Huma Saleem Qureshi who has been in the industry creating her own niche with some very interesting projects and has won many awards and recognition, has a good kitty of promising films lined up. From theatre to ads and then movies, there’s no looking back for this stunning beauty. Who can forget the crime drama Gangs of Wasseypur, the film that earned her several prestigious film awards and a career graph that looked only upwards, post its success. Her acting career has been versatile and how – dark comedies, horror, action, psychological thrillers and most recently a biopic. No wonder then that Huma has been applauded for her vivacious energy and brilliant acting on screen. Here’s Huma – up, close and personal…
- Tell us about your growing up days. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
I was doing a lot of amateur and professional theatre in Delhi and there I found my passion for acting, because of my background in theatre. After that I started getting a lot of calls for auditions so I decided to move to Mumbai. Initially I went through the usual hustle of going from studio to studio. I remember I would pack my bag in the morning with one Indian outfit and one Western outfit and just go for auditions. I started doing television commercials soon, including one with Shah Rukh Khan. One of them was directed by Anurag Kashyap – it was an ad with Aamir Khan for Samsung mobile phone. That was really the ad that got me my film Gangs of Wasseypur. Kashyap kept his promise, signing me for a three-film deal with his company Anurag Kashyap Films and since then there’s been no looking back. I always wanted to be an actor, even as a kid and coming from a middle class family, with nobody else in the family from the film industry, I was a bit apprehensive how this dream would come true. I think I was scared to even admit to myself but I guess it was always meant to be.
- When and how did the journey towards being an actor happen?
The journey has been rewarding. No complaints so far. I’m happy with the kind of work that I’ve been doing, the film makers that I’ve been working with and the scripts that keep coming my way. Gangs of Wasseypur was such a special film that all the people associated with the film have all had their special moments to take back from the project. Who can forget Manoj Bajpai from the film and then it was Navazuddin who had his special moments, even Jaideep, Richa Chaddha, Piyush Mishra or Vicky Kaushal, who was the Assistant Director, or Jai Mehta who was our director and Pankaj Tripathi as well. So many people who have come up from that film and all are doing so well in their careers now. I think it was that one special film that all of us came together from that moment in time. And actually none of us knew then when we were making it, that we were part of such a special film. Even Vasan Bala, my director from Monica, O My Darling, was an AD in that film – also Anubhuti Kashyap, Shlok Sharma, all these guys are from that one film and I can keep going on and on. Monica, O My Darling is a very special film. I’m just so fortunate that last year I got to do so many diverse characters like Monica, O My Darling, Maharani or Double XL and they’re all so different from each other. And that’s what I’m striving to do as an actor – to do different kind of roles and characters.
- So, do you guys have a Whatsapp group from those days and do you keep in touch?
We don’t, but I think that’s a great idea. We should have a Whatsapp group, why not? We have been actually planning a reunion of sorts with Vasan, but I don’t know when that will happen as there are too many busy people to bring in all in one room together. Let’s see.
- How challenging was it to carve out a niche for yourself? What kept you going?
I try and look back on the challenges and not glorify the bad times. My brother (actor Saqib Saleem) and I both came from Delhi with nothing and carved out a niche for ourselves and today we have both had a success story in the industry, without any backing or Godfather or anyone to launch us. I feel if one is persistent, talented and hardworking, things will eventually reward you. What kept me going were my personal practices like my writing, my meditation and just working on myself. Hard work is the only answer to any kind of challenges.
- What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
My first film was itself a big highpoint in my life. I didn’t know what to expect from it. It was really the film that changed my life. And then came Maharani which was a second awakening, where people are sort of reimagining me and seeing me differently as an actor.
- What are your other passions and hobbies? What do you like to do in your me-time?
I love reading and travelling. Also, like to catch up on my sleep.
- Would you like to recall some of the most cherished moments with your family?
We usually have family get togethers on Eid and it’s always very grand and special, but this time I missed them on Eid, as I was travelling on work and my brother was also travelling on work. He has gone for the shoot of Citadel in Serbia with Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Varun Dhawan, so this time I was alone.
- What do you do to get a work-life balance?
I do have a pretty incredible work-life balance. I work super hard all day, but when I come home, I switch off my work mode. At home I’m just Huma and I do my own thing. I have good friends from college who I’m still in touch with and they keep me grounded.
- What is your vision and dream in this field that you’re in now?
Just have an incredible body of work. I want to be proud of my work when I hang my boots. I want to leave behind a filmography that people appreciate and want to be spoken about long after I’m gone.
- How have you evolved over the years?
I’ve become more fearless and authentic now. Earlier I was more worried about how am I looking and about my image etc. As an artist I’ve learnt to let go of these things. I’m not going to make it heavy for myself. I need to go with the flow and focus on my work instead. I need to engage my audience and only worry about them enjoying my work. It should be about enjoying your work and let others enjoy what they see.
