India Today

Casting New Light

With Maharani’s second season about to release, actress Huma Qureshi says the show has given her fresh courage

- —Suhani Singh

Huma Qureshi had little idea that a Zoom narration during the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 would lead to one of the most compelling roles of her career. The role required the Delhi girl to play a mother of three kids from a village in Bihar—“unglamorou­s”, as she puts it. “One didn’t know which way it would go,” recalls Qureshi. “It could go so wrong, but if it goes right...” It did. In Maharani (2021—), Qureshi, 36, plays Rani Bharti, a woman who is forced to fill in for her injured politician husband and made chief minister. The part has ended up being a “gamechange­r” for Qureshi’s career. “I thank Subhash Kapoor [creator] daily for pushing me to submit to it,” she says. “Maharani has unlocked a part of me that is unafraid and I want to explore that.” Today, Qureshi is busier than ever. Her present slate only proves how spoilt for choice she has been of late. Qureshi turns producer and stars alongside Sonakshi Sinha in Double XL, a film that will highlight the body-shaming that women suffer. In the upcoming Netflix dark comedy Monica O My Darling, she has acted in her “favourite scene ever” with Rajkummar Rao. In her first biopic, Qureshi will be seen playing popular cook and author Tarla Dalal. She will also feature in a thriller, Pooja Meri Jaan. Qureshi says, “I am just having fun, being more myself and playing characters that resonate with me.” It wasn’t always like that. After having done some theatre in the capital, when she started her cinematic journey, Qureshi says she was “following the herd”: “I was trying to do the convention­al because that’s what works and that’s what everyone was doing.” The new Qureshi, however, has no qualms in playing a mother or using prosthetic­s that push her front teeth out. “It is sad that we tell women that as long as you are unattached, you are of value. Today, we have actresses who are getting married and having babies. A few years back, people would hide because it wasn’t seen as being desirable enough.”

Unlike Amazon Prime political drama Tandav (2021—), which faced legal trouble in the aftermath of its release, Maharani, a show Qureshi calls “political fantasy fiction”, has largely avoided controvers­y. As she reprises her character for a new season (releasing on SonyLIV on August 25), Qureshi says the show has resonated because it adheres to the underdog template. “Ultimately, what Rani Bharti represents is any common man’s dream and desire—to have a better society, regardless of political ideology. It is inconceiva­ble to have that kind of power, and for her to still be a champion.”


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