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Glow of success

As her career hums along nicely, Huma Qureshi gets another feather in her cap – a Tamil movie with Rajnikanth. What more could a girl from Delhi want?

Huma’s mother, a Kashmiri, and her father Saleem Qureshi, who runs a chain of restaurants in Delhi, fell in love and got married despite family opposition. And Huma, fortunately, was taken by her father to Mumbai for a career in films, despite his scepticism about such a course of action.

Earlier, she studied History (Honours) at Gargi College, University of Delhi, and worked as an actor in several theatrical productions. She convinced her father that if she does not fulfill her dream, she will regret it her whole life. While she was doing a commercial for Samsung mobile with famous actor Aamir Khan, noted film director Anurag Kashyap spotted her. Quite impressed with her acting skills, he soon signed her for three of his films.

The rest, as they say, is history. The move paid off in more ways than one, for Huma made it big in Hindi films, and received three Filmfare Awards. She has three siblings and the family stays in Kalkaji, South Delhi.

Huma made her debut with a supporting role in the two-part crime drama Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). This is the role for which she got the Filmfare Award for the best female debut and best supporting actress. She then went on to play the lead female role in the romance Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, and played a part in Ek Thi Daayan. She portrayed the protagonist in the anthropological Shorts (2013) and the black comedy Dedh Ishgiya. Then she acted as a sex worker in the revenge drama Badlapur (2015) and the Marathi road drama Highway.

Her hit films include Jolly LLB, Gangs of Wasseypur and Gurinder Chhada’s Partition 1947. Now 32, she is making headlines after acting with famous star Rajnikanth in Kaala Kaarikalan starring Nana Patekar, Pankaj Tripathi, Samuthirakani and Eashwari Rao, among others. She plays the role of Rajnikanth’s aide Zareena who helps him bring down a corrupt politician.
Huma talks to Patriot about her latest role in Kaala Kaarikalan.

Were you nervous about acting with a big star like Rajnikanth?

Yes, it is the first time I got a chance to work with a big star like Rajnikanth who is as famous as Amitabh Bachchan. Really, at first, I felt little nervous but sharing the screen with him was a wonderful experience. Rajnikanth is a superstar with a massive fan following yet he is very humble. I have gained much professionally from him. Fortunately, I had earlier worked for advertisements with big stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.

Was learning another language difficult for you?

Before this, I worked only in Bollywood films and understand Hindi, English and Urdu. Urdu has its own beauty. I love poetry and am always collecting Urdu books.

Learning a new language and practising different kinds of dialogues takes a little time, but I feel I managed it well. I would never have thought I could pull off a character like this had it not been for the support of the entire direction team as I was speaking Tamil and don’t know the language at all…Although I don’t believe in preparing much before going to the sets, I did have to work overtime to get the Tamil lines right, keenly observing how people spoke on the sets. I chose not to dub. My dialogues were translated into English so that I could understand them; then I would learn the Tamil lines with the help of a Tamil assistant on the set which was very helpful to manage the correct pronunciation. Yes, I feel this is quite a feather in my cap.

You have worked in several films and played various characters. Which one is your favorite?

I am fortunate that I played different roles in many films, like Gangs of Wasseypur, Partition 1947, Badlapur and now Kaala. I am always keen on playing good characters and enjoyed working with all the directors such as Anurag Kashyap. In 1947, I played a Muslim girl and daughter of late Om Puri, who falls in love with a Hindu boy. I have learnt a lot working with noted director Gurinder Chhada also.

How did you get a role in Kaala?

I am lucky that Rajnikanth Sir offered me a role in his film. I was excited to be acting with him and I also loved the shoot because it’s not often that I find such a well-etched character for a female actor in a typical ‘mass’ film. I play the part of Zareena, a Tamil Muslim. The story spans three decades, showing my transformation from a 20-year-old to a woman in her 50s. I shot for 40-45 days and absolutely loved the story and my part in it.

Is Zareena anything like you?

She’s not one-dimensional. Zareena is so real, unlike a cardboard heroine character, and I could understand the choices she makes through her journey; she’s a feminist who stands up for what she believes in. I would term her as a woman of today.

Would you like to tell us about the Kaala sets?

I like the way Kaala was shot in Dharavi. The production team (led by art director Ramalingam) had painstakingly worked on the sets that looked realistic and lived in. The sets have already garnered praise in film circles for the production team’s meticulous recreation of Dhobi Ghat, Kumbherwada, the Dharavi market and other areas.

When you come to Delhi, who do you meet?

I try to meet my history professor.

Are you connected with social media?

Yes, I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. All these tools are very important to keep me updated while am travelling.

Would you like to say something to your fans and audience?

I love my fans and audience. I am in Bollywood because of their love. I like to work hard and give my best. Audience choices and cinema are changing. There was a time when films became hits due to big film stars. Now that perception is changing.