National Award winning Assamese actor Adil Hussain has acted in Indian films made in English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi and Malayalam. He has also acted in Norwegian and French films. He has worked on notable international films like Life of Pi and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Last year, he was awarded the Norwegian National Film Award for IramHaq’s What Will People Say. In this interview with Murtaza Ali Khan, he talks about his experience of working with Oscar-winning director DanisTanovic, the growing popularity of Mukti Bhawan in Japan, his new role as a chef and his upcoming projects
Q: You recently tweeted about a film of yours titled Sunrise which didn’t qualify for the National Awards owing to some technical reasons. Could you tell us what actually happened?
A: The Indian rights of Sunrise is with National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC). The film is set in India, it is an Indian story, and all actors are Indian. The director is also Indian born, a Bengali who grew up in Shivaji Park in Mumbai. He lived in India until his mid-20s but now, he is a French citizen. Everything about the film is Indian but since the director is now a French citizen, the film couldn’t qualify on technical grounds. I think it is very unfair that a film that’s so deeply rooted in India with an Indian cast and directed by a filmmaker of Indian origin can’t qualify for the National Awards. I have no relation with Norway and yet they gave me their National Award for my role in What Will People Say. I think art should fundamentally cross all boundaries. And, after receiving the top Norwegian film honour as an Indian actor, it struck me even more strongly that we need to do away with these barriers at least when arts are concerned. Sadly, Sunrise couldn’t even get released here but fortunately, it is now available on Netflix.
Q: Recently, your film Tigers was released on ZEE5. It is directed by the Oscar-winning filmmaker DanisTanovic. Tell us about the experience of working with him
A: Danis is actually the second Oscar-winning filmmaker I had the pleasure of working with. First was, of course, Ang Lee of Life of Pi. Now, before meeting Danis, I watched his film No Man’s Land and I was absolutely blown away by it. He is a filmmaker who likes to facilitate the actor. Working with a filmmaker like him is like trying to draw a painting. The idea is to capture the reality as artistically as possible. We had shot the film back in 2013 and so I am glad that it is finally out.
Q: Your film Mukti Bhawan recently completed 100 days in Japan. It has only grown in stature even since it came on Netflix. Tell us about your thoughts on Mukti Bhawan’s growing reach
A: I think it is a wonderful window for the people of Japan. Otherwise, what’s usually available is mainstream Hindi cinema. I am talking about films with huge budget and infrastructure. Now, the thing is that by watching these films, they develop a perception that India only produces these kinds of films. When I first went to Chicago Film Festival where we showed Lessons in Forgetting, I remember people coming to me and telling me that they were not aware that such films are also made in India. At times it happens that even Indian viewers aren’t aware that such films are being made in the country. With Mukti Bhawan, we hardly had the budget to release it on a pan-India basis. I think it is a great thing that Netflix, Amazon Prime and various other platforms have come in. It allows us to access that variety of international content beyond the commercial offerings and likewise, international audiences are able to see the variety of work that we have to offer.
Q: Foodies in Delhi recently had the privilege of feasting on a meal prepared by you? How do you see your new role as a chef?
A: Actually, I have been cooking since my teenage days. I left my home at a young age and stayed with some friends while I was doing my undergrad. So I would miss my mom’s food a lot. So when I would go back home in the vacations, I would ask my mother about her various recipes. That’s how I started cooking and people started liking what I cooked for them. And I also started enjoying the process. It has continued since then. I have probably been cooking for almost 40 years. When I came to Delhi and started cooking for my friends, some of them suggested that I should also cook for those whom I don’t know. So that’s how the occasional cooking sessions at Nimtoh restaurant in GK-I started. Although, the restaurant’s specialty is Sikkimese and Nepalese food, I make pan-Indian cuisine.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming projects.
A: A film called Raahgir is lined up wherein I play the male lead. It’s directed by Goutam Ghose. Also, there is another film called Nirvana Inn wherein I again play the lead. It’s a paranormal thriller directed by Vijay Jayapal. Then I am doing another film called Pariksha, which is directed by Prakash Jha. I play the lead in that as well.