Huma goes to Hollywood

At home in films across languages, the actor talks about working in LA, Chennai and Mumbai, and her biggest project yet — Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of The Dead’

May 19, 2021 03:18 pm | Updated May 22, 2021 11:29 am IST

Huma Qureshi

Huma Qureshi

There was a time not so long ago when Bollywood actors thought it was beneath them to audition for a role. But that’s quickly changing and actors like Huma Qureshi belong to the new crop of artistes who are open to the idea. “I auditioned for every film until Dedh Ishiqya . I am very used to the idea of walking into a room where no one knows me or my work, and making an impact with the lines that have been given to me. Going into Hollywood, my mindset has been that I am walking into a different country or industry so I have to prove myself all over again,” Qureshi explains during a Zoom interaction with The Hindu Weekend .

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One film at a time

The actor, who made her Bollywood début nine years ago with Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur , is now a part of Zack Snyder’s zombie heist action-thriller, Army of the Dead . In the Netflix release that also stars Dave Bautista and Tig Notaro, Qureshi plays Geeta, a single mother who lives in a quarantine camp outside a war-ravaged Las Vegas. She auditioned for the part while in Los Angeles pitching a television series she has written herself about a brown superhero girl. “My agents [at CAA] asked if I’d want to meet a casting director who was working on a big film. I thought ‘might as well’.” She auditioned for the part on a Thursday and the following Monday she had signed up to be Geeta. “I was amazed at the speed at which Hollywood functions,” she says with a laugh.

A still from ‘Army of the Dead’

A still from ‘Army of the Dead’

This is her first brush with Hollywood and the experience, according to the 34-year-old, was everything she had hoped for. There was one thing though, that did initially throw her off. “In India, we are used to working on multiple projects at the same time. For this film, they blocked two-and-a-half months of my time,” says Qureshi, who eventually came to realise the importance of focussing on one job and doing it well.


Know your rights

Long after the filming of Army of the Dead had ended, one of its stars, Chris D’Elia, was accused of exposing himself to multiple women and soliciting child pornography. When the allegations came to light, Snyder and his producing partner, Deborah Snyder, decided to replace the comedian with Notaro. While closer home, there haven’t been many instances of abusers getting their comeuppance, Qureshi believes “there is a lot being done to set the proper systems in place”. “Things are happening even at the contractual level. A lot of young girls, who work behind the camera and might have thought that they don’t have as much of a voice, are coming forward and telling people what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not. I am doing a few films with Netflix and for each of them there is a call with a lawyer explaining your rights.”

A still from ‘Army of the Dead’

A still from ‘Army of the Dead’

The lockdown set

Among Qureshi’s cinematic lineup is Dibakar Banerjee’s futuristic film, Freedom , and Vasan Bala’s Monica, Oh My Darling with Rajkummar Rao. Later this month, she’ll be seen in the political drama series, Maharani , on Sony LIV. Among her big screen releases are Tamil films Valimai alongside Ajith Kumar, and Bellbottom , also starring Akshay Kumar. The latter was shot in Scotland during the pandemic. “The first 48 hours were stressful. Like everyone on the set, I had also gone from a complete lockdown to a film set. I was scared, but as humans we have this ability to go back to our original selves in a short time. Once I understood that we were in a bio-bubble, it just became about concentrating on my lines and focussing on my performance.”

Qureshi’s eclectic filmography across formats and languages is a reflection of her refusing to be pigeonholed. “My only yardstick for judging work that’s coming my way is about the content. Is it making sense to me? I don’t think of the genre, format or the industry. As an actor, it’s so exciting that I can go to LA and shoot a film there and then shoot another one in Chennai and a series in Mumbai,” she concludes.

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