ACTOR ADIL HUSSAIN REFLECTS ON HIS MEANINGFUL JOURNEY
by ASJAD NAZIR
VERSATILE Indian actor Adil Hussain regularly finds himself in fabulous films that have superb storylines, cleverly crafted characters and memorable messages.
His impressive range has enabled him to work in different languages and film industries around the world. Such is the calibre of these powerful projects that a large number get selected at prestigious global film festivals, to great acclaim. The classically trained theatre actor turned movie star continued that fantastic festival run with Raahgir – The Wayfarers, which revolves around three impoverished strangers who meet on a journey and find hope.
The emotional drama opens this year’s UK Asian Film Festival, which runs from May 26 to June 6, in venues across London, Manchester, Leicester, Coventry, Glasgow and Stockton.
Eastern Eye caught up with Adil Hussain to discuss his amazing acting career, Raahgir – The Wayfarers, his Star Trek role, unique inspiration and the incredible dream role he is working on.
Has the pandemic lockdown given you a chance to look back on your journey?
I generally do not look back much on anything apart from the lessons I needed to learn. If you ask me, have I learned something, then yes. What I don’t need to do, what kind of follies I have in my performances and how I can better them. Yes, in that way. It has not only been about acting, but reflecting generally about life as well, especially, about management of resources, how we generally waste water, electricity and all kinds of things; how precious time is and how precious relationships are. So as a whole it has been an extremely reflective and introspective time.
Which of your roles is closest to your heart?
There are quite a few that are very close to my heart. Firstly, I would say Hotel Salvation. Then Sunrise and my role of a police officer looking for his missing daughter. Also, the role in Norwegian film What Will People Say and Pareeksha, which is a Hindi film about a rickshaw puller trying to educate his son in a better school. And of course, Raahgir – The Wayfarers. These films are important and closest to my heart. There is also a recent film I’ve done called Footprints On Water, which is going to release this year and is a very heart wrenching and important story The variety of work you have done is remarkable, including different languages and industries.
Do you consciously go looking for new challenges?
I don’t have a PR or agent in India. I have an agent in Hollywood, who knows my taste and scouts out roles for me like the one I did in Star Trek recently. Roles like that, which talk about universal values, are very close to my heart. I like stories with a lot of heart, layers and complexity, where human empathy is one of the most important ingredients in the script.
What did you like about your latest film Raahgir – The Wayfarers? Raahgir is a story of three human beings who have nothing to hold onto, yet they are so compassionate and empathetic. They choose humanity over their personal selfish survival, so it’s a very important story that should generate a lot of empathy. I think creating and generating empathy is one of the most important elements in art. That’s why I’m still excited to act in the roles I get. It is beautifully written and directed by very well known filmmaker Goutam Ghose, whose films have won more than 15 National Awards and many other honours. It is heart-warming to see that this film is getting so much love from across the globe. I’m very eager to hear the responses when people watch it in the UK.
The film is timely as the key message of Raahgir – The Wayfarers seems to be about not giving up?
It’s not about only one thing. Yes, of course, it’s about not giving up, but also why not to give up and what drives them to keep going. There is this entire concept of being a go-getter and getting it no matter what. I do not believe in that. Not giving up should be driven by the human element of compassion, love and empathy. If these are the foundation and elements, which are driving a human being not to give up, yes, I am all for it. So, this film’s main theme is definitely not giving up, to help somebody else, in spite of putting oneself in trouble.
A lot of your films are deeply emotional. Do they ever affect you?
I guess most actors who are probably trained will draw from their personal experiences. If I can talk for myself, I do not believe it takes a lot out of the actor. It is mostly about receiving. I receive way more than I can give while playing a role because it educates me and helps me be in touch with the reservoir of compassion that I have. And the empathy that I need to practise in life as well, otherwise, you cannot suddenly become an empathetic actor to play a role of an empathetic person. So, I guess I receive way more than I can give. (Laughs) I probably would have to work hard to give more.
How does it affect you psychologically?
Psychology is a very difficult term to explain. What psychology are we talking about? But if I talk about my emotional make-up and to some extent if I use the word psychological make-up, yes, it enriches me a lot. I’m grateful that I’m an actor. It makes me a wider, larger and broader person. It opens up my heart and my soul.
I was so thrilled to see you on Star Trek. How did you land the role?
It was a surprise. I was having a holiday in the US and suddenly my agent calls and says would you like to read a scene for Star Trek. I said sure, if I like the role, I will do it. So, they sent me a beautifully written scene. I immediately recorded it and sent it to my agent. After a week, I got a message that I got the role. So, it was very sudden.
What was that whole Star Trek experience like?
It was excellent. I was thrilled to be part of this iconic series, which has been there since the 1960s with important values dear to me, like propagating inclusiveness – not only between humans, but also interspecies across the universe. So, it was amazing to work with one of the top-most cast and crew, who were so professional and dedicated. They had the kind of values I believe in. I had great co-actors, especially Sonequa Martin-Green, who is one of the most generous actors I have ever worked with. I feel very lucky and honoured to be part of it.
How much does it mean to you that so many of your films get selected for major international film festivals?
It means a lot because I generally work in films which have a smaller budget and sometimes no budget, with seven to eight cast/crew members. These films talk about things that are close to my heart and values I believe in. When they get selected in film festivals across the globe and get watched by so many people, it is very encouraging and inspiring for any actor. Some things you believe in, which are rapidly being discarded as useless values, like love compassion and respect. These films make a little dent in somebody’s heart. I think it is more than enough if one person is affected and changes their perspective and become inclusive and empathetic to ot hers. They must have a dialogue instead of hating each other. I think that makes me feel it’s worthy of my time and effort.
You have played diverse characters, but do you have a dream role?
I do and am working on it. It’s a theatre piece I’m doing right now, which is about Krishna and Arjuna on the brink of war, in the Mahabharata. They’re having this dialogue and we are doing just that conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, and I’m preparing to play both roles at the same time. So, there are two characters, but I’m doing it all by myself. It’s one of the toughest things I have ever taken up. Hopefully, it will be worthy of watching when it’s ready.
Why should we all watch Raahgir – The Wayfarers at UK Asian Film Festival?
This film will give you hope. It gives the message you don’t have to possess a lot of things in order to help others. Instead of material possessions, you just need to have a heart, compassion, love, empathy and respect for yourself and others to help the other or others, who need it, especially in this most difficult time that the world is going through right now.
What inspires you?
Reconciliation inspires me – when I see people coming together in spite of their opposite views. Also, when I see people are forgetting and forgiving their past conflicts and coming together to live together peacefully. That is one of the most heart-warming feelings I get when I watch or hear stories like that. It always inspires me and I would like to be one of the instruments of that change.