The latest Bollywood foreign import, Elnaaz Norouzi, from Iran has already made a mark with her character in the Netflix show Sacred Games. Catch her talking about her show and love for travel.
You hail from Iran, how did Bollywood happen?
I must tell you that Iranians love India and Bollywood. But, for me, it is more than special because I used to watch at least one Bollywood film every week with my mom. Both of us are crazy especially about all the romantic Shah Rukh Khan films. Even my dad is a big fan of his, so watching Hindi films became a huge passion for me. You should see my collection of DVDs and music albums. There was a time I knew every song by heart, even without understanding the lyrics!
How did the Netflix show Sacred Games happen?
Sacred Games, based on the Vikram Chandra book written in 2006, happened by sheer chance when I had gone to give an audition like I always do for so many projects. Within a couple of days, I got a call that the production house had liked me for the character I was to play in Sacred Games. However, I took my time before saying yes only because talks were on with a Bollywood film and the dates would have clashed. But finally, I opted to do Sacred Games and that I feel was a great decision.
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How do you relate to the character you play in Sacred Games?
Well, there is a lot about Zoya which is relatable to an actor’s life but there is so much about her which is just not me either. But more of that you’ll see in Season 2. The relatable part is the hectic life she leads as an actor, the hardships she faces and some of the relationships she would like to leave behind. I feel we all have such relationships, even friendships, that we don’t want to move ahead with- and that is something I am handling in my own ‘Zoyaish’ way.
Since you’re a part of Bollywood now, do you travel a lot around to get a feel of the Indian psyche? Any interesting experiences to share?
I have travelled a lot within India indeed, but it’s mostly for work. There are many places on my bucket list and among them is Ladakh and, of course, Kashmir. I must mention how much I loved the Taj Mahal- my mom and I were celebrating her birthday there. And because it falls in May, both of us came back with a great tan. I also loved the beautiful city of Hyderabad and would definitely go back for its amazing food.
Tell us about the last place you visited.
Well, in India, I last went to Jaipur where I had gone for a print shoot. What a place that was! Everything, including the architecture, building, people, is mind blowing.
Outside of India, it was Baku- the capital of Azerbaijan. I had never been there and was very surprised to see how beautiful and clean it is. I can go there any time for a holiday!
Who is your best travel companion?
Although I travel alone quite a bit, my mom is my best travel buddy. She stays in Germany and whenever she is here, we always take off for a holiday. Other than her, a book is my best travel companion as I love to read.
What is it about a place that first captivates you?
I would say the architecture of a place is the first thing I notice. It has so much to say about the history of any city or country. I used to be a history freak so this probably comes from there.
Despite having travelled across the world, there must still be many places on your wish-list?
Oh yes, there are many places on it! In fact, I’ve been to so many places in the world but can you believe I’ve never visited New York? So, that’s one place I want to go to very soon. Brazil too. I’m not much of a beach person but I’d love to sunbathe in Australia.
Do you like eating local food when travelling?
Certainly! That’s one of the best things about travelling. I am a huge foodie and often laugh when many people wonder where all that food goes because I don’t put on any weight. I love trying out new cuisine but stay away from scorpions and cockroaches. If someone feeds me with vegetarian food, I will never say no.
Which Indian destination would you suggest to your friends?The Golden Temple. It is beautiful and no matter what religion you belong to, you get this very special feeling when you’re there.
Describe travel in three words?
Teacher, Freedom and Fernweh (that is German for ‘wanderlust’).
What does your travel kit generally carry?
My hair and skin products, for sure, together with a lot of sun-screen. And yes, my favourite pillow.
All images have been provided by Elnaaz Norouzi.