Early life and modelling career
Qureshi was born on 28 July 1986 into a Muslim family in New Delhi, India. Her father, Saleem Qureshi, is a restaurateur who runs a chain of restaurants (Saleem's); her mother, Ameena Qureshi (a Kashmiri), is a housewife. She has three brothers, including actor Saqib Saleem. The family relocated to Kalkaji, South Delhi, when Qureshi was a child. She completed her bachelor's in History with Honours from the Gargi College—University of Delhi. Later, she joined Act 1 theatre group and performed in a few theatre productions. N. K Shrama was her mentor and acting teacher, who made her realised that she could act, she learnt initial things of acting from him during her theatre days. She has worked with several NGOs and assisted a documentary filmmaker.
In 2008, she moved to Mumbai to audition for film roles, auditioning for a film, Junction, which was never made: "I never thought of coming to Mumbai or being an actress. But when my friend called me for an audition for a movie called Junction, it set me thinking. Sadly, the film never got made". Qureshi signed a two-year contract with Hindustan Unilever to appear in their television commercials. She promoted a range of products, including Samsung Mobile (with Aamir Khan), Nerolac (with Shah Rukh Khan), Vita Marie, Saffola Oil, Mederma Cream and Pears Soap. During a shoot for a Samsung Mobile commercial, director Anurag Kashyap was impressed with her acting ability and promised to use her in a film. Qureshi recalled: "I didn't believe him then. You hear lots of such stories in this industry, so I wasn't waiting with bated breath". Kashyap kept his promise, though, signing her for a three-film deal with his company Anurag Kashyap Films.