Huma Qureshi: I’d never join active politics
Huma Qureshi discusses her much vaunted Hollywood debut in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead and her other release, Maharani, in which she plays the Chief Minister of Bihar
In a week, Huma Qureshi has gone from an apocalyptic zombie wasteland to the scarier terrain of Bihar politics. In Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, she plays Geeta, a mother stranded in Las Vegas after an undead breakout. The stakes are arguably higher in Maharani, Huma’s new web series releasing on SonyLIV. The show is about a woman—an illiterate homemaker named Rani Bharti—who is made the Chief Minister of Bihar.
Huma laughs when we ask which world she found tougher to navigate. “Bihar politics,” she says, before adding, “No… they are both equally scary.”
Here, she speaks about her consecutive releases, interest in active politics, Hollywood representation of Indian actors and raising funds for Covid-19 relief…
Was Maharani always planned to release on the heels of AOTD?
We shot Army of the Dead in 2019 and it was supposed to be released last year. Maharani, meanwhile, was shot last year. It too was supposed to come out earlier, but we couldn’t finish on time because of the pandemic, which has thrown all our lives into chaos. It is by chance that both films are coming out a week apart from each other.
Maharani draws on real events that happened in Bihar. Did you have to inform yourself about the State’s political past?
I didn’t because I don’t understand politics. I am an actor. I was in the able hands of (creator) Subhash Kapoor, (director) Karan Sharma and (writers) Nandan Singh and Uma Shankar Singh. They understood that world, and guided me well.
For me, the most enjoyable part of playing Rani Bharti was how she is illiterate but not stupid. I think we often confuse the two. There is a lot of native wisdom that such characters have, which we often discount because they don’t speak fancy English. Rani uses her wisdom to navigate the political landscape of this fictionalised Bihar we have created. That was exciting.
Would you ever consider joining active politics?
Never, ever. That’s one thing I can tell you with confidence. I have no interest at all.
A number of fans have found Geeta’s arc to be fairly limited in Army of the Dead. After the beginning, we catch up with her only after an hour into the story. Are you happy with how your track has turned out?
Let me put it this way. I have never been afraid of doing ensemble films. My first film was Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012. It was a big ensemble film with 200 actors. The fact that we are even having this conversation is because I chose to do that film. It’s notable that, almost ten years later, I’ve done my first Hollywood film. This too is an ensemble film with an acclaimed director like Zack Snyder.
I’m happy because Geeta’s role is an important plot point in the film. For me, I always look for how my character is moving the story forward. I’ve never been interested in just being a romantic lead or a presence. I want to do something in the story.
Do you feel Hollywood is more open to Indian actors at the moment?
I think so. There’s a lot of conversation about diversity, about better representation. It’s a good conversation to have because when little boys and girls see themselves represented on the big screen in a positive light, they get empowered. They feel in control of their own lives and narratives. That’s really crucial, especially at a time when we need to set up positive role models in the popular medium space. I think India is going to be at the forefront of that change.
You have backed the Save The Children initiative to build a 100-bed facility in Delhi. What inspires you during these tough times?
The pandemic has been hard for all of us. We have been watching the news; it’s really heartbreaking. I have seen horrible images, but I have also seen the best that humanity has to offer. From that perspective, it gives me a lot of hope to spend time with the fundraiser I have been doing. I am trying to help... in my small way.