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'Bollywood is a hard industry to break into'

Last updated on: September 16, 2019 12:48 IST

'But it is also an industry that is very accepting when they see talent and hard work.'


Photograph: Kind courtesy Nora Fatehi/Instagram

Half a decade after she made her debut with 2014's Roar: Tigers of the Sundarbans, Nora Fatehi has found her feet in Bollywood.

The Canadian-Moroccan actress went through her share of struggle before she grabbed attention with her item numbers like Dilbar (Satyamev Jayate), Kamariya (Stree) and most recently, O Saki Saki (Batla House).

But it's her new international music video Pepeta that's got her really excited now.

"I am very proud as I am moving towards my end goal of becoming a versatile artiste, globally," she tells Contributor Karan Sanjay Shah.

You are doing back-to-back music videos, Pachtaoge and Pepeta

I feel so excited!

I was initially scared as Pepeta was an independent project.

When you release a song under a label, you get that massive push.

But I couldn’t do that with this, as it is on my independent YouTube channel.

It is a small project but to get the kind of numbers we are getting, especially for an English song, is huge!

I am also introducing myself internationally and a lot of people probably don’t know me.

Still, getting such a response makes it very exciting for me.

I tried it last year with the Arabic version of Dilbar, where I produced the music video and also sang in it. It was extremely successful.

People told me that this might work abroad but not in India because people here don’t understand Arabic. But it ended up working in India too.

That was proof that music has no language and art has no boundaries, religion or culture.

IMAGE: Nora in the Pepeta song. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nora Fatehi/Instagram

What got you excited about Pepeta?

With Pepeta, what’s really exciting is that I sing in a different style. It is very street, very raw, urban... the accent is very Caribbean. 

My crew had a mix of nationalities, including the director who was from Morocco (Abderrafia El Abdioui had earlier directed the Arabic Dilbar).

Initially, we just had a melody, the guitar tune.

It was given to me by the singer, Ray Vanny from East Africa. He told me to listen to it and if I liked it, he wanted to collaborate on a song.

When I gave it to my music composer, Tizaf Mohcine, I told him that I was visualising the Afro and Latino music mixed together because the latter is killing the scene right now.

Singers like J Balvin, Maluma, Daddy Yankee and the Despacito song are killing it on the charts.

Afro music has also been killing it in the international scene.

So to put them together was really cool and different.

Of course, my team from India also joined in.

My choreographer Rajit Dev and his team were there.

All of us met for the shoot in Bangkok.

Although no one knew each other, everyone had the same vision and excitement.

IMAGE: Nora and Vicky Kaushal shoot the Pachtaoge song.  Photograph: Kind courtesy Nora Fatehi/Instagram

Only a handful of Bollywood stars have been a part of international music. How big an achievement would you rate this one?

I am very proud as I am moving towards my end goal of becoming a versatile artiste, globally.

If I can represent India outside and in India, I can represent Morocco, the Middle East and Canada, there’s nothing better.

I feel I have the capability.

Also, we are in a time where, because of social media, people have an awareness about everything.

The audience has really evolved.

It is a great time to experiment.

I am a go-getter, so I will not wait for someone to produce a project for me; I will do it myself.

At the same time, I will continue to solidify my position in Hindi cinema.


Did you know what Pepeta meant?

When I put my vocals on the track, it was all English, so I didn’t know what Pepeta meant.

Raja Kumari wrote the lyrics for me and then Ray Vanny put his vocals and 'Pepeta' came in.

I asked myself, what’s that?

It was a nice word and it kept repeating, so it got stuck in my head.

I told myself that this word is not English but still, it works.

It was very catchy.

Ray said it meant bounce, move, twerk, shake it.

I said that’s great, nothing is better than making people dance.

In Hindi, Pepeta sounds like Papita (papaya).

So people will relate to that as well.

In Spanish, Pepeta means potato.

IMAGE: Nora in the Dilbar song.

Your item numbers like Dilbar and O Saki Saki got a fantastic response. And now, you have turned into a producer and ventured into acting. What else do you want to do?

This is pretty much it.

I want to continue making a mark as an actress in Hindi cinema, breaking barriers, breaking stereotypes and just represent globally.

You have worked extensively with John Abraham.

My equation with John is superb.

He's very encouraging and supportive.

IMAGE: Nora in the O Saki Saki song. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nora Fatehi/Instagram

You have had your share of struggle in the film industry. How tough is the life of a Bollywood actress?

It is obviously difficult.

Bollywood is a hard industry to break into, especially when you come from outside.

But it is also an industry that is very accepting when they see talent and hard work.

The journey will be slow, it won’t happen overnight.

Nevertheless, the acceptance is there.

But you must learn the necessary things: Number one is the language. Even if you don’t learn 50 per cent, things will be difficult for you.

Did you ever feel like quitting Bollywood?

Yes, that happens because I am a human too.

There is only so much stress you can take.

When you feel you deserve certain things and you don’t get them and undeserving people do, it can be very frustrating.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Nora Fatehi/Instagram

What do you love about Bollywood?

Everything, especially the song and dance.

You've been doing some good work. Do you feel you've finally arrived?

No. I don’t think I will ever feel that.


Photograph: Kind courtesy Nora Fatehi/Instagram

Street Dancer 3D is coming up for you. How has it been working with Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor?

I am super excited for Street Dancer 3D.

Varun and Shraddha have been so kind, loving and encouraging that I have had a blast on the sets.

To just work with such seasoned dancers, professional actors and Remo sir (D'Souza) has been an amazing experience.