As a teenager, actor Huma Qureshi travelled by train for the first time from Delhi to Mount Abu for a school excursion. But little did she know that travelling with schoolmates would make it a trip to remember
It was fun unlimited for other girls and me, and we played pranks on each other, enjoyed singing sessions, got smarter with dumb charades, vied to be the uncrowned queens of card games, and yes, also got to know of each other’s crushes. Of all the train journeys, I have fond memories of that particular trip,” says Qureshi. The all girls’ trip reminded her of a song from Rafoo Chakkar starring Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh and featuring Kapoor and Paintal singing and dancing Bombay Se Baroda Tak in a train, dressed up as women. “The actors looked adorable, but it is the song that is noteworthy for the fact that it was the first time that Asha Bhosle sang for a lead actor,” quips Qureshi.
With stars in her eyes, Qureshi landed in the City of Dreams after finishingcollege in Delhi. She started off with a two-year modeling contract with HLL. The assignment paved the way for her, and she bagged Mohsina’s role in Anurag Kashyap’s two-part gangster drama, Gangs of Wasseypur. Best remembered for the permission scene in the first part of GoW, she proudly calls herself a product of Anurag Kashyap’s cinema. “He directed my debut film, and I am glad that I was a part of GoW. It was the perfect launch for me. The film was significant because it gave a direction to my future journey,” says 31-year-old actor.
Qureshi, who has done a variety of roles since her debut in 2012, loves to play different characters. “I like challenging roles. I choose a film only if it offers something new or different,” she says. If she had rustic charm as Mohsina in GoW, she added spice as Harman, a Punjabi girl in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and killed the bill as RAW’s explosives expert Zoya Rehman in D-Day. She floored the audience with her vivaciousness as Muniya in Dedh Ishqiya, played Tamara with frighteningly good flair in Ek Thi Dayan, I am yet to play a character close to my real persona. As an actor, playing different roles that are quite the opposite of your personality is fun solicited attention as Jhimli in Badlapur, was seen as Pushpa Pandey in black comedy Jolly LLB 2 and shared screen space with real brother Saqib Saleem in Dobaara: See Your Evil. “I am yet to play a character close to my real persona. As an actor, playing different roles that are quite the opposite of your personality is fun,” she says.
As two actors in a family, the real life siblings Huma and Saqib always wanted to share screen space with each other but didn’t know that opportunity would come so soon and that too in a horror film.
The film was an official adaptation of the American horror film, Oculus. “It was great to have my real brother play my on-screen brother. It couldn’t have got better than this as both of us had significant roles,” she says. The actor chose a horror film as she had watched Oculus and liked it for the spooky moments, thanks to an antique mirror, which casts an evil spell on the siblings. “Even though Doobara was an adaptation, it had certain elements that made it a world-class film in this genre for Indian audiences,” Qureshi adds.
Her latest release to hit theatres was Gurinder Chadha’s Partition: 1947. The film’s story revolved around the India-Pakistan partition, and Qureshi was seen as a young Muslim girl Aalia who works in the Viceroy’s House and falls for a Hindu servant, but the duo is torn apart as borderlines are redrawn. A fan of Chadha’s style of
filmmaking, she lapped up the opportunity to work on the international film project that released as the Viceroy’s House elsewhere. “I had watched Bhaji on the Beach when I was studying in Gargi College and loved Gurinder’s way of storytelling. She’s passionate about the story around India’s Partition, and it was a fascinating and enriching journey for me as an actor to work in this film. Even though the political compulsions around Partition forms the backdrop, the core story is emotional and humane,” she says. AR Rahman was another big draw for Qureshi who calls it “an absolute honour to have him compose music that heals and soothes the soul.”
Qureshi, who has carved a niche with her performances, winning both critical acclaim and commercial success in Hindi films, made her debut in regional language cinema with National Award winning filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni’s Highway in Marathi. The film was a road story that unraveled on the Pune- Mumbai highway and showcased life in the two metros. It had Qureshi delivering her dialogues in Marathi. Last year, she was seen in Mammootty-starrer Malayalam film White. Mammootty played Prakash Roy, a middle-aged billionaire, and Qureshi his love interest. The older-man-youngerwoman romance failed to woo the audience, and the film tanked at the box-office. This year, Qureshi bagged the lead role in Pa Ranjith’s Tamil film Kaala Karikaalan opposite Rajnikanth. “Rajinikanth is humility personified. It’s an amazing experience to work with him,” she adds.
Text: Shillpi A Singh