In Conversation With Huma Qureshi On Her Role In Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House
“Directed by Gurinder Chadha, Viceroy’s House (Partition: 1947) is set during the Partition, during the last few months when India was getting Independence. The last Viceroy comes to India, and it’s a love story between a Muslim translator (played by Qureshi) and a Hindu valet, both of who work for Lord Mountbatten in the same house where the big decisions about the future of the country are being taken. It has a stellar cast which includes Hugh Bonneville, Manish Dayal and the late Om Puri – who plays my father. Our world premiere took place at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year.”
“I don’t want to sign on just anything that comes my way. I’m not someone who thinks it necessary to be everywhere. I want to work only with people I like working with, and work on a set that I’m happy on. And one cannot deny that roles today are changing. More evolved and nuanced parts are being written for women. I don’t think any actress would now do a half-baked part.”
“During my childhood, I knew what I didn’t want to do. Acting was never a part of the plan, but I was always sure that I didn’t want to do something boring. At that time, my life was a process of elimination. As I kept striking out what I didn’t want to do, I eventually decided to become an actor. I landed in Mumbai only because of what got struck off the list.”
“I think everyone should just be their own person – right or wrong, only time will tell. More often than not, that’s a function of success. If you’re successful, you’re right, and if you’re not, you’re not right. But, beyond success and failure what you should strive for is excellence, both as an artiste and as a person. There’s no diehard formula for expressing your individuality; it is something that happens as you go along.”
“My earliest memories of watching a film are at a theatre called Paras near my house in New Delhi. I remember a few films that had a huge impact on me. Jurassic Park gave me nightmares. I think cinema has the power to touch you in a way in which no other medium can. When Saqib (Saqib Saleem, her brother) and I were growing up, it was the time when cable TV saw its boom and we’d watch a lot of American movies. Our favourite films were Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. It was about two high school kids who time travel in a telephone booth, and every time it would come on TV, we would just stop everything else and watch it.”
“Two performances that are very close to my heart are Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW) and Badlapur. GOW was my first film and continues to remain extremely special for me. I love Badlapur for it gave me such a difficult performance. When I was offered the film, I didn’t think I had it in me to do a role like that, but I went with Sriram’s (Raghavan, the director) conviction. He is someone I really respect as a film-maker.”
“The best style advice I’ve received is to ‘be oneself’. I know it sounds very clichéd, but the point is that I always feel that in the pursuit of being stylish, you sometimes end up looking like everyone else. The idea is to try and not fit into any mould. Do your own thing and don’t be afraid of standing out.”
Disclaimer: This interview with Huma Qureshi was first carried in Verve’s supplement curated in association with Palladium.
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