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Interview Hindi Tamil

Valimai has been a labour of love, says Huma Qureshi

The actress speaks about her second Tamil film which is due to be released in theatres on 24 February.

Sonal Pandya

With only a few days to go for the release of the Ajith-starrer Valimai (2022), the anticipation around the film is high among fans. Announced in 2019, the action thriller is being released in theatres on 24 February after several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cinestaan.com spoke to Huma Qureshi, who stars alongside the South star in her second Tamil film after the Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala (2018), on telephone about the anticipated release. The actress said she was a jumble of emotions, feeling blessed, overwhelmed and excited to share the film with everyone.

“It has been a labour of love,” Qureshi said. “It has been a long way making. It has taken us almost two years, thanks to the pandemic, to finish a film of this scale. But the day is finally here and the film is finally coming in theatres.”

She added that she was grateful to producer Boney Kapoor and director H Vinoth for choosing her for the part.

“I had gone to meet them and that’s when they told me about this film and I was very excited and happy that they decided to cast me in the film,” she recalled, laughing. “The director always wanted to cast someone who could look tough and look like a cop. I think I look like I could beat up a few bad guys.”

In Valimai, Ajith is police officer Arjun who is hunting down a group of rogue bikers raking up a crime spree and terrorizing the city. Qureshi said she is very much part of the action in the film as a fellow cop.

“I [felt] very cool because normally women don’t get to do so much action and I always love action films,” she said. “I think women, in fact, can do better action than men. They should just be given enough opportunities. So I’m really grateful for this opportunity, and what makes it even more special is it’s an Ajith sir film, whom I have always admired and loved, and always wanted to work with.”

She went on to say that her character works alongside Ajith’s Arjun to bring down the biker gang. “What I love about my character is that she is not weak, she is tough, and she also is a participant in the ongoing investigation,” Qureshi added.

While the actress learnt her Tamil dialogues on the film, she didn’t dub them herself as she feels she still has some way to go before she gets the pronunciation and accent right.

Since the announcement of Valimai, Qureshi has been seen in the Hollywood zombie film Army Of The Dead (2021), played a reluctant politician in SonyLIV’s web-series Maharani (2021) and put in a special appearance in the period spy thriller Bell Bottom (2021).

The new year started off well for her with the Zee5 web-series Mithya (2022) being premiered before Valimai is released this week. Qureshi plays a Hindi professor who believes her student Rhea (Avantika Dassani) has plagiarized an assignment. The day after Valimai is released, the actress also confirmed, she will be making a song appearance in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022).

“I have stopped trying to over-choose my roles,” she explained when asked her criteria for choosing parts. “I’m just trying to do different characters, trying not to repeat myself. After Maharani, I got offered so many Bihari roles or village women! So my thing as an actor is not to repeat myself and not to do the same thing again. Jo kismat mein hai, woh mil jata hai [What’s written in my destiny, I’ll receive that].”

Huma Qureshi in Mithya (2022)

While many artistes are stepping into OTT shows and features now, Qureshi was one of the first to headline a show with Netflix’s dystopian drama Leila (2019).

“It feels very good that today many shows are getting launched every month, every week almost, and many of them are woman-led,” the actress said. “It makes me very proud. I’m also happy that I’m able to do a Maharani after that which has cemented that spot. It’s really great because I feel there’s enough space for both theatrical releases and great OTT content.”

It all began a decade ago for Qureshi when she appeared in Anurag Kashyap’s cult classic Gangs Of Wasseypur 2 (2012). Asked how the film changed her life, she replied that she might have remained in Delhi, helping her father with the family business, Saleem’s restaurants.

“To be honest, when I came to Bombay, I wanted to do one film,” she remembered. “Mujhe sirf ek film karni thi, just to prove to myself that I can act, or I could be part of the movies. Because I always loved the movies so much. After that, for me, everything has been icing on the cake. I’ve not really stopped to think and ponder [over] anything else, but I’m just enjoying the journey each day.”

Speaking about her launch, she added, “First films choose you. I didn’t think I had the luxury. I didn’t get launched or get to pick a script or director. I shot an ad with Anurag Kashyap and he told me while shooting the ad that I’m going to cast you in a film and I’m very grateful to him that he cast me in Gangs Of Wasseypur. It has really been like a game-changer for me in that sense.

“But what I really loved about [my character] Mohsina, and playing her, was just her filminess,” she said. “How affected she was by the 1990s cinema, the romances between Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan [on screen],and in her head, she was a small-town Madhuri Dixit, and she was romancing this drug lord who was shorter than her and tinier than her, but that was their romance, and it was so beautiful."

Besides the ten-year anniversary of her first film, Qureshi is also looking forward to the release of the features Double XL and Monica, O My Darling, along with the second season of Maharani, this year.