Huma Qureshi: On breaking stereotypes in Bollywood

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Actress Huma Qureshi doesn’t believe in playing it safe and admits that her gamble to debut in Bollywood with a supporting role paid off. She also acknowledges that it’s not the genre of a film that matters as much as its substance. Here are more excerpts from her interview with Trendspotters.TV:

Huma Qureshi: It could be a horror flick, it could be movie where I play a robust Punjabi like you said, it could be like a coal mafia’s girlfriend-turned-wife or a RAW agent. As an actor what’s exciting for me is whenever an image about me gets formed, I have to break it. There was a time I think when people would say that either you can act or you can look pretty. Why can’t you do both?

Qureshi also believes in making her own rules and playing by them. And instead of playing it safe by debuting in a quintessential Bollywood pot-boiler, she chose to mark her entry into Tinsel Town with a supporting role in Anurag Kashyap’s 2012 two-part gangster saga ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’.

Huma Qureshi: For some people a classic debut might work and for some people it might not. But off late there have been examples of a lot of people who have not made a classical debut and have made it into the so-called mainstream. I think it’s a trend. The audience has seen the quintessential hero-heroine thing…if the audience connects with the character’s story…that’s what really matters.

Even though the gamble paid-off, Huma was in for a shock when she was first handed the script of the film…Here’s why:

Huma Qureshi: I had signed the movie and they gave me the script to read and I was like “but I am not in the movie at all!”… It’s a six-hour movie and I am there for like 25 minutes. No, I did not know what would become of me. Yes, I knew that it would be something very, very interesting that I was going to be a part of…it’s not something that’s been done before…it was something that’s going to be memorable…How successful it was going to be, I had no idea. The idea of my character was to make fun of the way women are portrayed in cinema. They are supposed to be these bimbos. How we sort of style our hair, act out our fantasies in reality as well.

The film was critically acclaimed when it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Director’s Fortnight Section that year and also received rave reviews from Indian critics upon its release.

Huma Qureshi: The first time I saw the film was at Cannes. That’s when it really sunk in because there I felt like a midget really. A lot of people from the industry called and it was written about which was humbling. When I saw the first hoarding in Bombay I was like “was I really a part of it?!”

While the post-production of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ was in progress, Huma got the offer to play the female lead in Sameer Sharma’s ‘Luv Shav Tey Chicken Khurana’.

Huma Qureshi: Anurag Kashyap showed what he had shot to a lot of friends. They were looking for a girl for ‘Luv Shuv’. I get a call from Sameer Sharma. He said, “Would you do this film?” But I was like, “Can I read the script?” Full credit goes to Sameer Sharma and Sumit Bhatheja. What we managed to capture with it was the simplicity of a Punjabi girl. She helps this stupid boyfriend. I would probably be like, “Get out of my life!”

2013 saw her being a part of out-and-out commercial flicks like ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ and ‘D-Day’. Huma confesses that these were not conscious decisions but also adds that she doesn’t want to be typecast as an actress.

Huma Qureshi: When you are starting out as an actor you don’t have the freedom to do that and that. It doesn’t work like that…my favourite analogy for an actor is that we are daily wage labourers! We wait to get employed. There are certain kind of stories that I gravitate towards which are interesting, which are new, which have something different to offer. But I don’t think of myself as an actor in terms of genre. I want to play different roles…that’s what I gravitate towards.

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