Sharing screen space with Madhuri Dixit would make most actresses insecure, but newbie Huma Qureshi insists “there was no scope for insecurity”. “When I read the script I knew exactly what my lines were, how much screen time I would get and what was expected of me. I didn’t have to jostle for space. On a personal level, the only sensible thing for me to do was not get competitive with Madhuri. That would have been a really stupid thing to do. Also, I think the whole business of getting insecure about co-stars is a thing of the past. Today all actors get bound scripts. In Dedh Ishqiya, every character is important. The film needs what each of us brings to the table or it won’t work,” says the 27-year-old.
Working with Madhuri, Huma says, was a dream come true. “When I was growing up, no girl would say I want to become an actress. They’d want to be Madhuri Dixit. She is the ultimate actress. I remember when were doing readings together, she was so good. I would forget my lines and just keep looking at her. I associated her with being a ‘commercial’ actress, so in a sense Dedh Ishqiya is a different genre for her and she adapted so well. I think, that’s what I learnt from her—to adapt to any situation.” The actress goes on to compare the senior actress to ‘Colgate’. “Let me explain,” she says with a laugh. “You know, in smaller towns people don’t say ‘Give me xyz brand’ when they want to buy toothpaste. All toothpastes are Colgate. Madhuri is what it means to be an actress.”
In between shots, Huma soaked in all that Madhuri shared with her about how movies used to be made in her hay days. “Apparently an actor would sign three-four films in a row and then you’d shoot the important scenes. Those scenes would be shown to distributors and financiers. Money would come in depending on the feedback and that’s when they would complete the film. Can you imagine? It was such a chaotic way to work. And, she still did such great work.”
All gushing aside, Huma did get nervous when she realised she’d be matching steps with Madhuri in a dance sequence. “When I was first told about the dance sequence, I thought they had lost the plot. I told them I’ll do it only if I got about 12 years to rehearse (laughs). Clearly, that didn’t happen! It’s a Kathak piece that’s choreographed by Remo. Most of the sequence is filmed on Madhuri. Before we started shooting, she gave me a big hug and said ‘don’t worry I don’t bite’,” the actress recalls with a laugh.
It’s been just two years since Huma made her Bollywood debut with the two part of Gangs of Wasseypur and the actress is still coming to terms with being a celebrity. “Being a ‘celebrity’ is not easy. In some aspects you are expected to change overnight. It’s an acquired habit. Living the life of a movie is not easy. You make mistakes. No one is ever completely happy with a celebrity. Like some people tell me that I am too happy and friendly as a person and that doesn’t work if you want to an actress. I am told I need to be more reserved and mysterious. If I take this advice seriously, someone else will think I am being stuck up. It’s a no-win situation. So the best thing to do is to be yourself.”
During the Mumbai Film Festival last year, a publication critiqued how Huma was dressed for a screening. She hit back on Twitter saying, “Rushing from one film to other, being fashionable is the last thing on ur mind. But I will be more careful. Its what I signed up for” (sic). Then there is the constant talk about her weight. But Huma is not losing any sleep over it. “See, I’ve never lost a film because I am looking bad. I know that as an actress I have to look my best and of course, that’s something that concerns me. But look around, there are so many actresses today who don’t fit the mould; who aren’t cloth hangers.”
As for all the rumours about her being the reason for Anurag Kashyap and Kalki Koechlin’s spilt, Huma says, “I know what is true and not. So, I sleep peacefully at night. Also, people around me who matter know what is going on. Also, there isn’t much that I can do to quash these rumours. Once it’s written people think it’s true. Gossip never dies. If you react, it just becomes a bigger story. The idea is to be happy with who you are and just live.”