Friday, August 2, 2013

Huma Qureshi

“As an actor, there are so many pressures on you. It is difficult, but one has to learn while one is going on”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the July 27, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Credit for first two pictures : Toto Nandy 

Picture number 3, credit : Rohan Shreshtha 

Huma Qureshi came like a breath of fresh air, which is probably why, she was instantly accepted after her debut stint, in a male-dominated film. She did re-define sexy, with her curves, and ‘adaa’. While most people called her unconventionally beautiful, some said she possessed yesteryear-heroine-like charm. And obviously, criticism also came along. But, I think it’s Huma’s simplicity that works, not just on-screen, but off-screen too. She’s non-diplomatic, speaks her heart, and no, there’s no starry air around her, not yet. She has, certainly, got acceptance from the audience and the industry, which is what also shows in the kind of offers coming her way. Interestingly though, it’s only been a year since she’s made her debut. Up next on Huma’s sleeve is ‘Dedh-Ishqiya’, but for now, it’s the recently released ‘D-Day’ that has been garnering some great response from all over. She’s clad in a black knee-length dress, with hair let loose. She curls up her feet on the couch, the pillow kept next to her is now on her lap as she gets comfortable and we begin to chat. Now this initially turns out to be more of a girl conversation, than an interview! But, here we have, Huma Qureshi, talking about ‘D-Day’, as she also opens up about several aspects of her personality:

With D-Day getting such a fabulous response, you must be really happy!
We set out to make a good film, but it’s humbling that people are connecting so emotionally to it. I’ve always maintained that, though this film is a thriller, and it has action, it’s a film that deals with the emotional journey of these characters. There was also so much of patriotic sentiment attached to it. It was fiction, but it wasn’t fantasy, it was more real and believable. And for me to play Zoya Rehman was a challenge, since there was a lot of action, it was something very new for me. Of course, we had all the help in the world though, we had Tom Struthers, our action director, who taught us so much!

How was the whole experience of working with such a team of actors on ‘D-Day’?
Whenever I do a new film and I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been cast in movies that have some of the best actors of our generation, so I only try and learn from them. With Rishi sir, his zest for life, the passion that he has for movies even today, despite having done so much already, is commendable. I don’t know if I’ll have such kind of passion, if I’ve done so many movies and seen the world. Irrfan, his sheer understanding of the craft is amazing, he’s always thinking about how should he make the scene better, the way he approaches the scene, there’s so much to learn from him, and with Irrfan, even when you’re doing a scene, you never know what he’s going to do next, and that’s so watchable, and as a co-actor it always keeps you on your toes because you never know what he’s going to come up with. Even he admits that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do till he actually does it. Arjun is the most fun to be with, he’s one of the most fit and good looking men we have in the country, and he’s also a national award winner. Even the new people, whether it’s Shriswara or Aakash Dahiya in the film, they’ve brought so much to the table.

After films like ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ and ‘D-Day’ what are the kind of offers coming your way?
There are many interesting offers, and surprisingly a lot of commercial offers. But I’m not really sitting back and counting the offers coming my way, or the appreciation coming my way, I’m just working and that’s what I want to do. I mean it’s just been a year now, and I’m on my 6th film which feels so amazing but I’m just enjoying the different kind of work coming my way, I’ve just begun and that’s about it.

With the kind of appreciation you’ve recieved, so soon in your career, should I assume that you’ve settled in here?
I still feel new and unsure, I still feel I don’t know enough, I still feel I’m learning. There’s so much I haven’t done yet, and I just want to keep pushing my limits as an actor, as a person. It feels nice when there’s adulation, recognition, acceptance in a lot of ways. There is that, but I’m still new. Sometimes it’s very dizzy. Though, I’ve adapted the change in life, I’m pretty adaptable to change, I have to admit. I guess that also helps in being an actor, but having said that, it’s still unnerving. The past two months I’ve taken like just four days holidays. I didn’t have time to take a bigger holiday, but sometimes I feel there’s so much information overload, that I feel the need to just disconnect. So many things I have to constantly do, or places I have to be at, or commitments I have to keep, plus you have to take care of your health and not fall sick. And as an actor, there are so many other pressures on you. It is difficult, but one has to learn while one is going on.

So, what is it that makes you want to do a film when offered to you?
When you meet some people, you see their intent, their passion, that’s the first thing you see  and you know that these are the people you want to work with, these are nice guys. I know it sounds very dumb, but it’s true, because you want to work with people who you like working with. You’re going to spend at least six months to a year of your life, working with some people so you better like them, they better be nice people to work with, otherwise it’s going to be horrible. I don’t want to work in the biggest movie if I’m going to be horrible and crying and miserable, how is it going to help me any which way. But I’ve worked with some very good people, people who’ve been very protective and caring, and I’ve only grown with them. And then of course, I prefer reading a script to a narration. I think it’s a much better objective way of breaking down things in your head.

