Actor Huma Qureshi on 'Tarla', a new biopic on renowned food writer and chef

The Bollywood star discussed how the role holds personal significance, and her love for food

By Yasser Usman

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Published: Wed 19 Jul 2023, 5:26 PM

Last updated: Thu 14 Sep 2023, 11:15 AM

Huma Qureshi plays the lead in the recently released film Tarla, a biopic of the renowned food writer and chef Tarla Dalal. This role has a personal significance for Huma who belongs to a food-loving family which runs a chain of restaurants. Huma talks about her love for food, a dish on her name and her experience with body shaming.

Huma, your new film Tarla is all about loving food. You also did a delicious food-centric film Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Your family runs a chain of restaurants. You have taken ‘loving your food’ quite seriously...

(Laughs) I am taking my father’s legacy forward. He started his restaurant in 1977 and Tarla ji wrote her first cookbook in 1974. So both began their careers in parallel sort of way. But my father’s food are like Nihari, Qorma, and Biryani. While Tarla Dalal was a hardcore vegetarian. What she would do is take recipes like Murg Musallam, take out the chicken from it and added Batata (potato) so that more vegetarians could eat it. Dad thought it’s a great idea and he started serving Batata Musallam. I was joking with him the other day that people think I am promoting movies but I am actually just trying to sell some kebabs.

You also dedicate the film Tarla to your mother...

My mother and my aunts are people from Tarla Dalal’s generation. Tarla Dalal achieved her success later in life which was really inspiring. Often women are made to feel that after a certain age, say in your fifties, you are not worth much if you have not accomplished something in your youth. Here was Tarla ji who proved that women could. My mother often said she dedicated her whole life raising her family. I feel like all the sacrifices my mother and homemakers like her made, their hard work, talent, and dreams need to be acknowledged. This film reminds me of my mum a lot.

The age of the character is more than your age and the physical transformation looks like a lot of hard work...

If I can transform and play somebody from the age group 20 to 50. And in a story so delicious and inspiring, I was ready for any transformation. I jumped at it.

There is an Italian restaurant in Varanasi which used to sell a dish called ‘Huma Qureshi special’. What’s the story behind it?

(Laughs) The complete name of the dish in their menu is ‘Huma Qureshi Special Dish (movie star)’. And I am really thankful to the owners of that restaurant Vatika at Dashashwamedh Ghat located on the Ganges river in Varanasi. They did that when I hadn’t become a movie star, when I was shooting my first film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). We used to go and hang at that place all the time. That used to be the only place that used to serve the most delicious vegetarian pasta and apple pie. We loved that apple pie. Since I was dieting I told them a recipe and they lovingly made it for me. I went there almost daily and people noticed me eating that and ordered the same. That recipe became a success. So they actually put it in their menu and named it ‘Huma Qureshi Special Dish (movie star)’ though my first film wasn’t released then and I wasn’t a star (laughs). That was adorable.

You did become a star with Gangs of Wasseypur. What are your memories of shooting the film that became a cult movie?

We were a bunch of kids, underdogs, who went and made a movie in three months. It was very innocent and pure way of making a film. There were no fancy hotels, no movie star entourage, our costumes used to come in a suitcase, and we stayed in tiny guesthouses. Only Manoj (Bajpayee) sir was given a nice hotel. One day he asked all of us to come to the hotel for a nice lunch and the entire team reached there for lunch. I wish I had known this is going to be a cult movie, I would have at least asked for more money (laughs).

How did you deal with body shaming at the initial stages of your career?

I wasn’t happy, of course, but I feel sometimes you have to go through something painful and demoralising which can break your mental health. And I blame a lot of people for it. But over the years it has made me stronger and a bigger advocate of it for other young women. If I didn’t go through it then I would not be a spokesperson for it.

And you handled it well. Now, you are doing varied roles, good shows and movies, any more wishes?

I just wish my parents remain healthy, more peace, lots of international travel, and more films. The list is long and time is limited.

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