- Who are your close friends in the industry? Who is your 2 am friend?
My brother Saqib. Also Sonakshi and Patralekha.
No one. I sleep at 2 am.
- Do you handle your social media yourself?
Yes, I do.
- How often do you take holidays with family or friends? What are your preferred holiday destinations?
I love to travel whenever shoot permits. Sometimes after the shoots are over I try to extend the trip to explore a little more.
My preferred holiday destinations will always be beach places as I’m a complete water baby.
- What is your dream man like?
Kind, emotionally available, funny, good with money, crazy in love with me. It’s pretty simple.
- Are you a romantic at heart in real life?
I think so.
- You acted in a Malayalam film and a few Tamil films. How was your experience working in movies in the south? Any plans to do some more work in South Indian movies?
It was incredible to work in Tamil in Kaala and Valimai both and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I would love to work again. It was a wonderful experience working with Rajinikanth in Kaala. I also loved working with Ajith Kumar and Karthikeya in Valimai. Both were big films with not just an incredible star cast, but also incredibly talented and passionate people. I enjoy working with people who are crazy about their work. Yes, I’m reading scripts in the South as well and may do some more work down south. It’s more or less the same in the south and I feel at home when I come to the south. In south we probably need a little more women behind the camera to make it a good environment for the women. Also, I would like to see more pay parity.
- What is your fitness routine like?
I do my workout first thing in the morning. Evenings I can’t really get myself to workout, so I finish that in the morning. I do yoga and gym, but these days I’m mostly gymming.
- What’s your style mantra? And your beauty regime?
Comfort always comes first for me.
Take off all the makeup, drink lots of water and invest in good quality skincare products. Also, try and avoid over the counter products.
- Have you noticed a change in roles being written and offered to women these days?
Yes and it’s so heartening to see today’s women going out there and smashing it. I’m grateful for all the yesteryear actresses before me, who’ve paved the path for all of us.
- Tell us about your most recent film Tarla. How did you prep for the role?
I watched all her videos and interviews. It was important for me to not copy her but to imbibe her essence. Hetal helped me with my accent and Piyush, our director decided that we should capture that essence, so they helped me in my prep journey. We made a dictionary of all the words she used and the way she said them and the way she used her hands. I wore a little mouthpiece to change the shape of my jaws. The front two teeth of hers were slightly bigger than mine, so I added that as well and I think that brought about an endearing toothy smile to Tarla ji, which she had in real life too. So, I’ve tried to bring about all that to her character. Also, to show how to cook, I copied my mum as I’ve seen her multitask at home, when she’s getting us ready while she’s cooking and shouting instructions and doing so many things at once. So, it’s that very beautiful, natural energy that housewives have when they’re working. It’s like they’re boss women and it’s their space, so I tried to capture that a little bit.
Tarla’s story was of how despite being a housewife, she made a household name for herself. She was the first influencer in her own way, she had her own cookery show, her own cookbooks, she was awarded the Padmashree and those days she was the only woman ever to have got it. She was an incredible personality. I look nothing like her, as she was much smaller and petite. We worked on my diction a lot and I wore a sort of a denture to match her looks. Also, her eyes were smaller, so with makeup we shaded it in a way to look like hers. It was quite exciting doing something different. Her case was very clear. She wanted to do something in life but she wasn’t clear earlier. Back in the day it was all about you learn cooking and get married. But with her one day she wakes up and goes on her discovery journey. It’s a film about a food personality, but it’s not a film about food. It’s about relationships, about a journey and coming of age. Yes, food is an element, a character, but we’re not shooting only food like a masterchef show. Infact, the food that we have shot also is not fancy, its how any mother would cook in any household.
- Do you like to cook like her sometimes?
No, but I love eating.
- Any special dishes or recipes of Tarla Dalal you like?
Gobi 65 and Batata Musallam.
- A cause that you hold close to your heart?
There’s an organisation called Jamghat that I work with very closely. It’s an organisation to help street kids and women in Delhi and I’ve been working with them since my college days and volunteering for them. Now I try and do some fund raising for them.
- What are the film and other projects you’re working on currently?
I’m working on a bunch of films. Last year was great and it’s an exciting year again for me. There’s a film called Single Salma that I like. There’s also Pooja Meri Jaan that we just finished shooting. I’m also shooting for Maharani Season 3.
- Your dream role?
To play a yesteryear actress in a period film.
- Your favourite movie?
Pursuit of Happiness.
- Favourite actor and actress?
Shah Rukh Khan.
- Any pet peeves?
- Some essentials that are always in your bag?
Mascara, lip balm, car keys, credit cards, mobile phone.
- Yoga or gym?
- Indian food or global cuisine?
- What does social media mean to you?
Nothing and everything.
- Beaches or hills?
- Veg or non veg?
- Fame or money?
- Bright colours or pastels?