x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Face of Etisalat lands Bollywood role

Three months after trading her adoptive home of Dubai for Mumbai, the Iranian model Mahsa's gamble has paid off.

Mahsa says her Indian-style looks helped land the role.
Mahsa says her Indian-style looks helped land the role.

DUBAI // Three months after trading her adoptive home of Dubai for the teeming streets of Mumbai, the Iranian model Mahsa's gamble has paid off - she has just landed a starring role in a Bollywood film. The face of Etisalat moved to India to boost her modelling career, little expecting success so soon. She flies out this month to begin shooting a romantic thriller called Purple Lake on location in England. She stars alongside Aashish Chowdhry.

India's modelling and film industries have grown in keeping with the country's economy. In a decade, much of India has embraced western ways, and what was once taboo is now hip. Mahsa, 25, is part of a new generation of talent benefiting from the opportunities India offers. Purple Lake is a story about a love triangle. An Indian girl raised in England, Mahsa's character - the name has not yet been revealed - is caught between family values and forbidden love.

"My character is a very strong, straightforward woman but also so in love, which makes it just that much harder to be who she is," says Mahsa. The film is being produced by the renowned Bollywood writer and director Vikram Bhatt's company, ASA Productions, and is to be directed by Vishal Pandya. Mahsa has been a fan of Bhatt since she was a child. "I've grown up on Vikram's films. To meet him was quite an experience for me."

Two days after a meeting in Mumbai, Mahsa was asked to audition for Purple Lake. "I was the most nervous I'd ever been in my life. I thought I'd give it a go as I had nothing to lose but I never thought it would come to anything," she says. For two weeks, she heard nothing and assumed that she had missed her chance. Then she got a call back. The model, who says her Indian-style looks helped her land the role, said: "I'm still not sure how it happened. I never imagined I'd ever star in a Bollywood movie. I'm so grateful."

A graduate in pharmaceutics from Ajman University, Mahsa speaks five languages. She started modelling at 15, when her mother saw an advertisement for an agency in Dubai. Modelling is a career choice most Iranian girls would not be encouraged to pursue, but Mahsa's parents saw it as an opportunity for their bright daughter to capitalise on her stunning looks and encounter the western world. "My dad grew into the idea," she said. "He wasn't keen at first, but my mum has always been very open-minded. I've never done anything I wasn't comfortable with."

Since her modelling career took off, she has made TV commercials for brands such as Pepsi, Sony and Panasonic, as well as fronting campaigns for Emaar, the property developer. She was the face of the City Centre shopping mall in Deira when it opened in 2002 and modelled for the department store BHS in Dubai and Britain. Last year, she became the face of Etisalat. Her modelling is now taking a back seat so she can concentrate on acting.

"Bollywood for me is the most amazing place on earth, it's the land of non-stop musicals with my heroes from when I was as young as five. I used to stay up late at night with my nana to watch Bollywood movies like Karan Arjun. I loved Shah Rukh Khan. "I still think I'm dreaming, to be honest, but the truth is I'm so blessed." mswan@thenational.ae