Actor Adil Hussain has a lot of reasons to be happy. His film Footprints On Water premiered at the UK Asian Film Festival recently, with Hussain winning the Best Actor award for the same. Directed by debutant British filmmaker Nathalia Syam, the film also won the award for the Best Debut Film at the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF).
“This is the first attempt to make a film on a subject, which is generally unspoken in this part of the world,” says an elated Hussain of the film, which is based on the plight of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom.
Even as this project continues to make waves globally, Hussain rues the fact that despite the attention they receive at international film festivals, such projects are often ignored at home by Indian audiences.
“If you ask me, it’s not the audience who is to be blamed for this, as they haven’t really been educated by the Indian filmmakers since the last 30-40 years. The kind of films that Indian mass audiences have been given to watch by all the industries, are more black and white, typical ‘good boy, bad boy’ [stories]. That’s probably one of the reasons why Indian audiences are not used to watching complex films and their awareness of watching good films is not really cultivated,” says the actor, adding, “I’d like to put a certain responsibility on the filmmakers and tell them it’s easy for them to sell films which are black and white, instead of those with grey shades.”
Another major reason why such films often go unnoticed is the lack of funds to produce and promote them, feels thr 59-year-old.
“Producers [in India] are not ready to trust the content, and put in money to bring these films into public consciousness and awareness. And even by promoting it, there is very little chance that films like Footprints On Water would be available for public viewing, as theatrical releases need a lot of money. So, it might land on an OTT platform, but unless it is duly promoted, people would not know that such a film even exists,” says the What Will People Say (2017) and Bell Bottom (2021) actor, adding that unless such films are given their due share of promotion, viewers might not even know of their existence.
Even on streaming, which is often considered revolutionary for cinema and cinema-watching, “People ask, ‘Who is the star?’ OTT platforms are following almost the similar thing like mainstream Indian cinema, except some series [where they cast fresh talent],” points Hussain, who was recently seen in the web series Tooth Pari: When Love Bites.
Stating that they are “still looking for a buyer for the film”, Hussain emphasises that, “You can also spend a lot of money on poor quality content and hype it up. But, when there is good content available, and people are liking it, one should take the risk to put some money into it and let it reach a wider audience.”