Sacred Games' Elnaaz Norouzi opens up on her Bollywood journey

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The actress talks to to City Times about how the hit web series Sacred Games, starring Saif Ali Khan, upped the game for her in Bollywood

By Neha Mahamood

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Published: Sat 29 Feb 2020, 8:42 AM

Last updated: Wed 4 Mar 2020, 11:12 AM

Bollywood has an Iranian whiff about it now with the hottest Iranian in the Hindi film industry Elnaaz Norouzi. Essaying dual roles, as Zoya and Jamila, in the first Netflix original Bollywood web series Sacred Games, Elnaaz is all set for her journey in the Indian film industry. 
The Iran-born but German-raised Elnaaz, flew straight to Bollywood after harboring dreams of becoming an actress in the Hindi film industry. When she dropped by the Khaleej Times office on Wednesday, we were curious to know why she chose Bollywood instead of the Iranian film industry or even Hollywood. 
"I don't know. A lot of people ask me why not Iranian cinema, why not German TV or cinema, we make films there as well. But I think at heart I'm a little Indian," Elnaaz tells us.
The actress and model hinted at a Bollywood film she is currently working on, but did not want to give out any details. Even though our probing got us nowhere, she did speak to us about working on Sacred Games, her thoughts on the #MeToo Movement and her upcoming Tamil film. 
Here's our conversation with the beauty. 
So you started your journey with modelling and then got into acting. Can you tell us a bit about how it all started? 
What took me from Iran to Germany was my parents, I was way too small back then. But then in Germany, when I started watching Hindi films, I just loved Bollywood films. And you know how when you love something it's all about that. And as a child I always wanted to be an actress. At some point I was like, 'Okay I love Bollywood and I really want this why don't I just try it'. Then, I actually wanted to go to India, but I wasn't getting a visa for a long time, for two years actually. I remember my parents were like, 'If you're not getting a visa means it's not meant to be and you shouldn't go'. And I was like, 'listen there's nothing like meant to be. I'm going to make it work and I'm going to go.' So here I am. 
What brings you to Dubai this time? 
Right now, I'm here for Bharat Thakur's art exhibition. It's his 7th exhibition and we've been invited to see his paintings and sculptures. And I'm so excited to be here at the Khaleej Times office, for the first time! 
You've been pretty vocal about certain things that happened behind the scenes. How do you feel about the verdict on Harvey Weinstein being indicted? 
I'm very happy and grateful that we have social media and people are being vocal about what happened to them. There were times when I was beaten up in school. I was a foreigner and I didn't know German at that time. A lot of things happened to me and I wouldn't open up about it. My parents didn't know about it and I lived with it. Slowly I learned to talk about things. And I feel when something happens to you, you have to be able to speak up and it's tough when  people can't talk about it. And I feel especially women have bigger problems with that. Now, we have reached a time where we can speak about it, and not feel bad when we go to work. There's nothing more beautiful than that. So, I'm super glad about the verdict. 
So do you think the verdict would have prompted or encouraged other women to step up?
Definitely! Forget about the verdict, I mean the fact that one woman came and spoke about it and then the entire world spoke about it shows everything, right? It just shows that these things are happening and people do go through them. Something happened to me also and I hadn't spoken about it because I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me. I do see myself as a strong woman and still I wasn't able to. Now, imagine other women who maybe are in other positions, they might feel even worse. 
How was your experience working alongside Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddique in Sacred Games?
Beautiful! My very first day on the Sacred Games set was with Saif sir and I couldn't have had a more beautiful first day on set. He was very supportive, he's amazing. He helped me with my lines, he did everything for me and he didn't have to, he's a star. But that was beautiful. From Nawazzuddin sir I have learnt so much. He's a living legend. 
Being able to work with real actors who know the craft changes you so much. I did one day of work with Nawazzuddin sir on Season 1 and it changed my life. One day changed so much in me, it made me a better actress because you look into his eyes and it's hypnotizing, because of the way he carries a role. 
You've worked with Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan as well in a few commercials. What was your experience like with them?
I'm sure most of the people don't know this, but growing up, I had posters of Shah Rukh Khan all over my walls. I always thought 'Will I ever be able to meet him? One day, maybe, I can just wave to him.' Then, when I was working with him, I was like 'Should I pinch myself? Am I really here? Am I really working with this guy?' It was obviously a dream come true. It was something I never would have imagined in my life. I was just wishing to meet him and now I've worked with him twice. 
Same with Salman Khan. I worked on Thumbs Up with him at the very beginning of my career, and then I did the Being Human campaign with him which was fantastic. I usually don't believe in luck, but now,  I've started believing in it. I know I've been working hard for it, but a little bit of luck is there too, otherwise how is it possible that a dream like this comes true?! 
Sacred Games was your big break. What is the next big thing you see yourself doing? 
I've always wanted to act. I've always wanted to do something where I'm actually acting, and not just there looking pretty. Especially in Sacred Games, when they found me they kept calling me back and saying 'Listen this is not a glamourous role, you're going to have a big nose as Jamila, you're not going to look beautiful. Are you sure you want to do this? It's not your conventional launch?' And I was like, 'This is exactly what I want to do'. I never wanted to star in a role and look glamourous and dance in five songs. I wanted to act and I still just want to act. 
What kind of projects do you want to be a part of? What kind of roles are you looking for? 
As an actor, mainly I want to explore comedy. I want to explore roles where I have to go into myself and be somebody I could not even imagine I could be. 
We're really excited for your upcoming Tamil movie Jana Gana Mana. Can you tell us anything about that? 
My character is called Leila. We shot a little bit in Azerbaijan for it. It was mostly out of the country. It's an action packed film. It's very exciting to be working with Jayam Ravi. He is such a sweet person. I've never worked with anyone in the South, so I wasn't sure how they are and how you have to be with them, but these stars are so humble! I've realised that the bigger they are, the more humble they are. I also loved working with Taapsee (Pannu) and I can't wait to get back on set with her! 

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