Despite being someone who’s always in the public eye, you wear your heart on your sleeve…
I get along with most people, so I can talk to most people. But if I don’t connect to some people, I won’t talk. What will I hide, and for long will I hide? So, I might as well be honest say it myself. I would hate it if that would change about me. I would hate it if I would become too wise and too proper, too cautious. I would hate to be cautious. I think, whoever I am, or wherever I am in life today, is because of who I am, so I don’t feel the need to hide my personality or me because people are going to judge me or not like it. I’m here because people like me. I wouldn’t be here, doing all these movies if people wouldn’t like me. So, why would I try and change, because somebody has an idea that actresses should be like this, and give interviews like that; there’s no book that comes along.

I met your brother Saqib few days back, and he told me, “Huma is so pure-hearted, she takes people by face value.” Is it so?
Yes, but honestly, I think it works and I’ll tell you why. Not that I’ve not had my share of having my heart broken, and I think how can people be like this, it still happens every day. But I have so many other people, who see this in me, and protect me, and they protect me selflessly. Like when I started out also, there were so many people who’d just recommend me, or talk nice about me, and say lovely things about me because they like me. So, I’m happy to be like this. And, Saqib and I have this amazing relationship. He’s my younger brother, but he is my elder brother in a lot of ways. He does take more responsibility on himself, than the normal, to be my best friend, and my brother, and my parent, because our parents are in Delhi. It’s crazy, you tend to have so many friends in the industry, but then there are only a few people who you can actually share your personal things with, and I’m a typical girl, I need to talk, so Saqib by default has become my sister. I always ask him should I wear this, and he’ll always tell me, ‘Oh stay away from that boy’, and all that.

You’re on your sixth film now. How have things changed?
I’ve become more confident in a lot of things. I’ve also become more aware of my flaws. So, it’s kind of strange because I know what my flaws are and I’m working on them, but at the same time I’m becoming more confident with each film. There are still so many things about how technically movies are made, that I don’t know. So, I’d like to know them a little better. As an actor, I think being emotional helps. Being an emotional person helps, it helps you relate to characters, it helps you relate to people while you’re working if someone has written a part, and has written it with certain kind of emotion and intensity. On personal front, I’ve realised there are a lot of restrictions that come along. Like I went gaming with my friends, and while I’m trying to play, people are coming and asking for pictures, so I’m like I want to play. I did pose for pictures though, and I love it. I can never say no to someone when they ask for a picture, because I owe it to them, because I’m never going to meet that person again and this is the only impression of me, live in person, flesh and blood, that they’re going to have. I don’t want to disappoint them. But, it’s really tough. I thought it’s all going to be easy breezy, but it’s not.

When stardom sinks in; it may be difficult to be yourself, and not seem arrogant. How do you handle that part?
I can’t speak for other people, but sometimes you have to be slightly more practical and maintain your privacy. Some people think, just because you’re an actor, you’re in the public eye or you’re famous, they have 24/7 access into your life, and mind. I hate it when people randomly just SMS me, ‘it’s so and so day, what do you think about it?’, or the oil prices have increased, what do you think about it? Give us a quote.’ I’m an actor and I won’t know everything about everything. But sometimes it’s also nice, because they do express the fact that they like your work or appreciate your work, but sometimes it does get intrusive, you feel you want your private space. It’s weird. Also, when it’s your first film, you have all the time in the world, nobody’s bothering you, you’re just working on the film. Now I’m working on one film, and doing ten other things, may be shooting one film, and promoting the other, my mind is constantly here and there, so I may not be able to be as available as I was earlier, so people misinterpret that as arrogance. I have a lovely family and friends, they keep me grounded, they keep me very real. I don’t know how to behave like a star, or someone who’s famous. I just know how to behave like me. And I would rather behave like me, than try and pretend to be someone else.

What is it that you wish to do from here on?
I’m still finding my feet. But, it’s good that I’m working with the filmmakers I’m working with. I really think now, it’s the question of how much I keep myself ticking and motivated and passionate about what I’m doing. Every day, every new character is a challenge. So it has to be that. It can’t stagnate.

The last time we spoke, you told me you’d be the worse girlfriend to have, since you keep so busy. Do you still maintain that?
(Laughs) I’m still the worse girlfriend to have, because where’s the time? If I had a boyfriend, it’s lovely weather to go for a walk, have coffee, watch a movie but here I am, doing an interview. Obviously my work is more important right now than any boy. But see, when the right boy comes, probably I’ll make time. Then, maybe I’ll be like, ‘Baby come sit here next to me, let me finish this interview’ (Laughs).

Along with the appreciation coming your way, there’s also been some bit of criticism with regards to you being on the healthier side. How do you deal with that?
I have my bright days, and I have my dull days. But there’s so much to be thankful for. I couldn’t have asked for more. So, I’m only looking at all the positive aspects.

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