She stood out in a cast full of gangsters, strong-willed women, guns, violence and mayhem because of her bubbly and unique character, Mohsina. People loved it and now she has loads of films in hand including Anurag Kashyap’s Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, which she’s promoting now, Nikhil Advani’s D Day and Vishal Bhardwaj’s Ek Thi Daayan. Huma Qureshi is living quite the busy life but she finally got the time to speak to Sailesh Ghelani about Gangs of Wasseypur, her sexy FHM cover and what’s important in life.
I must admit I did find Gangs of Wasseypur (read the review here) a bit complicated. But for me, you were a breath of fresh air. The bubbly, naughty and spontaneous character was so appealing. Did it come naturally to you?
I’m pretty spontaneous, I like to play things by ear. I’m not a studied performer. For Gangs of Wasseypur it was spontaneous. Anurag (Kashyap) hadn’t written that part down. The scenes were improvised on the spot with a brief outline. We were just supposed to create lines and do things that we thought they’d do. In an improvisational space you do add a lot of you and give a lot of yourself to your character.
Isn’t it scary working without a script?
It’s petrifying because you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what you’re doing. We were shooting on film so you have the added pressure that you’ll waste that film. I was thinking what will Anurag think of me and Nawaz (Siddiqui) is just a great actor I didn’t want to disappoint them. It was because of them that we were able to create those romantic moments on film. It’s a fabulous feeling that we could create that. It really made me a better actor. Anurag lets you do your own thing. He’ll tell you what not to do, but he’ll never tell you what to do.
Gangs of Wasseypur is pretty realistic in its depiction of the political and social scenario at the time. In the movie, Mohsina (Huma’s character) seems to be quite an equal partner to Faizal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character) in his day-to-day activities and his public presence. Did you wonder if this was unusual, when compared to what a woman’s role would have realistically been in that setting?
Gangs of Wasseypur explored different aspects of the man-woman relationship. There are so many responses that men and women have to each other in a given situation. For me it was simple. There was this girl who was from small town India and she had restrictions and she was attracted to this gangster. There are so many women around us who are so defined by the men they are with. We can’t judge this; it’s just how it is. Anurag cast two actors who made a very odd couple, which is brilliant. We weren’t the typical perfect couple.
Although I’m there for just two scenes in the first part of Gangs of Wasseypur (read the review here), the biggest compliment I get is that people remember me. That’s really important as characters. It’s not imp that someone remembers at an airport. They all remember my dialogue and recite it to me verbatim, which is great.
What was the experience filming Gangs of Wasseypur like and how did you get on with the other actors like Richa Chadda (read her interview here)?
Gangs… is not a fancy five star film. We shot it in bare minimum conditions, staying at this horrible hotel in Banaras. We saw films together, we borrowed DVDs from Anurag. We used to go jogging together. With people who are so new and just starting out you tend to bond. Richa (Chadda) is a very talented actress and her role was one of the best etched out. We got along fairly well.
It’s a great time for women in films isn’t it?
What’s very interesting is that we have very interesting characters we can portray on screen. As far as women characters were concerned you would have this very sweet damsel in distress or the vamp. There used to be nothing in the middle. Now you have so many well-etched characters. It makes them more complex and real. That people are relating to such characters is a healthy sign. As an actor it’s important that I do everything. I’m not here to be the torchbearer of any particular type of cinema.
Which is presumably why you did that sexy cover for FHM, to show that you’re a versatile actor…
Images show what I am capable of. I can be appreciated or slammed for something. Acting is the most risky profession. I’m exposing myself to thousands of people who can like me or hate me. That won’t stop me from taking the risks.
Achieving success so quickly after your first film can go to your head. Has anyone had reason to call you a diva?
All the big filmmakers you’ve dreamt of working with call you after a film like Gangs of Wasseypur. All that is very heavy. Time is a constraint constantly. You’re trying to fit in everything you did and all the new things too. Sometimes you can’t go and hang out with friends or go for movies because I’m trying to make it for shoots or meetings. Then some people may label you a diva or being pricey. But I still brush my teeth, get yelled at by my mom and get told off for spending too much money!
A young friend of yours recently passed away in a tragic accident. You were shaken up by it. Has that made you rethink life in any way?
The friend who passed away, I’ve known him for 10 years, but we didn’t really meet that much. The day he passed away I so wanted to go to Pune but I couldn’t go due to my shooting schedule. These are choices one has to keep making. I’m taking each day as it comes. It did get me thinking about people who have added to my life and who I haven’t met in a while. And those are the people you take the most granted. You think they’re always going to be there. You can win an Oscar but you have to have people to share it with.
“I am single. I have not met anybody who looks like a million bucks, has a fine mind and can indulge in interesting conversation. Or am I asking for too much?” That’s what you said in an interview. And I’m thinking it really is difficult to find it all. Do you think you have to compromise on love and relationships?
I’d like to get it all. I wish I could make an interesting combination out of many guys! But seriously it’s just about making things click between two people.
You’re acting in a film a about foodies called Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. So what are your favourite types of food?
My mum’s food is wonderful. Anurag (Kashyap) was praising her food on twitter. She makes achari chicken, which is oily and spicy but I adore it.
Tell us something about your film Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana.
Luv Shuv is being produced by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Sameer Sharma. It’s very unlike Anurag’s so-called image. It’s a very slice of life film. It’s like Little Miss Sunshine or Khosla Ka Ghosla. It’s very real Punjab. Apart from Kunal Kapoor and me it has a great ensemble cast that have added so much to the film.
Gangs of Wasseypur went to Cannes and you were there too. How was that experience?
Our Cannes India contingent was the ‘Gangs of Aaram Nagar’! Because all the industry people we knew were there. It was unbelievable. It gave us confidence that people in France were getting it even though they didn’t understand the language.
Barfi! (read the review here) is being sent as India’s entry to the Oscars for Best Foreign Film. What do you think of that?
All the best to Barfi!; I hope they win. I don’t know what reasons they had to select it. I am confident that Gangs of Wasseypur would have been the perfect choice to go to the Oscars. I don’t know why they didn’t send it though.
I read somewhere you were willing to shave off your eyebrows to be in an ad with Shah Rukh Khan. Even someone like Vidya Balan gets the need to change your appearance for a role, sometimes drastically. How many of our ‘stars’ would put on oodles of weight for a role? Would you?
Transformations depend on the script. I have no hang-ups changing my appearance for a part. But the character has to be good enough for me to be able to do something.
(Reader question from Twitter) Whose idea was your trademark statement of ‘permission lena chahiye aapko’ in Gangs Of Wasseypur?
The line is from Nawaz’s life. It actually happened to him. He tried to touch this girl he was dating and she shouted him and so he started crying and then she hugged him. So he related this to us and said that’s the best way to get close to a girl and that’s how it came about!
(Reader question from Twitter) What’s with aviator shades throughout the movie?
Before the first shot was taken for my character, Anurag came to check on me. He wanted the look to be loud and he gave me the fake aviators to put on, looked at me and said okay, go shoot. And we shot the sequence where Nawaz is released from jail.
Watch Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana – KikliKalerdi – Official Song Video
Read more interviews here.