- 17 Nov - 23 Nov, 2018
NAAZ NOROUZI - The Iranian Beauty Opens Up On Love, Films & Her B-Town Experience
- 15 Apr - 21 Apr, 2017
- Cover Story
The elegant restaurant in the uptown neighbourhood of Zamzama is empty, except for a young teenage couple on a date who appear to be bunking class at 11am in the morning, when bursts in a tall brunette, with a pert, hawk-eyed expression on her face. It is Naaz Norouzi, wearing a black V-neck T-shirt, jeans and boots, her shoulder length brown hair piled on one side of her neck. She settles in and orders a vegetarian entrée, clarifying to me “I’m not a vegetarian, I just try to eat veggies because it’s healthy.” She cuts the sort of figure that would turn heads; chiselled features and dark brown eyes, upon a glance, anyone can tell she’s not from here.
Naaz is in Karachi for a short trip for the last leg of shootings for her upcoming flick Maan Jao Naa, her debut in Pakistan, before leaving for Mumbai. The 24-year-old German national of Iranian descent is a sensation across the border. She has not just walked the ramp for major brands like Dior and Hugo Boss, but also worked with the Khans of Bollywood – Salman and Shah Rukh – in top ad campaigns. So what’s cooking back there in Mumbai, I ask, as her Instagram posts show how often she’s rubbing shoulders with Bollywood bigwigs.
“I can’t disclose it yet because it should be announced from their side first,” she says.
“So is it a big production house?”
“Big stars? Lead role?” I ask again.
“Yep, but I am going to keep it behind the curtain!” Naaz states, keeping it short. She is careful about her choice of words, a maturity that you only see from someone who has been in the profession for a long time. And that’s evident, because although young, she has been in front of the camera for almost a decade.
“I was 14 when I started modeling, I started working with photographers, talking pictures, reading a lot about modelling,” she recalls about her teenage days. “I’d read a lot, be on the internet the whole day looking for agencies where I could apply,” she notes, adding “I actually failed a lot, with a lot of agencies, but I kept going, taking pictures, working on my looks, and then it took me a long way internationally.”
While most millennials are settling in for employment, Naaz, who is now 24, has achieved so much more than what the showbiz dream appears to be at her age. Her career is in a blazing trajectory – she’s the face of Salman Khan’s Being Human campaign, working with Shah Rukh Khan on a major brand, has landed her a big Bollywood break and is debuting as an actress in a Pakistani flick. Travelling all over the world from a very young age, Naaz is a confident person who doesn’t mince words. Passionate about her craft, she’s in for the long haul. So does she believe in luck?
“I don’t believe in luck as such, I think I’m really hard-working. When I look back to the things I have done in life, how hard I had to work to get here, I really think I was not lucky. I have seen people who are actually very lucky. Things I took so long to achieve, some people got those very easily,” she points out as a matter-of-fact, and adds, “Without hard work, luck cannot do anything for you, I believe in that for sure. If you are just talented, and not hard-working, you are not going to go anywhere.”
The juxtaposition of her personal and professional lives is a poignant subject for her. Born in Tehran, her family migrated to Germany for better prospects when she was eight. Although a tough time for her as she didn’t know the language, Naaz managed to learn and was quick to adapt. “Now I can speak more than five languages fluently,” she says when I ask how many she can speak. “I studied French for seven years; I can read and write Hindi, Urdu, Farsi and German, of course.”
The only child of her parents, Naaz got all the attention from her mom and dad, and says they are like her best friends. “I am an only child, had all the attention; even the decision of going to Germany, was made keeping me in mind so that I could have a better life and education, I had a great childhood,” she reminisces, and then after a pause, says “the only point in time when I was a little sad was when I just got there. I grew up in Tehran, it’s a city like Karachi and Mumbai, hustling and bustling, whereas Hannover was a small, quiet place. I took a lot of time adjusting.” She “didn’t have any friends, and that was tough”, but Naaz has come a long way since. Is she closer to her mom or dad? She says “both”.
“I can’t pick one, I am close to both. There are things I can share with my dad that I can’t share with my mom, and things I can share with my mom I can’t even think of sharing with my dad. They are both my best friends.”
Her parents divorced when she was young and it was then that she started modelling – something her father didn’t approve of. “I remember when I told my dad that I want to pursue modelling, he stopped talking to me. At that time my parents were divorced, so I was not seeing my dad,” she recalls, adding “Obviously we are Iranians, my dad didn’t know what was happening, and in our culture there’s nothing like modelling as such, so it was a tough time for me.”
“But I kept going, and when my dad realised he could trust me, he was back to normal and has been supportive ever since.”
