For filmmaker Deepa Mehta, it was a “luxury” to work on ‘Leila’ with a talent like Huma Qureshi leading the cast. She says the actress is a risk-taker and in a way, in the league of the Oscar-winning Cate Blanchett.
Glad that she was dealing with “actors and not the stars that they are” in the Netflix series, Mehta says Qureshi “spoilt” her by slipping effortlessly into the role of Shalini in ‘Leila’, a dystopian drama capturing a mother’s search for her abducted daughter.
In the drama, Qureshi looks more raw than ever and allows the camera to zoom in to a conventionally uncomfortable facial distance, without an iota of consciousness.
“It was wonderful to work with her. She has got me spoilt. I felt really lucky. Of course, you really need a talented actor in the first place, but you also need an actor who is absolutely ready to take risks,” Mehta said.
“There are very few actors in the world right now who will say, ‘okay!’. And I know of only one other who has said that I will absolutely do this without any make-up. And that’s Cate Blanchett (‘Blue Jasmine’)...and that’s good company to be in... Where you’re hiding nothing from the camera,” she adds.
Qureshi, says Mehta, “embraced that”.
“There were no hair dressers, no make-up, no touch up. She was in character and that was just superb to deal with. As a director, it’s an absolute luxury,” says the acclaimed director, who has featured some of her favourite actors, including Rahul Khanna and Seema Biswas in ‘Leila’.
Qureshi herself feels actors sometimes themselves become a tad too self-critical.
“When I look at other actors work, it’s kind of weird because when you’re there, you’re like ‘My nose isn’t looking right’, or ‘Why is my skin like that?’ or ‘Why is there a pimple?’ But as an audience, it happens a lot that when I am watching a show or a film, and I am actually engaged, it actually doesn’t matter to me whether that person has make-up or does not have make-up, or is looking glamorous or not,” she said.
It was wonderful to work with [Huma Qureshi]. Of course, you really need a talented actor in the first place, but you also need an actor who is absolutely ready to take risks.
“It becomes much more than that. It’s about the story or that journey. When I saw ‘Delhi Crime’, I was like I don’t care if they had make-up on... I feel that time has gone. You can still be beautiful, you can still be all of that, but we don’t need to follow those conventional things.”
A change has also been brought about by the world of digital content platforms which have put the focus back on content, Qureshi says, lauding how it is like a “free market economy” which is liberating and exciting at the same time.
“I can today make a show about Shalini from India or Malini from Georgetown, it will find its audience, and the right audience,” adds the actress, who will join Dave Bautista in the Netflix project ‘Army of the Dead’, which will mark Zack Snyder’s return to direction after a gap of two years.
Don’t miss it!
‘Leila’ is now streaming on Netflix.