By Sushma Shandilya
Adil Hussain is one of the best actors of the Indian film industry who is active on stage, films and television. He is an institution in himself, giving excellent performances in independent, mainstream and commercial films. His talent and versatility is shown in Hindi-English, Assamese-Bengali, Malayalam-Tamil, Marathi, Norwegian-French films. He has acted in over 80 films and several Indo-European art house cinema projects.
Adil was born in Goalpara, Assam. His father was a headmaster, mother a housewife and he is the youngest of seven siblings. He participated in school plays and when 18, went to Guwahati’s ‘B.Borooah’ college to study philosophy and performed as a stand-up comedian in plays. As a founding member of the local comedian group, ‘The Bhaya Mama Group’, he gained immense popularity by imitating actors. He performed political satires for 6 years through mobile theatre in Assam. He acted in Assamese TV films, video films, street and radio plays. His early Assamese films were ‘Sutrapaat’, ‘Pita-Putra’ and ‘Bhai-Bhai’.
Adil received a scholarship to study at the ‘National School of Drama’ from 1990-1993. He studied at the Drama Studio, London on a Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship. He worked for some time with the International Dance Theater in Amsterdam. He returned to India in 1994 and performed for a year in Mobile ‘Hengul Theatre’, Assam. He went to Delhi to start stage career but continued training under Khalid Tayyabji. He trained under Swapan Bose at Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry. He got training from Dilip Shankar in Delhi. Adil gave thousands of performances and dozens of presentations on stage. He spent 2/1-2 years on a river island in Karnataka with an international group of artists, researching the art of acting. He taught acting at ‘Film and Television Institute, Pune’ and ‘Drama School, Amsterdam’.
During the 1999 Edinburgh Film Festival, a play ‘Othello: A Play in Black and White’, directed by Roysten Abel was screened. Adil played ‘Othello’ and Kristen Jain played ‘Desdemona’. According to the script, Othello had to kill Desdemona. But out of love, Adil hugged ‘Desdemona’ instead of hitting her, which left ‘Kristen’ and the audience stunned, resulting in pulling down the curtain. This play brought him popularity, international praise and his play was awarded the ‘Edinburgh Fringe First’. Adil did another play ‘Goodbye Desdemona’ directed by Roysten Abel. ‘The Scotsman’ and ‘The Independent’ in UK appreciated his role. The play was performed for 10 years in Western Europe, Africa and India. (In 2007, Adil married Kristen Jain).
Adil rose to fame through television in 2002–2003 by playing lead role in the BBC World Service Trust TV series ‘Jasoos Vijay’. In 2003, he acted in short films ‘Rasikan Re’ and ‘Butterfly’. From 2004 to 2007, Adil was the artistic director, instructor at the Society for Artists and Performers in Hampi. He was a visiting faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Performing Arts, Hague. He is a visiting faculty at his alma mater, National School of Drama. In 2004, Adil played lead role in Bengali drama ‘Iti Srikanta’.
In 2010, based on Mahashweta Devi’s story, he played lead role as ‘Upin’ in Italo Spinelli’s Bengali film ‘Gangor’. He did a TV movie ‘Tequila Nights’. Everyone noticed him in film ‘Ishqiya’, playing Vidya Balan’s husband, gang-lord ‘Vidyadhar Verma/Shyam Prasad Kulshrestha’.
The year 2012 was a significant year in Adil’s cinematic journey. In Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film ‘Life of Pi’, he played the role of ‘Santosh Patel’ the father of the protagonist ‘Pi’. The story, based on an English novel, was dubbed into Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. In the same year, he played actress Sridevi’s husband ‘Satish Godbole’ in ‘English-Vinglish’. He was highly praised for his stellar performance in this widely acclaimed film. He also acted in Mira Nair’s international Hindi/English film ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, where he played Mujahid ‘Mustafa Fazil’.
Watch Video: Internationally acclaimed actor Adil Hussain in conversation with Pallavi Jain where he speaks about his journey, the art of acting and the teachings of Ramkrishna Paramhansa and Sri Aurobindo
In 2014, Adil brilliantly played the main lead ‘Aslam Puncturewala’ in political satire ‘Z Plus’, by Chandraprakash Dwivedi. He also made his Marathi debut in the same year playing ‘Joshi’ in Marathi film ‘Sunrise’. He played the main lead ‘Iqbal’ in the Assamese film ‘Raag: The Rhythm of Love’ for which he was awarded Best Actor Award by ‘Prague Cine Awards’. Adil also featured as ‘Bilal’ in Dennis Tanovic’s ‘Tigers’. The film was screened in 2014 at Toronto International Film Festival and was released in 2015.
