Decoding Maharani with Huma Qureshi: 'Rani Bharati was quite an intense role to play'
There are several sides to Huma Qureshi. She can be a coy lover, a committed mother, an opportunist, and the ideal wife — all these are roles that the actress has played over the years since she debuted in Gangs of Wasseypur II. Her most recent onscreen outings that have once again put her in the limelight. Maharani, the new web series which released on Sony LIV last week presents Huma in a completely unglamorous role. She portrays the character of Rani Bharati, the illiterate housewife of the CM of Bihar, who is suddenly put at the helm of politics by her husband after an assasination attempt on him. The other project was her Hollywood debut — Army Of The Dead (AOTD). Huma played a tiny role in the American zombie heist film that is directed by Zack Snyder. While both projects released within a span of a few days, and although AOTD created some buzz, it’s definitely the web series Maharani that’s given her her due. As Rani Bharati, Huma showcases a completely different side to her.
The actress has played the role of an ideal wife in her earlier films, but the angle of Bihar politics adds another layer to her character in Maharani. Shot within a bubble during the unlock period, this web series was a one-of-its kind experience for the leading lady. “I didn’t have any references because we shot between two lockdowns, so I couldn’t even meet anyone for my preparation. All I had in mind was a woman, a homemaker who could be anywhere, in a village or in a town, and Rani Bharati was modelled after her. I had to work mostly on my diction and language, but yes, I would say this has been one of my most challenging roles so far. I have played various characters in which I have changed my accent. But the way Rani Bharati’s character was written was far more authentic and granular than anything I have played before. Definitely, a lot of prep went into table readings with the cast, writer Subhash Kapoor and director Karan Sharma. As actors, we keep saying we need to do something more intense, and challenging and when this script came to me, I was like, ‘now what do I do.’ It is quite an intense role and all credit goes to the writer and director,” says Huma.
Unlike most of her previous films and series, in which Huma was styled as an urban woman, Maharani required her to completely change her look. In addition to playing a rural character for the first time, the styling too has showcased a different side of Huma. “I remember at one of our reading sessions with all the cast members, everyone was concerned as to how I would look as Rani Bharati. Later, I called up our costume designer, and asked her to send a few saris home, for me to try. The next day, I wore one of the saris and went for the reading dressed as my character and I remember everyone was taken aback because that was not expected. It was fun — it allowed me to get into the skin of my character and it helped me a lot,” she recollects.
Cast opposite Sohum Shah, (known for his roles in Ship of Theseus, Tumbbad and more recently The Big Bull) Huma says working with him was quite a memorable experience. “Sohum is an amazing person, not just as an actor but also as a creative person and producer. There’s a lot to observe and learn from him. Tea time was always fun because Sohum would show off his chaat-making skills every day,” she reminisces fondly. Though Maharani is being received positively, Huma’s fans weren’t taken with her Hollywood debut. They felt the talented actress wasn’t given enough screen time, and that her role wasn’t as prominent as they had hoped. However, the actress disagrees, and defends her decision to be part of the Hollywood flick. She explains, “Indian fans are just too kind and loving. When I debuted in Bollywood with Gangs of Wasseypur, with some 200-odd cast members I didn’t think about how much screen time I was getting. So likewise, I knew Army Of The Dead was a multi-starrer, however my character is integral to the script. I opted to be part of it because it was an important role, and this is what I always look for in the scripts I choose — “whether my role is key to the narrative or not”. Between all her work commitments, Huma has also lent her time and voice to Save The Children, a global child rights organisation, and is supporting their Protect A Million initiative. She’s been raising funds for medical aid in Delhi. Next, the actress will be seen in the Akshay Kumar-starrer Bell Bottom.
Quick takes with Huma
If not an actor, what would you be?
I think I would still be a struggling actor, because acting is the only thing I know.
How do you define your style statement?
Comfortable and chic.
What’s the show Fit Fab Feast with Huma Qureshi about?
It captures 10 days of my life — what I do, what I wear, and what I eat.
Have you ever used your celebrity status for a favour?
Yes, to get a table at a restaurant reserved.
What are you excited about in life now?
About everything, especially work.
One secret that nobody knows about you?
My friends think I am a cartoon character.
What’s the first thing you notice about a man?
His manners. Describe yourself in three words. Instinctive, authentic and happy.
Streaming now on Sony LIV