish in 2012.

Hussain, who began his career as an actor in Guwahati in Assam, wears his new celebrity status lightly. He
will be seen next in Main Aur Charles that’s based on conman Charles Sobhraj’s life and times. The film, in which he plays an ex-cop, is slated for release on June 26.

Hussain has been hailed by critics and will be seen next as an ex-cop in Main aur Charles, based on the life and times of conman Charles Sobhraj

He has a clutch of international projects, too, in the pipeline. His next film is Feast of Varanasi, an Indo-British thriller, directed by Rajan Kumar Patel. In the film he plays a CBI officer investigating serial killings. This will be followed by Parched directed by Leena Yadav in which Hussain plays a Baul singer.

This year will also see Hussain in his first Tamil film Yatchan. “I do commercial films like Agent Vinod or Yatchan as they pay my bills. They also help me pursue my passion for theatre and small budget films,’’ says the 51-year-old actor. And all along Hussain continues to juggle his Bollywood commitments with Assamese films and his international projects.

In the past Hussain has enjoyed a stint on the small screen too. He played title role in crime thriller TV show, Jasoos Vijay in 2002. A huge hit, it was aired on Doordarshan, in collaboration with the BBC World Service Trust. In 2004, he made his debut in Bengali films with Iti Srikanta cast opposite Soha Ali Khan. More recently, his brooding looks have also bagged him a modelling assignment and he’s seen in the Tanishq Solitaire advertisement with Tisca Chopra.

Hussain’s former teacher at NSD, actor Naseeruddin Shah, puts him on a  par with actors like Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. “When Adil gets the kind of opportunities that they are getting, he will shine,” predicts Shah.

Stardom notwithstanding, Hussain has chosen to stay in Delhi and be active in the theatre scene, teach  
at NSD and zip around on his Royal Enfield motorcycle.

In English Vinglish Hussain starred opposite Sridevi who was making a screen comeback

There’s an air of confidence about him that compels him to reject Bollywood scripts that come his way. “I get at least four scripts a month, but not a single one is worth considering,” he says with a shrug.

Youngest among seven siblings (he has four brothers and two sisters), Hussain moved to Guwahati from his home town Goalpara when he was 16 to establish himself as an actor. Around this time he joined Dhrubojit Kishore Chowdhury, a famous stand-up comedian who had formed a group called Bhaya Mama. Chowdhury was popularly known as Bhaya Mama.

In the mid-1980s the group staged stand-up shows — with major success — in various parts of Assam. In 1988, they made a video film Bhaya Mamar Bihu which was a huge hit.

When a friend told him about NSD, Hussain enrolled at the institute in 1990. Little did he know that this would completely change his life.

He says that NSD chiselled him into a serious actor. He also bagged the Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship and went to Drama Studio London for a six-month acting course. After his return in 1994, he joined NSD veteran Khalid Tyabji and trained in theatre over the next three years.

In 1999, Hussain was offered the role of Othello in the play Othello - A Play in Black and White, directed by Roysten Abel, a friend from his NSD days. The play was a huge success and the group travelled to the Edinburgh International Festival and picked up an award too.

It was during this time that he fell in love with Kristin Jain, who was playing Desdemona. Hussain didn’t feel like killing her as per the script. The director asked him to take a final call on stage. “On stage, I hugged her tightly instead of killing her. She was shocked and curtains were pulled down,” he laughs. The two began their courtship in 2000 and were married in 2007. The couple has a five-year-old son, Kabir.

Hussain says he is in a comfortable zone right now. No dreams of big bungalows, cars and adulation for him. He owns a WagonR and an Enfield bike on which he picks up his son from school.

But he dreams of moving to Puducherry and spending his time cycling around the place. “I don’t have this fear of not acting in films. I can teach, grow vegetables and stay happy,” he says.

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