Bollywood actress Huma Qureshi has starred in a number of movies and has even won awards for some. Her latest, titled Leila, is a drama web television series directed by Deepa Mehta, and she found the female-driven project liberating as it did away with the theory of a damsel in distress being rescued by a knight in shining armour.

In the Netflix series, Huma plays Shalini, a character who goes is in search of her missing daughter Leila. Shalini is portrayed as having to go through various hardships as she searches for her daughter.

In an interview with PTI, Huma pondered the question about the representation being different on screen had Shalini been a man instead of a woman.

“I don’t know. That’s the question you’ve to constantly keep asking… But for me, it was absolutely enriching. I think it’s enough now, how long will you be rescued by the knight in shining armour? At what point can you start being the superhero in your own life?”

The actor says there is inequality and repression of women “but where are our role models?”

“Where are people who look and talk like us but are yet (not represented cinematically)? We don’t have enough of those. Hence, as an actor, as a woman it was liberating,” she said.

Co-directed by Deepa Mehta, Shanker Raman and Pawan Kumar, Leila is based on Prayaag Akbar’s book of the same name. The 32-year-old actor says when the dystopian drama came her way, the series’ universal story appealed to her.

“No matter which part of the world you’re from, you’ll find something to identify with. That got me excited…You are greedy as an actor and the greed is endless. You want to work with different people and learn from their experiences, you want to be a better actor and a better version of yourself. That’s also what resonated with me,” she explained.

To prepare for her character, Huma started out with Deepa, who helped her explore the journey of Shalini along with several workshops with all the actors.

“I used to do workshops back in the day in college during my theatre days but I hadn’t done that in a while so it felt good to be connected. It felt like how I was when I was doing Gangs of Wasseypur. That feeling of being raw, of not being afraid, not knowing what your angles are, what looks good on you and all of that. It really felt like that,” she revealed.

Beyond workshops, Huma would constantly talk to Deepa about her character to get her “emotional journey” right.

“When she (Deepa) is shooting, she’s also an actor while obviously keeping in mind other departments. She demanded that from me and I loved that. All actors liked to be pushed because we are lazy or we tend to become lazy because it’s hard what we do. We try and conserve our energy. It isn’t a conscious thing but it just happens. But she really pushed me,” she added.