Huma Qureshi says new series Mithya is a brilliant take on complex individuals

The psychological thriller releases February 18 on ZEE5.


Enid Grace Parker

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Published: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 5:54 PM

“In all of us there is a cheat as well as an original,” narrates Huma Qureshi’s character Juhi in the explosive trailer for Mithya, ZEE5’s newest six-part original series.

OTT’s latest psychological thriller, described as “chilling and intense” brings together an attractive literature professor, a disgruntled student with a powerful father, accusations of plagiarism, an unhappy marriage and revelations of cheating, all in the most sensational manner, that will surely have you reaching for the remote when it releases February 18.

Gangs of Wasseypur star Huma Qureshi and debutante Avantika Dassani (daughter of Bollywood actress Bhagyashree) go head to head in this suspenseful drama that tackles the art of deception and portrays complex characters who are anything but black and white. No one comes away redeemed in the trailer, leaving you wondering who the actual villains are.

We caught up with the lovely Huma who has delivered memorable performances in Bollywood (Dedh Ishqiya, Badlapur), Hollywood (Viceroy’s House) as well as OTT (Leila, Maharani) over Zoom to discuss her latest role.

No one is ‘clean’

She said the biggest appeal of the series was the titular word ‘cheat’ - (the literal translation of ‘mithya’) and the impact it has on various facets of one’s existence. “(It’s about) how you are sort of cheating in different aspects of your life — it could be a case of plagiarism or cheating at your work or school or something larger in life.”

Art reflects reality in many ways and Mithya is no exception, shared Huma.

“There’s a side to us where we’re not always telling the truth! And the characters in the show as well, are flawed; they’re human, they lie, they have secrets. It’s like, you never know which character is going to do what. So it’s just not black and white, they all have different shades and they all are constantly hiding things from each other and lying to each other.”

In Mithya, Huma plays an unhappily married Hindi literature professor, Juhi Adhikary, who judging by the trailer is at constant loggerheads with her husband Neil (Parambrata Chatterjee).

She laughed when I asked her how she prepped for the role. “By not being married and never having to be a professor,” she joked, adding, “No, I just always read the script — that’s the way I prep for it. I talk to my director; I feel how they’ve approached the characters, I talk to the writers on the show ki bhai kya karna hai, kaise karna hai, and of course, because I was playing a Hindi professor, it was very important that my Hindi had to be on point. It was fun to play a character who could flip into shudh Hindi and then go back to speaking like anybody else.”

Calling her character “morally righteous”, she added, “We see a lot of people like this around us. In films, things are very straightjacketed and black and white.”

Switch-on, switch-off actors

Huma called her on-screen hubby Parambrata Chatterjee (Bulbbul, Dwitiyo Purush) “a phenomenal actor” and “prolific”.

The intense conflict represented on screen between the two was easy to portray because she said they were both “switch-on, switch-off” thespians.

“It’s just been so easy to work with him him. And he’s a lot like me in the sense he’s very instinctive.”

She commented how unlike other actors she didn’t need to be “in the zone” before the camera started rolling. ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’ were their cues to go from acting to a light-hearted atmosphere off set.

“So many times, in some of our very intense, emotional scenes, we used to be laughing and after “Action”, both of us are crying and having some intense heart to heart and whatever…In fact one day when we were shooting, he said to me ‘I thought I was switch-on, switch-off but you’re at another level. I said, thanks Param, that’s a great compliment! I feel like what he’s brought to Mithya in terms of a character and his commitment to it, is really special. It’s such a complex and difficult character he had to portray — you’ll see a very different side to Parambrata.”

Debutante Avantika Dassani (pictured above) is creepily impressive in the Mithya trailer as a scheming student (Rhea Rajguru) who rubs her teacher (Juhi, played by Huma) the wrong way after being accused of plagiarism. Huma expressed that despite the darkness of the themes portrayed in the series, the atmosphere with her co-stars was light-hearted.

“Avantika’s lovely — she’s a lot of fun. We really got along like a house on fire. I really enjoyed troubling her (laughs); to be honest we were shooting a thriller but the vibe on set was so much fun, it didn’t look like we were shooting something so intense and crazy.”

A “brilliant take”

Taking on roles with grey shades is always a bold choice, but when someone approaches Huma with a script what is it that she first looks for?

“It has to be a good script. I remember when the producer Goldie Behl reached out to me and said ‘we want to make this’ — I was very happily surprised. It’s a brilliant take on some very complex individuals and it talks about plagiarism, it talks about cheating, personal lives, but in a very entertaining format. I was completely sold when I got to know that Rohan Sippy is attached to it to direct. I love his work and I thought it would be great fun for us to jam together. I’m so happy because I think eventually the show is looking great, performances are amazing and it’s going to do good!”

Having showcased her versatility in dystopian and political series like Leila and Maharani, dos she feel OTT offers more scope for challenging roles than mainstream Bollywood?

Mithya is quite different, as were Leila and Maharani. What I enjoy is that I get to play different characters in shows that have a completely different look, feel, vibe, zone and that of course is a blessing as an actor.”

She is thrilled that India is offering great OTT content to the world now and said she loves “binge-watching shows”.

“As an audience, I want to watch stuff that is happening whatever people are making right now, you know? Whether it’s a Paatal Lok or The Family Man… it’s so entertaining. I feel so proud that today we are making shows that have such a resonance even globally.”

‘OTT helped us survive’

While it disrupted theatrical releases, the pandemic caused a greater shift towards OTT leading to some memorable performances where conventional ’stars’ and new talent were considered on an equal footing. Huma reflected on Covid’s effect on the entertainment industry.

“I think definitely the stress on theatrical releases is there; I feel like now we all are hoping and praying that the worst is behind us and we can have life get back to normal; hopefully theatrical releases also get back to normal.”

“But what it has offered us also — paradoxically — is the advent of really amazing content in OTT which has really helped us survive the last three years. We’ve been exposed to some really cool performances and shows. I feel what the pandemic has done is made good content more democratic and reach everybody.”

And will her latest OTT release Mithya strike a chord? Huma wants to know what her UAE fans think of the series. “I can’t wait to know your reactions and hopefully when all this is over I can’t wait to come and visit you guys,” she signed off.

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