The story of ‘One Last Question’ resonates with me as I grew up there – Adil Hussain
“The role that I’m being offered has to have a context for me,” says acclaimed actor Adil Hussain as he speaks to Pandolin about his latest film, an independent project – One Last Question. Directed by debutant filmmaker Prathamesh KriSang, it is inspired by the true story of four friends living in 1998 Assam, a state historically dealing with political unrest, extremism & violence.
Having worked with big directors like Ang Lee, what inspired you to say yes to a film like One Last Question directed by a young filmmaker? Did the Assamese connection in the film play a role in your decision?
There are two things. One is that it is a film on a subject that I have grown up with, in a way, from my student days. I was also affected by the entire situation and the integrity of the leaders, those who initiated the entire movement and had gone ahead and sold themselves to the devil. They became ministers and there is nothing wrong in becoming ministers with the intent of serving the country. But it turned out that this government had been the most corrupt government Assam had ever seen, not that the other governments were hugely better. Some of the people formed the United Liberation Front of Assam, and there were others like me who didn’t believe in taking up violence in order to fix the situation. So the focus is on what were the most important aspects that have been bothering a young man like the central character of this film, in that small little village, where the insight to the wisdom hadn’t been so profound as it would probably be to other people living in cities. When the story was narrated to me, I got to know that it is the inspiring story of a man who lives around nine kilometres away from my home, where I grew up in a district headquarter called Goalpara. Also, I thought that the story is very inspiring for people to believe in something which is not easy money or supposedly as exciting as taking up guns. It is more towards helping a society and finding solutions to all the problems that we have in a different way than just taking up guns. I told Prathamesh if my presence in the film helps you in any way, I’d do as much as I can. Also I have a weakness for startups, because I had been a startup once upon a time and some wonderful human being trusted me, gave me an opportunity and let me act in plays and the same was for films as well. So why won’t I do the same thing for someone else.
It’s not just the Assamese connection; any person who has grown up in any place is emotionally connected to that place. I am not a regionalist, not even a nationalist, that doesn’t mean that I am not a patriot, but not in the conventional sense of the word. I don’t believe in borders. I was born there, so yes, there is a loyalty to that space.
Since you joined the cast once the shooting had commenced, was it easy to get into the flow?
The story resonates with me very well as I grew up there. My father had been a teacher and he guided me when I happened to be affected – I didn’t go to school for two years during the Assam agitation from ‘79 to ‘81 and I precisely know how my dad was trying to keep me in the path of education. It was not an alien subject or alien character for me. I just played my dad. How my dad would tell me what to do, what would be good for me and so on. So it was not a problem at all.
Considering you were on the set for just two days, did you get a chance to prepare for your role as the protagonist’s father? What is the process you follow to prepare for your roles?
As I said I played my dad, and I have lived with him so it didn’t need any preparation. It is always a challenge not to play the role but to be truthful in the moment. Am I being truthful while I’m saying the lines, am I in the situation, that challenge is always there and would never go away and should not go away for any actor. The greatest actors in the world make sure and their entire effort is to be in the moment and dig deeper in the moment, which is where the magic lies.
My process is whatever I have been taught from various schools of acting across the world. It has been evolving over the years. At this age and time, I generally try to read the script or the scenes, whatever is provided to me, again and again and learn my lines so that it is in my subconscious. So I know the situation and don’t have to think about it. And when I’m not reading the script, then my effort is to not think about it, because thinking about it brings in the clichés and stereotypes. That’s what I’ve been following. Your preparation should not take away your spontaneity and freshness. Acting is a combination of spontaneity and deliberation. I’ve redefined my deliberation part, so I don’t have to think about it, you just know it so well that it is there, it has to flow.
You have been associated with several projects including big banner films, how would you say was the One Last Question experience different? What is it that draws you towards a project?
There are technical differences, resource problems, problems with production etc. But there is no difference in terms of the passion and sincerity; that he (Prathamesh) really wants to tell the story as best as he can. That becomes the intent instead of trying to prove how good he is as a filmmaker. There are several films, big budget ones, where the intent is to make profits, so there is a huge difference. I do a few big budget films so that I can run my family and that also gives me the freedom to then do films like these. Currently also I am doing a student production. So I balance my creative desire, which I don’t get to do quite often in big banner films because there is a commercial stake in then. But in these kind of films there is only a creative stake and I can experiment inspite of the various constraints. Hollywood films have a combination of both, in terms of support and finances. Their intent is to make a fantastic film and not just money.
It could be any subject but as long as the subject is being looked at with all its complexities and there is honesty, simplicity behind the storytelling. The idea is how you can tell a complex subject simply, that is the toughest thing to do. And the role that I’m being offered has to have a context for me. For example, if the role in One Last Question comes to me tomorrow, maybe I wouldn’t do it just because it’s based in Assam. But there was honesty about this young filmmaker and so I wanted to help him out. He could have chosen any subject but he chose this one because it is an inspiring story. So there is no recipe that I follow but definitely, it must somewhere speak to my heart.
How would you describe working with a young, debutant filmmaker like Prathamesh?
I think the young man has got a lot of passion. I have seen it in his eyes, his being, his body language, which is of a promising storyteller through films. It was wonderful because he knows what he is doing, as much as he could. I haven’t seen the film but whatever shots I saw in the trailer look good to me. His attempts were very honest and sincere. I do not find the difference between him and any other director that I admire in terms of the basic intent. There could be and will be differences in terms of the understanding of the craft of filmmaking, because he is just starting. I’m not going to compare him with other filmmakers in terms of the knowledge of filmmaking. But as far as his intent, integrity and passion go; I think he is at par with anybody else.
Do you think that the North East is now more open to studios & independent filmmakers to think of filming possibilities? Any advice for filmmakers shooting in North East India?
I have been a bit instrumental in this, if not much. I have had several chats with the Chief Minister of Meghalaya and he is very interested; I haven’t had a chance to meet the others yet. But they are slowly opening up. Meghalaya has just started building an amazing institution where they can host people, and opening one central space so that you don’t have to go to 20 different government departments to obtain permissions to shoot. They are slowly exploring the possibility so that it can be helpful for the film industry from other parts of the country. They are interested in it, but as you know governments work very slowly.
I could only just say, to all filmmakers, that if you really want to tell a story, you can tell a story no matter what constraints you face. They should not bog you down and nobody can stop anybody from telling a story. If you want to do something, that you really want, it will be done.
One Last Question being a crowdfunding project, what are your views on this growing phenomenon?
I guess it is a fantastic platform for anyone to get a funding from somebody. Funding used to be a phenomenon that was limited to having a rich father, knowing someone influential or belonging to a production house. I think it’s a fantastic phenomenon not only for filmmakers but a crowdfunding platform for anything.
Looking at the fact that there are only 10 days left to raise almost 80% of the amount. What appeal would you like to give people regarding supporting One Last Question?
Those who can afford should definitely contribute. But especially the North Eastern people, I guess, ideally, should be interested in this subject and I am expecting that they could feel some sort of relevance in this and generously donate some money. This crowdfunding website should be exposed to those people who could be interested in this particular project.
To support ‘One Last Question’, visit: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/one-last-question/