Huma Qureshi and her brother Saqib Saleem are matching each other's moves as they grab the limelight in Bollywood, says Varuni Khosla
For Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem, life has done a U-turn after they made it on the silver screen;
Llocation courtesy Taj Lands End, Mumbai; Huma Qureshi's make-up : Shraddha Naik Alkunte; Pic by Gajanan Dudhalkar
Bollywood was never on the agenda for siblings Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem. But today they have splashy releases behind them, Bollywood's top directors are signing them on and film critics are keeping the praises coming.
If a few years ago they were just the kids-next-door in a south Delhi neighbourhood, today they're Bollywood's rising stars, bagging meaty roles and co-starring with the industry biggies. "I've had four movie releases since June 2012 and have been living out of a suitcase since then. I can't imagine living any other way now," says Huma, a feisty 26, who made a head-turning debut as Mohsina, a gangster's moll, in Anurag Kashyap's two-part revenge saga, Gangs of Wasseypur.
Baby brother Saqib, 24, looks on indulgently as his bubbly sister holds forth. His own Bollywood debut was a bit slower with Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge (2011), a Yash Raj film, getting a lukewarm response, but his latest release is keeping him in the news.
Huma in a still from her forthcoming film, D-Day, in which she plays a RAW agent and co-stars with Arjun Rampal, Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan
The groundbreaking gay kiss he's just shared with co-star Randeep Hooda in Karan Johar's short film in Bombay Talkies, may just prove to be the game-changer for him. "That kiss was way out of my comfort zone. But since I had no formal training in acting, it helped me discover myself as an actor," says Saqib.
Their easy camaraderie, high-energy banter sets the tone for an interview. And they are pretty kicked that they are the newest brother-sister duo joining Bollywood siblings Saif-Soha Ali Khan, Ameesha-Ashmit Patel and Sonakshi Sinha-Luv and Kush Sinha.
And though they have no godfathers in the industry, directors Karan Johar, Nikhil Advani, Anurag Kashyap and Abhishek Chaubey have snapped them up for their ventures.
For, soon after Gangs..., Huma was seen in Sameer Sharma's Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012) and Ek Thi Daayan (2013) in which she starred opposite Emraan Hashmi. Though both films bombed at the box office, she, regardless, bagged some plum roles.
Her kitty now includes the upcoming July release, Nikhil Advani's D-Day, in which she plays a RAW agent and co-stars with Arjun Rampal, Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan. Come December and she'll be seen in Abhishek Chaubey's Dedh Ishqiya, a sequel to the 2010 Vidya Balan-Naseeruddin Shah starrer, Ishqiya.
"It's every actor's dream to work with Madhuri," she gushes. Paired opposite Arshad Warsi, the two have reportedly shot sizzling love scenes in the film.
Saqib meanwhile, is busy working on his next film (yet untitled) with director Amol Gupte.
Film critics are upbeat about their future in Bollywood. Film trade analyst and critic Taran Adarsh says: "They have progressed very well and have great potential. Only a good actor could have pulled off that kiss in Bombay Talkies as Saqib did. I also have great expectations from Huma in D-Day and Dedh Ishqya."
Director Sameer Sharma, who met and befriended Huma during the editing of Gangs..., says she was perfect for the role of Harman in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. "She has a theatre background and that reflects in her acting," he says.
Life has done a U-turn for both, and they haven't yet had time to develop starry airs. "What helps keep us grounded is that we come from Delhi and a non-filmy family. Even today our parents are more concerned about what time we return home than the roles we sign!" laughs Huma. They live together in Mumbai's Andheri West suburbs and Saqib continues to play a protective brother.
A career in films wasn't on the cards for them considering that the family is into the restaurant business. Their father, who runs a well-known chain of Mughlai restaurants in Delhi called Saleem's, had it all planned out for Saqib. He was to join the family business like his two elder brothers. "It was decided that I was to run the restaurant in Defence Colony," recalls Saqib.
But Huma, the "real rebel of the family" had plans for herself. After dabbling in theatre during her days at Gargi College in 2007, she worked with Delhi's top theatre directors Aamir Raza Husain and Sohaila Kapur.
She convinced their parents that she wanted to be an actor and moved to Mumbai in 2008. It wasn't long before she auditioned and bagged commercials for brands including Saffola, Pears, Samsung and LG.
After graduating from Hindu College Saqib too, decided to follow his then girlfriend to Mumbai. "He told our parents that he wanted to move to Mumbai to protect me!" laughs Huma.
His close friend, fashion designer Varun Bahl helped him get a chance to audition for Yash Raj Films. "It was gruelling," he recalls. After eight months of auditioning he bagged the role in Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge. Subsequently, he was seen in Mere Dad Ki Maruti (2013).
A few films old, Saqib continues to consult Huma for his roles. "The support we give each other allows us to be fearless in the choices we make in Bollywood," she says.