Rajinikanth’s Kaala hit screens today. Amid the positive response the film has already started to garner from the audience and critics alike, indianexpress.com caught up with actor Huma Qureshi, who plays an important role in the Rajinikanth starrer. The actor in an exclusive chat opened up on working with Rajinikanth in her debut Tamil film and what fans can expect from Kaala.
Q. Kaala has released. What are you feeling?
I am very excited but a little nervous too. This is my first Tamil film. So I do not know what to expect. I am going to be in Chennai and planning to watch the film with my cast and crew. So, I am looking forward to that. Also, I want to experience the Rajini mania. I wanted to go for 4 am show but was unable to make it.
Q. We don’t know much about your role in the film. Tell us something about it.
I cannot and do not want to reveal too much about the character as I want you to be pleasantly surprised. The character is of a strong woman. Of course, there is a love interest angle to it. When you will watch the film, you will understand how the journey of Zareena and Kaala pans over the film. You will see them in different phases of their lives.
At the same time, she is not a sorry figure or a cardboard cut-out. She is not a damsel in distress that needs to be rescued. Zarina is very strong and opinionated person. And through the film, you will see that not all the time Zareena and Kaala see eye to eye.
I think the whole credit for Zareena should go to Ranjith because he has written such a beautiful character and he has allowed me to play it. Very rarely do we come such strong characters like this.
Q. Did you instantly agree to star in Kaala?
Absolutely, the script is fantastic! When I flew down to meet Ranjith sir and Dhanush to hear the narration, I was floored. It was wonderful. The script spoke to me. It is a people’s film and I think everybody will relate to it. The film does talk about politics but it is not a film that divides people. In fact, it is a film that will unite people.
It talks about change and change at what cost and also about rights of the people. These are very complex subjects but the way it is shown… massy and commercial way, it is so entertaining. So, I really related to it and wanted to be a part of it.
Of course, having said all these things, it is still a Rajinikanth film. It is one of those things one has to do before one retires, right? (chuckles). I feel so fortunate that I got to be in a Rajinikanth film so early in my career.
Q. Rajinikanth is India’s biggest superstar. We have heard stories about him being down to earth and how people worship him. Did you notice that kind of reverence on the sets?
It was insane! Every time he would walk in, people would sort of literally behave like as if a God was walking on the sets. There were a lot of fans who were there for crowd sequences. So many of them at any given point in time. I remember we were shooting for a dance sequence. In the shot, everyone was supposed to urge him to dance. But I could see they were not urging the character but they all wanted to see Rajinikanth dancing in front of them. And the expressions on their face. You should have seen that. They all were looking at each other, pointing at Rajini sir. They were so excited and wide-eyed. It was a vision. An experience.
Q. Were you intimidated?
I was not intimidated but was aware that this is India’s biggest superstar I am getting a chance to work with. So, definitely, I feel extremely lucky. It is an amazing feeling to think that my first Tamil film is with Rajini sir. I was aware of all this. I did not want to mess it up, you know. I wanted to do a good job.
But I have to mention that he really makes it easy to work with him. He is very friendly and such a great guy. He connects with common people and that is why he is so loved.
Q. What was your first conversation with him?
It was on the sets. Before we started to shoot for the film, one day we had a full shoot for all the characters. So, we bumped into each other. I introduced myself, ‘Hello sir, how are you? This is Huma. It is exciting and an honour to be working with you’ and he smiled and replied, ‘The honour is ours.’ That is how the conversation started but I was so nervous that I was yapping away. When I am very nervous, I talk too much. (laughs)
Q. Any tips you got from Ranjith for playing Zarina?
He knew the script and the characters so well that at times, I doubted if these characters were people from his life. Someone who he had met sometime in his life.
For Zareena, he was so clear what he wanted to show on screen. Like sometimes, I would do a scene and he would say, ‘This is not Zareena’. When I would correct myself, he would agree to it. So, I was amazed about the kind of clarity he had. My benchmark was that I would do every scene, look at him, see if he is happy and only then, I would feel happy.
Q. How different was it to work on a Tamil film set?
Very difficult, yaar! I could not understand anything that was going on. I was very lost. I would look at people or would ask someone to translate sometimes. I did not feel that they were being particular about their language. It is just that sometimes you don’t realise. I guess it is easier to converse in your native language, especially on the sets. Often it happened that I would be in a conversation with people and they would break out in Tamil. I would interrupt them and be like, ‘Guys, hang on! subtitles.’ They would laugh and then translate.
Q. Any Tamil film you watched?
Of course, I have seen Tamil films. I have seen Kabali. A few other Suriya and Vikram films. But for Kaala, Jenny was there. She is the Assistant Director on the film. She is really the reason why and how I managed to do this character. She would sit with me before every shoot, translate the dialogues. It was like doing homework. I was doing homework every single day. Even if I would want to improvise a scene, she would suggest the director about how it can be implemented. They were very encouraging throughout.
Q. Another actor who is making debut in Tamil films is Nana Patekar. How was he to work with?
I have scenes with him and we had so much fun. Nana sir is such a great actor. He is the Natsamrat of acting, you know. He performs a scene with so much authority and brings so much dignity through every character. At the same time, he is a great storyteller. As soon as a cut would happen, he would catch hold of me and start narrating a story. He is constantly writing stories in his head. So, we really got along.
Q. What can fans expect from Kaala?
Kaala is about people and their rights, in a massy commercial and entertaining way. I hope the response is good. I think this is Ranjith sir’s film where he has shown us something spectacular in his own inimitable style. Also, every actor is so good in the film that it would touch everyone’s heart.
Q. Saqib expressed his excitement of you working with Rajinikanth. This year is lucky for you both as he too is working with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan. What was it like when you both broke the news to each other?
We are so excited. Of course, it is a big opportunity for both of us to be working with such massive stars. Also, both the films (Race 3 and Kaala) are releasing in the same month. So, this year’s Ramzaan is turning out to be very special for us.
Q. Can we expect to see you more in south Indian films?