With Partition: 1947, Huma Qureshi is joining the growing list of Indian actors making their presence felt in international projects. The actor, however, says she did not go in search of an international film and took up the Gurinder Chadha-directed film because it came her way. “I didn’t go looking for an international project or a Hollywood film. Gurinder Chadha was making a film about the Partition. She wanted an Indian actor. Her casting director sent me the script and asked me to read it and also send an audition tape,” Huma says.
The actor, who made her debut with Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012, says till Dedh Ishqiya, which released in 2014, she had to audition for all her movies. But unlike other actors, Huma does not have any qualms about auditioning for roles. “A lot of actors have issues taping themselves as they feel their work should speak for itself. But till Dedh Ishqiya, I can proudly say that I was screen tested for all the movies. Nothing has been given to me on platter.”
Praising the leading lady of her film, Gurinder says she was impressed with Huma’s audition tape as the actor successfully imbibed the nuances of her character, Aalia, who is a Muslim girl working as a translator at the Viceroy’s House. “Huma had send her audition tape and it was was very good. She caught the nuances of the character. Also her face is perfect for a period film like this,” the director says.
Besides Huma, Partition: 1947 also stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal and Neeraj Kabi. It is also one of last films of Indian actor Om Puri, who died in January this year. Reminiscing the times she spent with Puri, who played her father in the film, Huma says she had started calling him “abba” in real life as well.
“I have several beautiful scenes with him. He was the only actor from India who has done great work in the West. I am lucky that I got to watch him perform and learn from him. I used to call him ‘Abba’.” Gurinder says she will organise a special screening of the film in Mumbai and New York as a tribute to Puri.
“I miss him a lot. I am very sad that he is not here today. He was very happy to be a part of the film. As a tribute to him, we are organising two screenings of the film – one in Mumbai and the other in New York – in association with his foundation.”
Partition: 1947, which released in the UK in March, received mixed response upon its release. It was panned by Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto, who called it a “servile pantomime of partition”. Gurinder feels Bhutto misrepresented her film. “I understand Fatima Bhutto’s anger. She misrepresented the film. Many people saw the film after her review and didn’t agree with her. Even several British-Pakistanis were upset with her.”
Partition: 1947, which is the dubbed Hindi version of Viceroy’s House, is set to release in India on August 18 and the director says she also wants the film to be screened in Pakistan. “Our co-producers are in talks with their regular distributors in Pakistan and Bangladesh. So far, they have secured a release in Bangladesh and going through the censorship in Pakistan.”