We couldn’t have asked for a better star to grace the cover of our wellness edition than the bold and beautiful Huma Qureshi. Playing the perfect host was Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, where the Western Ghats stand sentinel and the sun and clouds play a perpetual game of hide and seek.
Interviewed by Adila Matra
Produced by Aindrila Mitra
Photographed by Rahul Jhangiani
Styled by Who Wore What When (Pranay Jaitly & Shounak Amonkar)
Make-up by Ajay Vishwasrao
Hair by Susan Emmanuel
Location Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa
Huma Qureshi is not your run-of-the-mill Bollywood actor. When she is not tackling scripts that revolve around dystopian futures, feminist political upheavals, or zombie apocalypses, Qureshi can be found championing body positivity and self love. The actor gets candid about her Hollywood debut, fitness mantra during the pandemic, and favourite filming locations.
T+L India: As a Bollywood actor, how pressured do you feel to conform to a certain body image and what has helped you to break the mould?
Huma Qureshi: I have never felt pressured. But I do feel that in this industry, we don’t put out the right kind of role model for young women to follow. And this is something that we need to rectify; we need to question ourselves and the society about how we want young girls and boys to grow. The greatest way to empower [someone] is to show all kinds of people on covers of magazines and [in] films, so that when kids see them, they feel represented. The key is to encourage them to bring out their personality in an authentic way rather than push them to chase an unattainable idea of beauty.
T+L India: What is your advice to women dealing with body-image issues?
Huma Qureshi: Self-love and self-care, of course. It also changes from person to person. For some, body-image issues lead to physical conditions like bulimia. My space is very important to me; I don’t want to be photographed all the time, because that affects my mental health. Just know that you are unique and beautiful. There is nothing such as perfection; it is all packaging.
T+L India: Do you have any role model in the industry when it comes to body positivity?
Huma Qureshi: No. I think women should be their own role models, rather than look for external validation. Find that inner strength, and nothing else really matters.
T+L India: What was your mantra for holistic wellness during the lockdowns?
Huma Qureshi: Most importantly, home-cooked meals. I learnt to cook a lot of dishes during the lockdown. And a lot of studies have shown that cooking a meal and eating it with your hands make you happy and satisfied. I think food is one of our first memories from childhood. Since a lot of things were unavailable during the lockdown, we went back to simple, fresh, and locally sourced vegetables and fruits. I think this helped me stay physically fit and mentally sane.
T+L India: Any Bollywood diet myth that you would like to bust?
Huma Qureshi: There is no superfood that is going to make your skin glow; there is no magic ingredient to make your eyes and nails sparkle. There has to be a balance and combination of everything. Try not to eat anything from a packet. If it grows on a tree or out of the ground, it must be good for you.
T+L India: You recently made your foray into Hollywood with Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, which was shot in the US. Any memorable experience from the location?
Huma Qureshi: I had the pleasure of shooting on both, the East Coast and the West Coast. I had never been to Albuquerque before. Breaking Bad was the only thing I knew about it. But being there, [and] shooting in the Netflix studios and the desert was an amazing experience. The place is also culturally unique. And then we shot closer to New York, in Atlantic City, which was an entirely different experience.
T+L India: What kind of roles are you looking to do in Bollywood? What would be your dream role?
Huma Qureshi: I have been approaching every role like my last, especially post the pandemic. I start every movie with the thought, “What if this is the last time I step onto a set?” That is the kind of excitement and passion I want to bring to every role. At this phase of my life, every role is a dream role.
T+L India: In Kaala and Maharani, you play characters who are older than you. That’s not something most heroines are comfortable doing. Is it something that you deliberately choose because it is challenging?
Huma Qureshi: I just pick characters that are interesting; I never thought of it that way. Why look at women and their choices through a different lens? If I had to play something I know, I would just be playing a Muslim girl who grew up in Delhi and came to Mumbai. That’s not only who I am. That’s not the only one I want to represent on screen. I don’t want to be bogged down by the conventional roles, because that doesn’t interest me.
T+L India: Any destinations from your shoots that have inspired you?
Huma Qureshi: I shot in Bhopal for Maharani. It is a very beautiful and underrated city. I had never been there before; it is so clean and green, and rich culturally. The architecture is gorgeous!
T+L India: What kind of traveller are you—the adventurous kind or the laid-back kind?
Huma Qureshi: It depends on the destination. I have done mountain expeditions and treks as well as luxe trips where I just go to a spa and indulge in self-care. Then there are party trips where I hop from one city to another.
T+L India: Any obscure destination you stumbled upon that you want to recommend to the readers?
Huma Qureshi: You have to go to Croatia if you get the chance. Hopping around the islands on a boat makes for a wonderful experience!