Adil played a mystic lover in Leena Yadav’s film ‘Parched’ in 2015. The film premiered in the Special Presentations section of the Toronto International Film Festival. He played landlord ‘Deepnarayan Singh’ in Bengali mystery thriller ‘Har Har Byomkesh’, ‘Amod Kanth’ in ‘Main Aur Charles’, ‘Major Baruah’ in ‘Jai Ho Democracy’, Superintendent of Police in ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ and ‘Patel’ in ‘Umrika’. He played ‘Rai Buller’ in the Hindi/Punjabi film ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ and ‘Devinath’ in Assamese film ‘Kothanodi’. He played an important role of ‘Selvam/Vettri’ in Tamil cinema ‘Yatchan’. In 2015, Adil’s ‘The Violin Player’, directed by Baudhayan Mukherjee, was included among the 15 best Indian films.
In 2016, Adil’s was the lead actor in Subhashish Bhutiani’s ‘Hotel Salvation/Mukti Bhawan’ playing the role of ‘Rajiv’. This film was included in 25 best Hindi films list of the decade and received more than 25 national and international awards. Adil was awarded India’s ‘National Film Award’ (Special Jury) in India, ‘Jagran Film Festival Award’ for best actor, ‘Rajasthan International Film Festival Award’ for best actor. The film received ‘International Indian Film Academy Award’, ‘FOI Online Special Mention Award’ and ‘Washington DC South Asian Film Festival Award’. In 2016, he also played HRD Minister ‘Brijesh Verma’ in ‘Force 2’, ‘Viri’ in short film ‘Chutney’, ‘Aga Khan’ in short film ‘Azad’ and ‘Arjun’ in an English film ‘Feast of Varanasi’.
Adil won the prestigious Indian ‘National Film Award’ (Special Jury) for the second time in 2017 for his role as ‘Priyendu Hazarika’ in Assamese film ‘Maj Rati Keteki’. His other films were ‘Bioscopewala’ in Hindi, ‘Commando 2’ in Hindi-Telugu-Tamil and ‘Mantra’ in English. In 2017, Adil received ‘Norwegian Kosmorama Trondheim International Film Festival award’ and the Norwegian National Award ‘Amanda’ for ‘Best Actor’ for the film ‘What Will People Say’.
In 2019, Adil starred in Hindi blockbusters ‘Kabir Singh’ and ‘Good Newwz’.
Adil performed brilliantly as a rickshaw puller ‘Buchi Paswan’, in the film 2020 ‘Pareeksha’ where his excellent acting could be compared with great actor ‘Balraj Sahni’. For ‘Pareeksha’, he was awarded Best Actor Award by IWM Digital Awards. In 2021, he received the ‘Critics Choice Best Actor Award’ and ‘Best Actor Award’ of the Pune International Film Festival for his stellar performance in the short film ‘Meal’.
He made his OTT debut with ‘Delhi Crime’ in 2019 that became the first Indian series to win ‘Outstanding Drama Series’ at the International Emmy Awards where he played one of the leads ‘CP Kumar Vijay’. In 2022, he played ‘Ramkishore Negi’ in web series ‘Mukhbir: The Story of a Spy’.
In 2022, Adil became the first personality to hoist the Indian national flag at the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ metaverse event organised by Piro Space.
Adil has won many awards over the course of his career. He received the ‘Best Assamese Person of the Year Award – 2015’ by News Live TV channel and ‘Outstanding Achievement Award – 2020’ at the London Indian International Film Festival for his significant contribution to global cinema. He was awarded ‘Global Icon Award 2021’ by Prague Television Channel. In 2021, he received praise from Star Trek global fans for his role as ‘Lieutenant Aditya Sahil’ in the iconic international science fiction series ‘Star Trek’. His highly acclaimed 2023 film ‘Footprints on Water’ has won several awards.
Adil is a superbly talented actor with immense potential, widely known for his critically acclaimed performances in award-winning films. Completely different roles in his films have played a big role in proving his versatility at the global level. In addition to being successful, famous and brilliant at his craft, Adil is an extremely popular actor also because of his sensitivity, sophistication and refined taste. He is a very polite, humble, easy-going and down to earth person with no air of arrogance, nor success going to his head. Adil’s qualities make him among the most loved, admired and inspiring artists of our times.
Contributing Author: Sushma ‘Shandilya’ is a well-known Hindi poet and writer based in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Her short stories, articles and plays have been published in leading Indian publications. Sushma ‘Shandilya’ writes on various contemporary issues including themes around women empowerment. She is also a yoga teacher.