You only feel failure in your head - Versatile actor Adil Hussain on his struggles and life lessons

29th Aug 2017
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The actor believes mistakes are a ground to take off from, but they should never make you stagnant. This attitude has guided him through different upheavals.

Desire! That’s the one secret of every man’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire. - Bobby Unser, Retired Car Racer

Adil Hussain says he never had a sense of failure in his life. He exerts that passion and love for what one does lead to madness and rage, the kind that would never make you look back and dwell on your mistakes and failures.

Speaking candidly with YourStory, Adil attaches a great deal of value to the terms 'hard work' and 'commitment'. Born in a middle-class family in a small place called Goalpara in Assam, Adil grew up with plenty of enthusiasm for art and theatre, an innate part of Goalpara's vibrant culture. His father, who was a teacher, vehemently opposed the idea.

"I was seven years old and I had just started to participate in my school plays. Though I made my presence there every year, my family, especially my father, was never open to the idea of mainstream acting. He had a knack for classical music and was always curious about theatre and films. But, I guess he was uncertain about the financial stability that can be achieved with a potential career in mainstream acting. I am into acting in spite of him."

From mobile theatres to mainstream acting, Adil has come a long way. When he realised his family was not in a position to fund his fees for acting in schools, he decided to take it up on himself and do it all alone. He started acting at mobile theatres and joined the National School of Drama in 1990 where he was paid to learn acting. While he was doing regional films and acting in television dailies, his quest to excel never diminished.

Having acquired a scholarship under the Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship, he went to Drama Studio London for some time to hone his skill. It took him nine years to make his Bollywood debut in Ishqiya in which he played Vidya Balan's husband. Soon enough, he was in the minds of several creative filmmakers like Vishal Bharadwaj and Gauri Shinde with whom he worked for films like Kaminey and English Vinglish. The widely acclaimed Life of Pi and The Reluctant Fundamentalist gave him recognition and fame in Hollywood.

"I always saw my mistakes as a platform, a ground to take off from but never to stay stagnant. I have been blessed with some amazing company of friends and teachers who taught me that dwelling over your past and your failures will only bring you down, but never get you ahead. During my days with theatre also, this attitude really helped me with rehearsing for a scene and attempting to make it better every time."

There were times in his life when he had no place to sleep at, no food to eat. He recalls an incident when he and his friend had no shelter for a night with only two rupees in hand.

"It was around 2:00 am and we had two rupees. We had to choose between eating something and catching the city bus for the place where we thought we could find a shelter. The uncertainty and hope kept us walking for 9 kilometres while I was singing all my way. We managed to share a single plate of some decent rice, dal and sabzi at the railway station. For some reason, my financial disadvantage never stopped me from what I was doing nor did it break my will to be an actor. I always did what I loved and I am still doing it."

While talking about initial hiccups and financial struggles, he takes the example of another versatile actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, saying that Nawaz never glorified his struggling days as an artist and would not have reached where he is, had he complained about his hard times when he was young. According to Adil, one's real struggle is when he or she is not seen as a trustworthy artist, someone a director can rely on in terms of skill and ability. The goal should be to prove one’s talent to the casting director, and not complain about the financial situation.

After having acquired a prominent name in several film industries, a humble Adil Hussain stresses on the point that he is never good enough no matter what he achieved and the steps he climbed.

"I am grateful for what I have and what has happened to me in life. I do not have complaints or regrets. If you are focussed, if you are in love with what you do, you will do things with madness and rage. There's no stopping you. While in the process of going after what you love, I don't think one has a right to even define the term 'struggle'. Of course, there will be hiccups now and then, but if that's stopping you, you are not really doing what you love."
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