I am thankful to directors of Luv Shuv…,Ek Thi Dayan and D-Day,who trusted me and offered me their films even before my first film (Gangs…) released
I got some costumes stitched which were identical to Madhuri Dixits from Hum Aaapke Hai Koun..? I still have the pictures with me,which I am planning to get it autographed by Madhuriji,whom I working with in Dedh Ishqiya
Despite having no film connections to boast of,Huma Qureshi has managed to carve a niche for herself in Bollywood. From playing a small-town airhead Mohsina in her debut flick Gangs Of Wasseypur to an intelligent RAW agent,Zoya in D-Day,the actress has come a long way. In a freewheeling chat with Screen,Qureshi recaptures the fascination she had for Bollywood in her childhood,her film journey and her actor,brother Saqib Saleems entry in films. Excerpts from the interview:
You have been applauded for your performances right from your first film. Did you foresee this happening when you started off in the industry?
I am happy and grateful that the audience have accepted me so wholeheartedly. I am also glad that I got to work with some great film-makers of the industry right from the beginning. But I also believe that there is still so much to prove.
You started your acting career through theatre. Did you take any formal training in acting before?
I havent taken any training in acting. Whatever I learnt was during theatre at the Act One School in Delhi. Some people say that I got overnight success in Bollywood straight out of theatre and in films. But come on, theatre was hard work. I spent hours on rehearsals to perfect my acting skills. My daily routine had me going to college,attending lectures and then heading straight to the theatre. Acting in plays help as it lays the foundation. Also,my teacher M.K. Sharma was very encouraging.
What was that one quality that helped you to be a better actress during your theatre days?
My confidence! I used to look very confident on stage. Even if I got butterflies in my stomach or was nervous,I could easily hide it with a confident face. I was quite decent at memorising lines. Even if I forgot a few lines,I used to improvise it so confidently that no one realised that something was amiss.
?Did your teachers and co-actors during your theatre days,recognise your potential to be an actress in Bollywood one day?
I come from a very simple,middle-class family from Delhi. They are not even remotely associated with films. So when you start out,you tend to have self doubts. In my case,it was M.K. Sharma,who was the reason why I moved to Mumbai. He pushed me to pursue my dream. In fact,I am still in touch with him. I call him and ask him if he saw my film. I like the way he analyses my performances. He is very frank and harsh. I am still learning from him.
How did you view Bollywood as a kid?
Like several other Indians,Bollywood has played an important part in my life too. From dancing on Hindi film songs at parties to wearing Bollywood inspired clothes,I have been there,done that all since childhood. Remember the red colour dress or even the green one and the white dress that Madhuri Dixit wore in Hum Aapke Hai Koun..? I got identical ones stitched from my tailor and wore them at wedding. I still have those pictures where I am dancing,wearing those colourful costumes. Now that I remember,I am going to get those pictures autographed by Madhuriji,whom I am working with in Dedh Ishqiya.
That apart,my younger brother Saqib Saleem and I also used to see a lot of films together. There was a cinema hall at a walking distance of 15 minutes at Kalkaji,Delhi,which we frequented often to watch new releases. We also had a VCR and mom would often play Sholay. Believe me,we have watched the movie so many times that Saqib and I used to mouth all the dialogues. We knew the lines by heart!
Your brother Saqib Saleem is also an actor. Tell us of the kind of rapport you share with him.
As kids,Saqib and I were just like any other brother and sister two siblings who were always fighting with each other. Now that we are actors,we both stay together in Mumbai,away from our parents,who reside in Delhi. Saqib is very protective about me. We discuss our work and dont hesitate to air our opinions or suggestions. We also have a lot of friends in common here.
As a student,how did you fare in your academics?
Most of the girls in my family are doctors,so my mom too wanted me to become a doctor. I applied for science during my higher studies. I was never a bookworm. I wanted to take part in some extra circular activities,but Science as a subject did not allow me to enjoy that side of me. I got buried in studies with subjects like Chemistry,Biology etc. So,one fine day,I just met the Principal and changed my subject. Finally,I passed out doing my honours in History.
Interestingly,your father owns a chain of restaurants in Delhi. Werent you tempted to join the hospitality business with him?
I am a restaurateurs daughter,and I will always be. My father,Qureshi,is a very hospitable man,he likes feeding people,but I dont see myself doing that. For now,I just want to establish myself as an actor. I may join him later,but currently,only movies are on my mind.
How fond are you of your dads cooking?
I am extremely fond of his culinary skills. In fact my mom did not know how to cook. It was dad who taught her. I am just in love with the mutton kurma that he makes.
Though you made a grand entry in Bollywood through Gangs Of Wasseypur,your other films like Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and Ek Thi Daayan were not received that well.
I stand by my work. My job is to perform in a film,and if the movie doesnt do well at the box-office then thats not my concern. My work was at least appreciated in those films. Moreover,I am thankful to the directors of these films,because I signed Luv Shuv…,Ek Thi Daayan and D-Day way before Gangs… released. I am glad that they all trusted me and saw me doing different characters even before my first film was released.
Getting good screen space in a movie is all about how well you select a film. That apart,I want to thank my directors for not letting me down and keeping their promises. I appreciate that none of the film-makers wasted me in any of their projects.
What do you have to say about being tagged the unconventional actress of Bollywood?
I dont know what conventional or unconventional is. All I know is that I am here to do my job,which is acting. I have already done five films ever since I have arrived and got appreciation for my performances. Labels are for people to give.
Unlike other Bollywood actresses,you are a little on the heavier side. Dont you feel tempted to join the fit and fabulous of Bollywood by shedding those extra kilos?
I am successful without having had to change the way I am. I have a good fan base and have been getting good film opportunities with just the way I am,then why should I think about my weight? Why dont you ask the film-makers as to why they prefer to cast me,and not those who are size zero,in their movies?
But do you follow a fitness regime?
Work has kept me busy for nearly a year now. So much that I tend to overlook my health. Otherwise,I have a fitness regime in place. I have a trainer who I work out with. Whenever I am travelling. I make sure to have home cooked food and drink ample amount of water at regular intervals.
Richa Chadda started her career with you in Gangs…. Are you in touch with her?
When you work together,your colleagues tend to become friends. Richa and I are good friends,we are always in touch with each other over text messages. I met her recently at a birthday party.
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