In Zack Snyder’s zombie epic, described by Variety critic Owen Gleiberman as “packed-to-the-gills video-game-meets-21st-century-Western-meets-day-of-the-living-dead fun” in his review, Qureshi plays single mom Geeta, resident of a quarantine camp outside a post-zombie-war Las Vegas. Without spoilers, Geeta’s arc in the film is one of the major plot pivots.
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“I picked the role because I always look for how does each character take the story forward?,” Qureshi tells Variety. “I was very aware that this is a very big ensemble film, but I’ve never been afraid of doing ensembles.” Qureshi debuted in Anurag Kashyap’s sprawling two-part ensemble epic “Gangs of Wasseypur” in 2012.
“I feel like as long as you you believe in the larger story, you believe in what the director and the writer are trying to say… when your character is sort of incidental to the plot and moving that forward, I think that’s what people remember the most,” says Qureshi. “And of course, the fact that I got to be directed by Zack Snyder, who’s arguably one of the biggest directors in the world. It was just exciting for me to be part of that cinematic experience.”
Should “Army of the Dead” get a sequel, Qureshi is keen to be part of it. “It’ll be quite fun to see Geeta in the second edition of this,” says Qureshi. “And I would love to make her stronger this time and [be in] a bit more control of her situation.”
Qureshi’s agents CAA put her up for “Army of the Dead” when she was in the U.S. meeting people for a television series, which she describes as a “brown girl superhero story” and as a “passion project” that she has been working on. No further details on the project are forthcoming at the moment. The “Army of the Dead” casting team was familiar with Qureshi from her lead role in Netflix series “Leila,” and after the reading she was cast in a matter of days.
The shooting for “Army of the Dead” was completed in 2019, before coronavirus devastated the world. Qureshi’s ADR was done remotely during one of India’s lockdowns.
Most of India is again under lockdown as a deadly second wave of the virus has engulfed the country. Qureshi has teamed with non-profit organization Save the Children India to set up a 100-bed temporary hospital facility along with an oxygen plant in Delhi, as thousands of infected people in the Indian capital region gasp for breath.
The initiative is supported by Snyder.
Qureshi is working closely with the Delhi administration to make the hospital a reality as donations pour in from around the world. A location has been identified, oxygen concentrators and other equipment is being procured, and the process of setting up the oxygen plant is underway. Qureshi is also involved with securing permissions, sourcing raw material and other details.
“It’s a lot I realize that one has taken on, but it’s also really nice,” says Qureshi. “So many people have come forward and been so generous with their donations and with their words and just helping us out. And that’s quite incredible.”
The actor is also using the enforced break, as productions across the India are paused by the pandemic, to write.
“I think this pandemic has really forced all of us, almost, in a sense, to tap into our own reserves,” says Qureshi. “As an actor, I’ve always been dependent on other people’s vision or lines or words, scripts. This time has given me that perspective to go inwards and be like, okay, what is it that I can put out in the world? That is only thing that is left for me to do.”
Meanwhile, Qureshi has several other projects that are ready. Netflix’s futuristic film “Freedom,” directed by Dibakar Banerjee (“Shanghai”), is due imminently and political drama series “Maharani” for Sony LIV is set to stream from the end of May.
There are also films designed for theatrical release, including Tamil-language “Valimai,” alongside Ajith Kumar, a huge star in South India, and “Bellbottom,” with Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar, that shot in Scotland during the pandemic. However, cinemas remain closed while the pandemic rages.
“I promise you, I am as excited and as impatient about things getting back to normal as anybody,” says Qureshi. “Some of these films have been made for the big cinema experience and they should be seen there.”
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