Exclusive: ‘I grew up in a very humble family so Buchchi Paswan’s journey and dreams in ‘Pareeksha’ resonated with my life’- Adil Hussain

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Adil Hussain plays the courageous and gruelling role of a rickshaw puller in his film Pareeksha-The Final Test that is streaming on Zee5. The film is directed by Prakash Jha and also stars Priyanka Bose, Sanjay Suri and Shubham Jha.

In an exclusive conversation with PeepingMoon.com, Adil Hussain spoke about the inspiration behind his character, why the film’s story was needed to be told and change that is needed in the film industry regarding scripts and storytelling.

Excerpts from the interview:

RECOMMENDED READ: Exclusive: ‘Pareeksha’ is very different from my earlier film ‘Aarakshan’, it's a personal story- Prakash Jha

What propelled you to tell this story and join hands with Prakash Jha?

Well, Prakash Jha is Prakash Jha whom I have admired since his earliest films Damul and then he started making these big star cast film but he always make these films on social issues. So when he narrated the story of Pareeksha to me during lunch in Assam actually, and when he finished the story, I asked him ‘Is this a true story?’ and he said, ‘Yes, how did you know?’ I said, ‘I didn’t know I just felt’. Also it touched me deeply because I identified with it and I know so many people which includes myself in a way that I grew up in a very humble family and my father could manage only Rs 250 per month to give me to study when I did my college. And then he had to stop that. I studied in a government college in Guwahati so I did not need to pay much but the stay and other things all did cost. So it resonated with my journey as well. My father was not as poor as Buchchi Paswan in the film but he was poor enough for me to see how he struggled to pay the fees of his four earlier sons. There are so many people who can’t afford to send their kids to the so-called private schools because government do not really look after the government schools much except a few exceptions. So I felt this is a very important story to tell as there are numerous kids who are extremely talented and can do something for the future of the country but we do not care for them, and that is why I took this up.

What was your preparation like while playing the role of a rickshaw puller in the film?

I grew up in a small town of Gaolpara in Assam where the usual mode of transportation was rickshaw. My next-door neighbour rented out his hut to a rickshaw puller and he used to give me a ride if his rickshaw was free. I remember his body language, the sweat and the smell. It wasn’t very difficult for me to get into the role but the hardest part was to pull the rickshaw. I identified with the economic and social situation of the role and that was the easy part.

You are starring in the new Star Trek: Discovery. Do you think a role in Hollywood project has fetched you more eyeballs than Hindi films?

No, I am working in several Hindi films. However, International films and projects give a global recognition and also the quality of the scripts, generally speaking, are pretty well-written scripts which are a treat and a feast for an actor to sort of get into the nuances of the role which excites me extremely. I have been working a lot in India, and I believe that I get what I deserve. I wish there were better scripts written in India. I wish more money should be given to scriptwriters and more energy and time should be given in developing scripts because when I see International projects they spend a lot of time in preparing a flawless script which is not really the case in India. We need to get away from the binary kind of storytelling and get into the nuances of storytelling.

Adil Hussain in the Star Trek: Discovery 

You started from Assamese films aka regional cinema whose talent is not as widely recognised.  Was there any hindrance in establishing yourself as a pan Indian actor?

Well, not for me as it just happened to me. I didn’t even want to act in films when I graduated from NSD. Films were not even in my plan of things. I was happy doing theatre after I graduated. So Abhishek Chaubey, director of Ishqiya, he met me in Delhi and he convinced me to act in the film and I said Ok and then so on and so forth. But generally I get if you are a decent actor and you have a knack for Hindi, not so accented and do not have too much of vernacular in your speech then there might be a delay in recognition but you do get acknowledgement. I can only talk about me as I did not have to struggle even for a minute. I am extremely lucky and blessed as I don’t even live in Mumbai but live in Delhi.

Theatre, films, now OTT - which stage of performing arts completes you?

Theatre, definitely. If there was a little more money in theatre I wouldn’t do even a single film.

Do you think in a nation like ours we can rise above stardom to recognise actors and tell stories, without glitter and glam?

It’s happening slowly, it’s an evolutionary process. We are a nation of worshippers, we worship people. There are temples of superstars in south India, imagine, also it’s a feudal country. We put people on the pedestal easily. We have billions of people to serve us, cheap labour is available which is one of the curses of our country. Stardom is also a kind of marketing. People create all sorts of image and it works, it sells and we have become a market society, the world has become a market society. This will change. Interestingly in Europe there is a very strong tendency of people to seek out actors and not stars, great actors who are very popular, but it will take time in India as we are very innocent and emotional people and it is very easy to manipulate us. I hope it changes and people become a little more real and practical.               

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