Zoa Morani: I think item numbers is a very interesting part of our industry

Zoa Morani

Zoa Morani, daughter of Karim Morani, assisted in the making of Shah Rukh Khan’s OM SHANTI OM in 2007 and within four years’ span, SRK in turn launched her with the movie ALWAYS KABHI KABHI under his banner. And now the actress after a gap of almost four years is back with BHAAG JOHNNY, that released lately. In an exclusive interview, Zoa shared how she got into acting, why was she away from doing movies, her experience with BHAAG JOHNNY, future projects and much more.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

When did the acting keeda bite you?
When I was like 5 or 6, I used to see Karisma Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan dancing. I was obsessed by Bollywood and their songs. When I used to dance on songs like ‘Le gayi le gayi’, my friends used to call me Chameli. So as I grew up, it was like I knew (that I wanted to act). People usually have a backup. I promise you, I’ll sit for half an hour and my mind will go blank, because for me, there’s no backup. So I have to struggle till I die, because I don’t have another backup. And I can’t do something just for the sake of doing it.

We last saw you in ALWAYS KABHI KABHI. Where were you since so long?
In ALWAYS KABHI KABHI, I was this over-excited child. We were playing high-school children in the film and on sets. So we were treated like children. They used to say, “Feed the children.” We were also dressed like school children. Then the film released and I got a feedback. I also learnt that I have such big dreams and have a long way to go when it comes to acting. So, luckily I had time in my hand also. Ali Fazal, who was also a part of the movie, told me that theatre helps for an actor to grow. I used to never have the guts and get scared. Then, I got a play through Salim sir. And when I finished the drama, I can’t tell you how much fun it was! I always dreamt of being an actor, but never knew I had a lot to learn. It’s not just about going there and shooting. Salim sir then discovered so much about my acting. He gave me different roles that opened me up. I was very conscious earlier and used to get scared of the camera. I just stuck with him and worked on one script which Gulzar saab wrote. I wasn’t scared anymore. So the time just fit in very well. ALWAYS KABHI KABHI happened, then I stuck with Salim sir and his creative group and BHAAG JOHNNY happened.

But were you offered any role during this interval?
Yes, there were roles that came by, but there was no role that would stick with the audiences. For me, it’s very important that when the audience gets up and leaves the theatre, they remember like ‘that girl did that role’. I have to touch my audiences’ hearts. When I watch a movie and an actor sticks with me, then it’s successful. I don’t want to shine in films just for the sake of shining. BHAAG JOHNNY is a good role that I really felt a connection with.

Since it is a Vikram Bhatt movie and he is mostly known for making horror movies, did you think that BHAAG JOHNNY would also be a horror film?
It was so funny - when I got a call from Vikram sir telling me that he has a script for me and can you come for the narration, I thought it’s going to be a horror film. I myself am scared to watch horror films. But Vikram sir is senior, so how could I say that I’m not coming? So I went to my mom. Since my mom reads a lot of novels, I showed her the script. But I was shocked to hear that it has nothing to do with horror. The story is the best part of this movie. It’s the only reason I said I would take the film. He himself was shocked because I wasn’t ready and it was so interesting and different from what I’ve worked on earlier. And the role – I couldn’t believe I’m getting the chance to do this in my second film. This is an action film and has nothing to do with any supernatural power. It’s a real story.

There are three girls in the movie (Manasi, you and Mandana Karimi). What was your experience with them?
Manasi is my senior. She’s done a very good job. Manasi and I didn’t have any scenes together. But when I met her very briefly in Thailand (where we were shooting), she’s very sweet and lively. By the end of the shooting, we were all dead because of running on this field in the saree and she would come on set with full energy. We never understood where she got so much energy from but it was helpful for us. Her energy was contagious. I don’t know where she kept it. Coming to Mandana (Karimi), we had a lot of fun. She was in the bad Johnny side. We too never had any scenes together, but when we had some free time, we used to go shopping and sit on the beach together. We got along very well.

Are you ready for the comparisons between three of you?
It’s not necessary, because the story without each one wouldn’t make sense. Someone or the other would have to do it. And eventually it’s the story that matters, so for the story to make sense, we all are required in our places.

We’ve all seen the trailer. What can we expect from the movie?
BHAAG JOHNNY has a moral, but it’s not preachy. It is trying to explain the spiritual meaning and karma. When we do, what goes back eventually comes back. If you feel that ‘Oh I did this because of this reason’, that doesn’t matter. Karma comes back. That is the kind of tagline that BHAAG JOHNNY is trying to portray, and we’re all waiting to know what’ll happen next. That is why the audiences will enjoy, because two stories are running parallel. We all have good and bad inside. We’re showing good side and bad side of a person and what happens. It’s like God has come down and given you a choice in a situation. Now you can decide what you want to do. You can take the route which looks easy but is the wrong route or you can take the route which looks hard but is legit. The truth is always hard, right? You take the wrong path and karma will come back.

So do you think the audiences will be able to digest the story?
I like the fact that they’ve divided and made it into two stories - the bad and good side of a person. Shivam sir also saw the film. It is done very simply, and when you are watching it, it’s like a story. You can understand that he’s a good guy - look at him struggling; and look at the bad man, he’s becoming worse because he just gets carried away. So it’s explained very simply. It looks like a simple story to me.

Kunal (Kemmu) is shown as the main character. So do you think you will be overshadowed by him?
No. Even when you watch the trailer, you will see that the whole story revolves around ‘Tanya ko maarna hai’. The crux of this story is the girl Tanya. Everyone’s trying to figure things out, including Tanya herself that what is happening and why is it happening with her. In that journey, even if he kills me in the beginning, still there’s always ‘Tanya Tanya Tanya’ happening. So not once also did I think about getting overshadowed and all.

What do you think of item numbers? Do they show women in a bad light?
I think item numbers are very interesting part of our industry. It depends on when and how it is being shot, with whom it’s being shot and how we use it. It can be shot really cheaply or be shot aesthetically and still maintain the chatpataness in it. So there’s no fixed answer for that. It really depends on how it’s being shot.

Coming to BHAAG JOHNNY song ‘Daddy Mummy’, what’s your take on it?
‘Daddy Mummy’ was put in the film very recently. Because they have music balance, and music for them is to emote. ‘Daddy Mummy’ song has done really well in the south. It’s a remake. So I think we needed some chatpata thing, because there’s no glamour in the film. That’s because of the situation, because we are running. So, maybe he wanted to add glamour to that, because Indian audiences like and get attracted to that. Moreover, everyone’s just talking about it, so I guess he’s right in what he did.

Your favourite actor?
Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan. I was so obsessed that I love everyone. Today also you ask me, I’m so excited about Bollywood, I don’t have one fixed person.

What about your future projects?
I have nothing in hand. Just my play, but I hope to get something good after BHAAG JOHNNY. I have met people, but there’s nothing that has reached up to signing on something.