Tuesday, September 12, 2017

An Officer And A Gentleman

Adil Hussain talks about his experiences in the Malayalam film, 'Naval Enna Jewel', as well as Hollywood and Bollywood

Photo by Albin Mathew

By Shevlin Sebastian

On the sets of the Malayalam film, 'Naval Enna Jewel', at Muscat, Oman, Adil Hussain met American/Iranian actor Reem Kadem for the first time. “She began speaking rapidly, and I could not understand a word,” says Adil. “I said, 'What are you talking about? Are you from America or what?'”

Reem burst out laughing and said, “I am speaking Malayalam.” Now it was Adil's turn to laugh. “Reem had memorised all the dialogues by heart,” says Adil, while on a recent visit to Kochi. “In the end, she delivered a knock-out performance as Naval.”

And so has Adil, who plays an Iranian government official, who can sometimes speak in Malayalam. “This was one of the reasons I accepted the role,” he says. “The character is not Malayali, and has an accent. So I was able to dub for it. Half the acting is in the voice, the sound which comes out of my being. I also felt that it was an important story, which dealt with the way women are exploited in countries like Iran and Iraq.”

Adil hit the international spotlight when he played the role of Santhosh Patel, the father of the boy-hero Pi Patel in the award-winning 'Life of Pi', directed by Ang Lee. And it is no surprise that Adil is a fan of Ang. “He is the humblest director I have ever met,” says Adil. “Ang allowed me to do what I wanted and then said, 'Just put 10 per cent affection to your sternness'.”

Adil has also acted in 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', and in French, Norwegian, Bengali, Hindi, Assamese, Tamil and Marathi films. In 2017, he won the National 'Special Jury Award' for his role in the Hindi film, 'Mukti Bhawan'.

Nevertheless, it is Hollywood that impresses Adil with its brilliant planning and commitment. “I got the script of 'Life of Pi' six months before the shoot,” he says. “The itinerary was given to me two months in advance, along with the mobile number of the chauffeur. And it all went according to plan. In Bollywood and other regional industries, there is a 'chalta hai' attitude and a lack of ambition to be excellent.”

This ambition could be kindled if there are more opportunities for the young. “For a population of 1.3 billion, there is only one Film and Television Institute of India and one National School of Drama, with 26 seats,” says Adil, an alumnus of the NSD. “There should be at least 20 drama schools.”

Meanwhile, on asked whether he will act in another Malayalam film, Adil says, “If the opportunity arises and if I am given enough time to learn the dialogues.”

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

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