Huma Qureshi Unplugged

First Cut

BANGALORE: In the city for her forthcoming film ‘Ek Thi Daayan’, Huma Qureshi is full of optimism. Not only is she soaking in her new-found stardom after the phenomenal success of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, her enthusiasm and positive approach is infectious.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Some would say you had a dream debut with ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. How does it feel to get critical acclaim for your very first role?

A. It’s very strange, before ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ released everyone was telling me that it’s not a dream debut because you are there with three other actors and it’s not a typical hero-heroine film. Would you rather have a debut like that? And today, it’s very nice and it’s very gratifying that you are asking me that it does seem like a dream debut now. These things you cannot really plan or say, you just go with an instinct.

When I came to Mumbai, I just knew one thing that there were certain people who I looked up to and wanted to work with. Right on top of that list was Anurag Kashyap and I was so happy that he decided to cast me. It didn’t matter, the length of the character or what I was supposed to do. I mean if you just look at it, it’s just 20 minutes of screen time in a six-hour movie.

I am glad that people think it’s a dream debut, I glad for all the nominations, all the love and support, all the future work. It’s overwhelming, it’s great, it’s also a sign of change I guess, that somebody with no lineage, somebody from outside can come and work in the movies, can work in a very unconventional film and still be considered mainstream and still be doing mainstream films as well. I think it’s a great sign for Indian cinema.

Q. Before ‘Wasseypur’ happened, who was Huma Qureshi? How difficult was your struggle?

A. Before ‘Wasseypur’ happened I was like any other girl, growing up in Delhi, in a business class family – my father runs a chain of restaurants, my mother is a housewife, I have a younger brother who is now also an actor (Saqib Saleem). A very regular upbringing, not at all filmi except that I loved watching films. Somewhere, there was this wishful thinking that I want to grow up to be an actor.

I started doing theatre in school and college, which is when the real taste for theatre and performing arts started and I knew that this is what I wanted to do. But even then it is very difficult for a middle-class girl to admit to herself that you want to be an actor. I guess, I had the similar kind of journey that anyone would have. It took some time to convince my parents, who were very against the idea of me moving to Mumbai but I did manage to convince them, I did come to Mumbai, I did start doing television commercials, which is how I got ‘Wasseypur’.

Of course I struggled like every other person, I met people, I faced rejections, I auditioned with 40 other people in a tiny room. It’s great that I am doing the films and I am very grateful to all the filmmakers I am working with but I have also had a lot of rejections, it’s the attitude in which you take the rejections, that’s most important, either you can let the attitude bring you down and curse the whole world and the industry or you can say, it’s okay, it happens, this one didn’t work for me but something else will and it does.

Q. Do you think ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ is a risky choice, Bollywood doesn’t really get horror right?

A. I beg to disagree. I think fear or the supernatural intrigues all human beings. It is true that in the past few years we have not had very many horror films but I think that’s about to change. ‘Aatma’ just released, ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ is there, ‘Raaz’ did so well, the zombie films are making a comeback; horror is definitely the new flavor of the season and it is here to stay.

And where is the risk in a film like this to be very honest? If a Vishal Bharadwaj and a Ekta Kapoor come together to make a movie on the supernatural, with a star cast like Emraan Hashmi, Kalki, Konkona with music by Vishal Bharadwaj and Gulzar Saab. Where is the risk? I am only proud that on the podium where everyone is standing, I also occupy a little space.

Q. Would you rather not do a romantic comedy which is a safer genre?

A. Well actors can’t be choosers, especially at this stage of my career. Of course I am choosing my films, I am very clear that I want to work with good people, I want to work with good scripts and parts that have something for me to do, I am very clear about that. But this is a no brainer.

After two days of rigorous auditions when they called me and said that I am on and they narrated the part to me and they asked me to read the script, I just knew I had to be a part of it because it’s such a good story. Not just my character, every character is so well etched out and it has got so much history, and the whole premise about daayans. Traditionally in India we have had this whole mythology about daayans and what if you take a story like that and plant it in contemporary times, in today’s day and age.

Emraan is playing a magician, who does shows and is popular, I am playing his girlfriend and then something happens and he starts questioning the existence of witches. It takes him back to his past and then things go topsy-turvy, that’s what this story is about. It is very intriguing.

Q. Do you believe in ghosts?

A. No. I don’t believe in the supernatural or the occult, I am not a believer. But this movie, I wouldn’t say it has changed my beliefs but it has definitely questioned them. I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they said something very beautiful, that if you believe in God and you believe in good then you must also believe in the evil and the not-so-good. And I have to agree with that because everything has an equal and opposite reaction.

Q. When Huma Qureshi is not busy with her film projects, what does she do?

A. If you had asked me that question prior to June 2012, I would have given you a completely different answer. Today, the answer I will give you is that I haven’t had a day off; I have been working every day. I have been promoting ‘Ek Thi Daayan’, before that I was shooting for it, now I am shooting for ‘Dedh Ishqiya’, I have three releases this year.

I have my hand and feet full. It’s a very crazy year, they are big films and films that I am very proud of, I worked very hard and now, it’s time for the audience to see my work and give me their feedback.

So on a day off, Huma Qureshi would just want to sleep. She doesn’t want to go out, she doesn’t want to do anything. I love what I do, I love it, I don’t think I would have been happier in my life doing anything else but it’s a lot of hard work.

People always think that being an actress is all about the glamour, about looking pretty but believe you me we work very hard. It’s not an easy life, it sure has its perks, I wouldn’t deny that but it’s a lot of hard work. The most important thing is that the work you are doing will last forever; it will outlast all your sleepless nights, pains and struggles. This film that you do will be there forever and ever.