‘I’m a greedy actor’

‘The idea is to chart your own path, live your life authentically, not be scared to ask questions and not be scared to demand to sit at the table.’
‘They may not let you sit today, but they will, if you keep demanding it.’

Huma Qureshi told us she would “show them what I can do“, and she sure did live up to her promise.

The reviews of her latest Web series, Maharani 2, are glowing, proving just how good she’s getting at her game.

Still, Huma insists that she’s not trying to impress anyone.

“This is me. This is what I know how to do. Maybe if I’m baring my soul and being honest, it will find resonance with you,” she tells Ronjita Kulkarni/Rediff.com in the final part of the interview.

You completed 10 years in the industry this year. How difficult has it been for you to reach where you are today?

The struggle never stops.

But the idea is to chart your own path, live your life authentically, not be scared to ask questions and not be scared to demand to sit at the table.

They may not let you sit today, but they will, if you keep demanding it.

So that’s my process, that’s my journey.

I don’t like people putting me in a box.

I don’t like people telling me what I can or cannot do.

It’s not going to be a linear path; there will be bumps, but that’s okay because that’s what you signed up for.

It will be rewarding at the end.

My profession is a high stress one. There’s this constant demand, so many things to do.

I’m doing a bunch of things right now, and everything needs its own time, effort and energy.

You know, I have to look good for a project, shoot for another and promote the third, so it’s exhausting.

But I really enjoy being on a film set, and act.

So if I have to do a few other things that I don’t entirely love it but if it’s allowing me to be an actor on a film set, I’ll take that any day.

Have you reached a point in your career where you want to make a statement through your films? For instance, you are doing Double XL with Sonakshi Sinha, and it seems to be on a subject that you have been trolled about: Body-shaming.

Am I doing it to make a statement? I don’t know.

But I think it will end up making a statement.

Whenever you talk from an authentic place, and you talk about your truth and your reality, it finds resonance in people.

Like Rani Bharti also, she was an unpad (illiterate) or walking into a room full of men… she’s talking about her own reality, but it finds resonance because what she’s saying is true.

People find their own ways to relate with it.

That’s the idea for me as a performer right now.

I’m just speaking my truth and doing what I know best.

I’m not trying to impress anyone or fit into a box.

This is me.

This is what I know how to do.

Maybe if I’m baring my soul and being honest, it will find resonance with you.

You have said in an interview that you were a chubby child. How hard did you have to work to transform from that to how you look today?

I’m assuming you are saying that I don’t look chubby now! (laughs)

No, not at all.

But that’s the whole point, right?

Not just me, every girl has been objectified and told she’s either not tall enough, or not thin enough or doesn’t have straight hair, is dusky, has pimples, whatever it could be…

We are never happy with how we look and we allow society to commodify our bodies as per their understanding of what women bodies should look like.

Because it’s always pandering towards the male gaze, right?

I am all for women celebrating their womanhood and doing what they want — not for that gaze but because you are celebrating what you want. That’s the difference.

What are the things that interest you?

I like reading a lot.

I have been a bookworm while growing up; I was a little geeky kid.

Do you like cooking? Because you are playing Tarla Dalal next.

I’m big on eating, not cooking so much. I like someone cooking for me.

What are the challenges when you do a biopic as opposed to a film or series like Maharani, where you play a strong, fictional character?

A biopic is a scary, scary animal, and especially if it’s on someone like Tarla Dalal, who is so popular.

She had a unique way of talking.

I met her family and her kids. They came up to me, and were like, ‘You’re playing our mother!’

And they were like, these grown-up, white-haired, people!

It was really strange to me because I was probably half their age.

But it’s exciting because I’m not trying to imitate her because then I’ll do a very bad job.

What I’m trying to do is capture her spirit, her zest for life, why she did what she did.

I feel there was nothing remarkable about Tarla Dalal in that sense.

She was an ordinary woman-next-door. She wasn’t some glamour doll from back in the day nor did she look like a yesteryear heroine.

She was just any other woman, who was probably told that your place is in the kitchen and you have to cook for your family.

But because she wanted to do something, she cooked her way out into the international scene.

And that, for me, is fascinating.

The work that you are taking up now seem to be changing. From doing a special song in Gangubai Kathiawadi to a Tamil action film like Valimai to a Hollywood film like Army of the Dead, is there a check list that you are checking off, regarding the kind of things you want to do as an actor?
What else is on this check list?

I want to do everything.

I’m a greedy actor.

Like I told you, I don’t want anyone to tell me that I can’t do something.

I decided to do the Tamil film long before pan India films were cool.

I wanted to do it because it’s a cool film, and a good script.

And I got to do action in a big, macho film!

I was like, why can’t girls do action? Give us a chance and we can kick ass!

I’m blessed that I have makers who believe in me and who give me these opportunities because it’s one thing to have a wish list and another thing to get the opportunities.

So I am eternally grateful to all the people who have given me these opportunities.

I’m acutely aware that I am in a profession where there are 10 people ready to take my job. That doesn’t give me insecurity but it propels me to be the best that I can be.

How difficult is it to be an actor in Bollywood? What’s the one thing they didn’t warn you about when you became an actor?

When you become an actor, you think it’s so cool, we’ll be famous and people will want to take my picture and will want to know what I think…

But you don’t realise that you can’t choose when you don’t want the attention.

There are some days when you just don’t want a camera in your face or someone to talk to you but that does not go away.

Also, I say a lot of silly things because I like to have fun and pull people’s leg and generally be a clown.

So I say a lot of things but don’t really mean them, but people don’t take it the right way.

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