Actor-model Elnaaz Norouzi is currently garnering praises for her role in Made In Heaven Season 2. She plays superstar Leila who is having a destination wedding at the French Riviera. The Free Press Journal caught up with the actress for an exclusive interview.
Elnaaz, who previously appeared in Sacred Games, made her acting debut in 2018.
Recalling her initial days in the entertainment industry, the Iranian actress reveals it was 'very difficult' for her to bag roles. "I was first seen as a foreign model and people laughed at me. I had to prove to everyone that I speak Hindi and I can read and write Hindi. I took so many years to prove that I can act and I'm not just a tall and beautiful model. The producers and directors would not meet me. They thought 'Why would I give my time to this girl?' I was also asked to change my name and make it sound more Indian. And I just kept telling myself 'No, you have to be true to who you are. There will be a day when people will know who Elnaaz Nourouzi is. That might be tougher and harder but you stick to it and stay true to who you are'."
However, the actress says that a lot has changed in the industry over the last few years. "After the whole #MeToo situation, things became much easier. Directors and producers have become nicer to everyone. Everyone's watching what they are doing. This is nice because it's not good to put women, men and artists under pressure. Scripts have also changed and now films and series make sense, they have stories and not just colours and dance. The viewers have also become smart and they know what they want," she says.
Elnaaz was born and brought up in Tehran and she started working as a model when she was just 14.
Opening up about the challenges she had to face, Elnaaz reveals, "I've only been facing challenges. Nothing that I have done so far has not been a challenge. But learning how to dance has been the biggest challenge for me. As Bollywood children, you are trained in dance early in life. I didn't have that. I came here and then I had to start getting trained. Learning dance is not very easy. I had to also learn the language. Learning how to read and write in Devanagari was also one of the biggest challenges for me. I did theatre in Germany, did workshops here and a course at New York Film Academy but when you start acting in another language it becomes a lot more tough and Hindi is not even one of my first four languages."
When asked what she would like to change about the industry, Elnaaz states, "There's still a lot more respect that producers and directors need to show to the artists. There needs to be a proper union for actors. Here, you make actors work 19 to 20 hours a day and you expect them to be on set four hours after that. No sleep, no workout, no recovery. As an artist you use your mind, body and everything and you need more recovery than someone who goes to office. I'm not trying to put the office work down at all. I'm saying that there's so much that goes into an actor's job and so much rest that we actually need. I feel the directors and producers don't give that to you. They just want you to work like a robot. That's something I would really love to change."
Sharing her experience of working on Made In Heaven 2, Elnaaz gushes, "It was fantastic. There’s nothing bigger I could have asked for. It was the most asked for and wanted series and when I got the chance, I was obviously losing my mind. My role is amazing. What I love about the part is that it’s very close to home for me. I ended up playing an Iranian character. Even though it wasn’t written as an Iranian character, I took inspiration from my own story, which was beautiful. I’m happy that my life, my experiences and where I come from, inspired this role."
She adds, "I bagged the role from my room in Germany (laughs). I was stuck in the lockdown and they were auditioning for season 2. I sent my tape, honestly, not expecting anything. I didn't think anything would come out of it. And here we are! Zoya really loved my audition."
Elnaaz reveals being nervous before the show’s release. "I didn’t know how people would perceive it. I always want everyone to think that I can act and that I’m a good actress. I just hoped that people like me and the way I portray the character," she avers.
Sharing her views about marriage, Elnaaz states, "I love marriage. I want to get married for sure. I want to be an Indian and Iranian bride in real life. I want a five-day big fat destination Indian wedding and all of it. I do believe that matches are made in heaven. If you find the right person, who you can truly be yourself with and if he can completely be himself, then I think that match is made in heaven by God."