A lot has happened since we last spoke for Nora Fatehi. Catching up with her, we spoke about her appearance in the massively popular “Naah” and her first feature film My Birthday Song. She talks about coming a long way, specifically becoming more commercially viable within the past year or so, post her memorable run in Jhalak Dikhlaja.
“Of course, this year, I did a really huge music video with Raftaar, which was something so different and something I really wanted to do. I got to introduce a dance style, Dancehall, which is very popular where we come from, but not very popular here. It was nice to collaborate with artists who had the same vision. Working with Raftaar and being able to have an opportunity to work with Remo D’Souza on the music video, it was almost like, I’m here and I’m going to mark my territory and do different things and not just conform to what Bollywood expects me to do. The song got so much appreciation that I started to get some film offers, which I wasn’t really comfortable with and I didn’t feel like they would do me justice as I continue to build my brand here. But I would continue to make my presence felt by doing brand ads, which would keep me in people’s minds, and then soon, more projects came in – for example, Head & Shoulders, I’m the face of that brand right now. Through that, I was able to work with film directors who I developed a rapport with.”
And then, of course, the massively popular “Naah” music video, with vocals by Harrdy Sandhu, in which Nora Fatehi definitely made us feel her presence. Talking about the music video, Nora emphasized the importance of collaboration and her own work in that project: “I was very sure that it was going to be a collaboration. They were sure that it would be a collaboration between us and I wouldn’t just be there on the side. I would be bringing in what I generally bring in as a package. We discussed how I wanted the music video to turn around as well – in terms of styling, dance, and the look of the girls. I felt that my talent was extremely valued in “Naah”. We shot in Thailand and it was a two day thing. It gave me a lot of room to dance and be able to act as well and have the screen presence as well. We promoted the music video on so many channels and television shows and talk shows…”
The music video became an instant hit, racking up millions of views on YouTube, and it just happened to coincide with Nora’s first film release opposite the well-known actor, Sanjay Suri.My Birthday Song showed Nora in a completely new light but the release of the film being so close to “Naah” just happened, as Nora explains. “It just so happened that My Birthday Song released right around the same time. It wasn’t planned as I had shot for that two years back. And, now it just looks like there is a lot happening because of the timing (laughs).”
So, why have we seen so little of her on the film screen? She talks about the importance of being commercially viable but also being selective about the work you choose to do. Nora states, “I have honestly been very selective with the offers that do come. I’m very careful because I do have a goal in my mind in terms of the brand I want to create and the mark I want to leave here. Right now, instead of doing random roles in films, I do want to tap into the web world properly. Even if it is an online portal or even YouTube, or even Instagram. That is where I am focusing on.”
Interestingly enough, Nora was actually approached for “Naah” based on off a video posted on her Instagram page. Nora laughs and says, “Yeah, because they saw a dance video that ended up going viral. The director wanted that. For me, I realized that I got a lot of projects because of what I did on my social media, whether it was a comedy skit or a dance video, people got up and noticed. Even if people did not work with me, I had a lot of filmmakers who saw me at events who noticed me. I want to continue that.”
As she continues that, one can’t help but notice the tenacity she has – not giving up, experimenting with different mediums, and not necessarily tying herself to the traditional mediums newcomers in Mumbai generally tie themselves to. She recalls when people told her to follow a certain path: “People would give advice to people like me, who people call ‘strugglers’ (laughs). They would tell me the projects I should do, and I shouldn’t only dance, because people will think I can only dance. But I couldn’t just concentrate on what they were saying. It didn’t make sense what they were saying. If you are an artist, and you are an all-rounder, why would I restrict myself? Coming from Toronto, from abroad, with no connections in the industry, why would you make it harder on yourself by restricting yourself? Our goal shouldn’t be to get up on our high horse and wait for things to come for us, and only wait for films. Whatever we want to do, whether it is a web series, or television, or whatever, go and do it because it is about how commercially viable you are. Why would you not want to showcase whatever your ability is and be everywhere? I jump at every good opportunity that comes my way. I shouldn’t just disappear.”
The path she has created as clearly worked out, as Nora acknowledges herself… “The people who told me to limit myself, three years ago, I see them today and they are not doing anything. I didn’t wait for anybody or anything. You have to be confident and secure in yourself to know that you should not wait for anybody.”
But doesn’t it feel odd, being in Mumbai. Which place is home now – Toronto or Mumbai? She provides an interesting answer – “Most of the time, I describe Mumbai as home now. But things can get a bit stressful here and then you think about your friends in Toronto, the friends you went to high school with and Toronto becomes home. But when things are going well here, then Mumbai is home (laughs). So it can get a bit tricky.”
While Mumbai may be her home, it is clear that Nora Fatehi is making her mark in the world. We wish our fellow Canadian the very best!