Huma Qureshi with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Gangs of Wasseypur II
Years ago when Anurag Kashyap was directing his first ad, he discovered Delhi girl Huma Qureshi. “It was an ad for Samsung and I was cast opposite Aamir Khan,” recalls Huma. During the shoot, Anurag was so impressed by Huma’s screen presence, he promised to cast her in a film. “I didn’t believe him then. You hear lots of such stories in this industry so I wasn’t waiting with bated breath,” she says with a laugh. Anurag not only honoured his promise to Huma, he gave her two debut films — the two parts of Gangs of Wasseypur!
Over steaming cups of green tea, t2 spoke to Huma in a window-less basement office of the GOW co-producers Viacom 18 in Vile Parle, Mumbai, about her effective but unconventional debut and her father’s reaction to the language in the films!
Your character was introduced in the first part. What happens with Mohsina in part two?
Mohsina is the emotional core in Faisal Khan’s (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) life. Part two is all about the rise of Faisal and she is the perfect foil to him. He is a gangster who kills people for a living and is involved in all kinds of illegal activities. Mohsina is very aware of all of this, yet she has a very innocent relationship with him. The duality in their life makes their relationship so interesting. Even in their physicality, they are such an odd couple. The kind of feedback I have got for their chemistry is unbelievable. Nawazuddin and I look nothing like a typical Hindi film’s lead pair. So, everyone is forever wondering why Mohsina is interested in a man like that.
Do we see shades of you in Mohsina?
It’s the eternal question, isn’t it? I think, if someone else was to play Mohsina, she would have been a little different. There are obviously traits that the writer and director give a character but quite a bit of it comes from the actor as well.
There’s a scene where Faisal reaches out to hold Mohsina’s hand and she scolds him. I believe that really happened in Nawazuddin’s life...
Before we started shooting, we were doing this 10-day workshop where we were just talking about ourselves. It was supposed to be an ice-breaker and that’s when Nawaz told us about this incident of the first time he touched a girl. He broke down in front of her because she screamed at him, and then she felt bad for him and warmed to him. So, Nawaz figured that this was the perfect technique to get the girl. All of us in the workshop couldn’t stop laughing when he was narrating this and that’s when Anurag decided that it had to be a part of the film. It’s such a real and lovely moment.
You got to work with the likes of Nawazuddin, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Piyush Mishra and Manoj Bajpai in your debut film. Was it nerve-racking?
Absolutely. It was very overwhelming. They are all just such powerhouses of talent and knowledge. I was the junior-most member of the cast but they never let me feel that.
Your debut hasn’t been conventional. Was it by choice or accident?
I guess this is how it was meant to be. I couldn’t have asked for a better launch. Most people get one launch film, I’ve got two (laughs). That’s pretty cool. I have already signed five films before GOW II releases. It must have something to do with the kind of choices I have been making. To turn down a chance to work with Anurag Kashyap, no matter how conventional or unconventional the film is, would have been stupid. Also, Mohsina is like any Hindi film heroine. I have the witty and funny dialogues; I lip-sync and dance; and most importantly, I am the emotional core of the film. And, I get to do all this in a film that’s not a mainstream film, so I have the best of both the worlds.
Tell us about your background.
I am from Delhi. My father has a restaurant called Salim’s and my mom’s a housewife. My parents know nothing about the film industry. Dad will probably not even recognise most of them (actors). Before I started doing theatre, I explored other avenues. I worked with NGOs, with the British Council and dabbled in photography and assisted a documentary filmmaker. But I didn’t find my true calling until I started doing theatre. My friends insist that I am a bit of an exhibitionist, though I don’t agree with them (laughs).
GOW I is not for the faint-hearted. How did your parents react when they saw the film?
I took my parents to see the film in a theatre in Delhi. They were a little overwhelmed because there was a photographer taking our pictures. Before the film started, I told them that I have only two-three scenes in the film so please don’t get disappointed. In the interval, my dad said ‘the film has too many abuses’. Then he asked if I abused just as much in the film (laughs). So I told him the film’s already released and I have done what I had to, so now there is no shying away from it. Thankfully, he did enjoy the film. I think my mom enjoyed the film more than my dad.
What’s next for you?
After GOW 2, you’ll see me in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, which is a really sweet romantic comedy. It’s all about fun, food and family. I’ve just finished shooting for Ek Thi Daayan that also stars Emraan Hashmi, Kalki (Koechlin) and Konkona Sensharma. It’s in the supernatural thriller space. It’s more dramatic than anything else I have done before.
Gangs of Wasseypur II releases on Wednesday, August 8