“I’ve been travelling all over the world since the age of 17, so I’ve been alone and I know how to take care of myself.” She’s camped in India since the last four years and has been swamped with work, and yet her parents have been there for her moral support, she notes. “There have been times when I just cried in my bed because I was alone and things weren’t working out, but my parents were always there for me, supporting me and assuring me that I just needed patience,” she says. The alluring star is living her dream right in the middle of India’s tinseltown – a dream she grew up wishing to fulfil. “I grew up watching Bollywood films and I had never even thought that I’d someday be a part of that very industry,” she asserts, “Life has truly shown me that dreams do come true.”
So who’s her favourite among the Khans? “Salman is a very humble person, when you work with him, you don’t even feel you are working with a star, but Shah Rukh was the one I wanted to go to Bollywood for, and although he was my favourite back then, I must say my all-time favourite is Salman.”
It was during one of her ad campaigns when a friend from a casting agency told her that Mukesh Chhabra, one of India’s biggest casting directors, was looking for fresh faces for a Pakistani film. “When my friend told me about the film, I was like, I’ve never heard of Pakistani films, and I had no clue, but she convinced me, and then I got in touch with Adeel [Chaudhry], he assured that I should definitely come as it’s a new market, so I thought of giving it a shot.”
Ahead of her debut in Pakistan, she has had one hell of a routine. “We were shooting for more than a month in Karachi, and two or three days in Sukkur, and at times we worked even up to 18 hours a day,” she says.
Like any other outsider Naaz, too, had qualms about coming to Karachi, because let’s admit it, Pakistan is often in the news for all the wrong reasons. But she was caught by surprise. “When I came here, I was very much surprised, in a good way though,” she shares, and continues, “Everybody was so welcoming from the moment I stepped out of the airport. Typically, the SOP is that somebody is holding your name card and you get picked up. But when I came here, the whole production house of Crew Motion Pictures was there to pick me up.”
Talking about her co-stars, she says even they have been ‘extremely supportive’ of her. “My co-actors have also been wonderful, which is something you don’t often see because mostly you can feel that silent friction from the other female actors, which I didn’t experience here at all,” she says with a beam. Naaz plays the role of a young, free-spirited girl named Rania in the movie, and thinks it’s a story that youngsters will feel connected to. “I play the role of Rania, who has her clique of four best friends, and she is basically against the idea of love,” Naaz points out. “She doesn’t believe in marriages and thinks that love is a lie and that’s where the comedy lies, as she tries to keep her friends away from marriage – basically playing the b***h!” she laughs, adding “and obviously the romance is in the part that her best friend, the hero – Adeel Chaudhry, is in love with her and so, that’s what the story is about.”
Throughout the hour-long chat, it appeared to me that despite all the glitz and glamour in her façade, Naaz is sort of an introvert; she is a private person, and not very expressive, but she is intelligent and knows her way around words. When she came to Karachi for the shooting, she had a fair share of minor difficulty with the accent, but she managed to breeze through it. “I had to work a little bit on it, but it was not that hard for me because Urdu is close to Hindi, so that was good. But I was worried because usually when I did auditions, I would get the script on email and then I’d go to the shoot, but when you do a film, you get it five minutes before the scene and you’re like, Whaaat!” she laughs.
As our conversation winds down to films and favourite actors, the film La La Land comes up. As much as she liked the film, Naaz admits, she didn’t like the first half, but confesses that the story is so real that she felt connected to it. “This is an actor’s life, you either choose your career or you choose your private life, there’s nothing in between.” When I push further why she felt connected, and whether she had someone in her life, Naaz says, “No, I don’t have someone in my life as such, I have felt it a lot that you cannot be in that kind of relationship that you want, you cannot get married early in life.
“Even if you have an understanding man in your life, it’s the hours you work, it’s the faraway countries you are in, that takes a toll not only on the man, but also on the girl in the relationship. I think even if my guy would be away for so long, it’ll take a toll on the relationship.” She discloses she was in a relationship at one point in her life, but is now single and completely focused on her career. Was it a sad heartbreak?
“It was sort of, but I believe I’ve met a lot of wrong people in my life, and after all these years, I’ve become reserved and don’t make friends that easily.”
Although it seems that Naaz has already made her mark on the ramp, it’s the reel that we are yet to see her on. She keeps her ambitions closely guarded, and what makes her so unique is that she jibs from discussing her future aspirations anymore. As she rounds up the last vegetable spring roll on the plate, we talk about the difference she’s felt in Karachi and Mumbai, and she marks out, “Karachi is way cleaner!” (laughs).
Coordination: Umer Mushtaq
Location: Movenpick Hotel
Designer: Wardha Saleem
Photography: Rohail Khalid
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