WHEN TWO PROGRESSIVE WOMEN JOINED HANDS
Huma Qureshi and Gurinder Chadha.
The mind behind critically acclaimed movies like Bride And Prejudice, Bhaji On The Beach, Bend It Like Beckham, The Mistress Of Spices and It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, Gurinder Chadha made a comeback with her feature film Viceroy’s House recently. After getting immense love from the audience after its initial release in the United Kingdom, the movie got dubbed in Hindi and titled as Partition:1947 was released in India recently. Now let’s talk about Gurinder’s key character from the movie, Alia played by Huma Qureshi.
Huma Qureshi’s career graph has been growing in upward trend ever since she stepped into Bollywood. With the art of acting and hopes in her eyes, she nailed it with her very first movie, Gangs of Wasseypur. She has never looked back since then and has been giving us amazing performances through the years. With Viceroy’s House, she made a debut in British cinema and gave one of her finest performances. While these two amazing women were in the Captial to promote their movie, WE had a word with them.
Excerpts: What triggered you to come up with a subject like this for your movie?
I had always grown up under the shadow of partition because as a child I never really had my ancestral homeland. My ancestral homeland was now this new country, my village was in Jhelum. It was only when I visited Pakistan and all the people welcomed me that I decided that I want to make this film.
How did the research process go?
A movie like this requires a lot of research. I read some 25-30 books. We spoke to lots of people- people who were there at that time, people who worked at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and people who knew the people like Mountbattens. I think when you do a historical film like this; you need to do the research. And then you have to interpret it in your own way.
So, there are many other films based on partition. What do you think will make this film stand out?
This film will be different because it is based on British and Indian perspective. It is also unique from a female perspective. The main thing is that this is more of a refreshing and different way of looking at our history and I think it will stand out as being both British and Indian.
How was the entire shooting experience?
Shooting for this movie was easy. Thankfully, I have an amazing team here in India. It is a very strong team. I have made three films in India and all of them have been made quite easily. I like to shoot in India. Everyone is really helpful and very committed. People appreciate the film culture here. So, shooting in India is always a pleasure for me.
Any particular Bollywood actor that you wish to work with?
There are so many. But I still like a lot of the older ones, as well as the younger ones coming up. As a woman, not a director, I still have a soft spot for Shah Rukh Khan. As a girl, I have watched DDLJ many times.
WE asked Huma Qureshi How challenging it was for you to play the role?
Well, it was indeed difficult. It was an emotional role. My character in the movie is a very strong girl, so this is not a stereotypical role. When period films are written, women are usually portrayed as dependent and submissive but my character is an exception. She knows what is right and wrong, and believes in a strong, united India. Plus, she is educated and works at the Viceroy’s house. She is a Muslim girl in love with a Hindu boy. So, she is quite a progressive woman. I also have multiple scenes with Om Puri, who plays the role of my father. I got to learn a lot from him. He was an internationally acclaimed actor and I am fortunate to have worked with him.
How did your degree in History Honours help you in the preparation of the role?
I have a deep interest in history, but while doing the film, I learnt a lot of things that were not taught to me. Gurinder had done a lot of research for the film. She shared some of that research with us and put it in the script. There are some secret documents that she uncovered, that were declassified by the British government a few years ago. It shed new light on the partition. I was also very shocked to know about them. So, it was a combination of all these things. And of course, while doing this film, I had to play a girl from 1947. How I looked, how I walked, how I styled my hair, and how I spoke English – because my character is a Muslim girl who is educated in 1947 and worked as a translator for the Mountbattens, so her English had to be very specific.
What was your first reaction when you read the script and what made you say yes?
Well, I loved the script. It is such a relevant story. It has been 70 years since India’s independence, and there is so much about our history that we don’t know. Also, interestingly when I was travelling abroad, I got to know that so many people in the UK and around the world do not know about the Partition. I was very surprised. I asked them about what they think happened and they said that they do not know.
It is as if they do not want to teach about the British Raj or the British foreign policy. Till date, they do not know about so many problems that happened due to this partition. So, I thought that this was a very relevant and important film; a timely reminder, almost, to remind us of our own history, so that we can learn and not make the same mistakes.
How did you prepare for this role?
I saw a lot of videos on Youtube. I saw videos of leaders from that point of time, how they spoke in English, how they moved, etc. I read a lot of books as well. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
I THOUGHT THAT THIS WAS A VERY RELEVANT AND IMPORTANT FILM; A TIMELY REMINDER, ALMOST, TO REMIND US OF OUR OWN HISTORY, SO THAT WE CAN LEARN AND NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES.