‘When you say horror in India, filmmakers dumb it down or sex it up’

Siblings Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem on working together in their latest film Dobaara, and horror as a genre in India

Written by Ektaa Malik | Published:June 3, 2017 6:03 am
huma qureshi, saqib saleem, dobaara, dobaara film, bollywood news Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem. Tashi Tobgyal

When we met the Qureshi siblings — Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem — they were in the middle of prepping themselves up for a hectic day of promotions for Dobaara: See Your Evil, which released yesterday. The real-life siblings are playing reel siblings in the film. It’s a first for them — sharing screen space. Both of them admit it was very challenging as they had to play out a relationship which is in stark contrast to what they have in real life. Between constant jibes at each other and sharp repartee, they talk about the horror genre and their future projects. Excerpts from an interview:

Dobaara is a horror film, a genre that is yet to find its feet in India. What made you say yes to the project?

Huma: Saqib and I always thought of working together, but never knew it would be this early in our careers. Dobaara is a remake of the 2013 Hollywood film Oculus, which did so well. The film’s producers approached us and asked if we had seen the film. I hadn’t, Saqib had. After I saw the film, we discussed it, and read the Hindi draft. It sounded very cool and relatable. Also, it was exciting because the same production company was producing it here as well. Apart from all this, it is a very emotional film. Bhai-behen ki kahaani, where the brother has been sent away. They are fighting with each other and also with their parents. And then, they are dealing with this thing that destroyed their family.

Saqib:We both wanted to be part of this horror adventure. Horror as a genre hasn’t really gotten its due in Bollywood. Do we even remember the last good horror offering that came from the industry? We wanted this project to be at par with any Hollywood horror film. We did not want this to be reduced to a gimmicky film with bad make-up, like it has often happened in the past.

So has it lived upto the expectations?

Huma: The moment you say horror in India, filmmakers either dumb it down or sex it up. And we fought for it. We did not add a club song to it, or added sleaze for effect. Look how well films such as Oculus and Conjuring have fared in India. But the moment you add sex and sleaze to a good horror plot, you cut out a good section of the family audience, which we were very keen to tap into.

You both are clearly over-involved in the project. Did you ever think of producing the film as well ?

Saqib: Yes, we have been asked this question a lot, if we are producing the film as well. But the answer is no. Hum actors hain, hume acting ke paise milte hain.

Huma: But filmmaking is a collaborative effort. And yes, we were super involved in the film, specially as it was our first outing together. We and the producers had a similar vision of the film.

How was it working together? Was it easy to make the shift from the personal to a professional space?

Huma: Saqib and I are both such jokers. And we fight a lot. When our parents got to know that we doing a film together, they called us and said, ‘Aap log jaa rahe picture shoot karne, please jhagda mat karna’. I think our parents expected our producers to call them and say that please handle your kids they are fighting on set. Saqib and I are very close to each other and so, to play these really disconnected siblings was challenging.

Saqib: The decision to do the film came easily. But once the film was on the floor, we both had to disassociate from the fact that we are acting with our real-life sibling. I had to tell myself that it’s not Huma on the sets but a co-actor. After a while, we found our groove.

You both live together in Mumbai, away from a very close knit family. Was it an easy transition?

Huma: It was very tough initially. It’s crazy to live with him; we fought a lot. But after seven years of living together, we have found our momentum. We now turn to each other for everything. We are each other’s cornerstones. We now have staff and we even have a dog. So, it has all worked out well. Even though he is annoying, he steals my stuff and make-up.

Any more such collaborations happening in the future?

Huma: Given the fact that we are both such jokers, it will be fun to do a situational comedy with Saqib. But I think Saqib would want to do something much more slapstick.

Saqib: No. I wont cast you in my film, as you don’t have a sense of humour.

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