British writer and director Patrick Graham and Canadian- Morrocan actor-dancer Nora Fatehi talk about coming of age, finding a home in the city and having to hustle
Sometimes, it takes an outsider to point out things that have been there all along. And on the afternoon that we meet British filmmaker Patrick Graham, after his recent success with the web series Ghoul, and Canadian-Morrocan dancer and actor Nora Fatehi, in the news for Bharat, our faith in the calibre of a stranger's insight stands reinstated. We savour lunch at the House of Lloyd in Juhu, while revisiting their past, talking about them finding their feet in the city and laughing over jokes that perhaps shouldn't have been on record.
Suman: So, how did you guys end up here?
Nora: I hadn't even visited this part of the world before I came to India, so I had weird expectations.
Patrick: Like elephants?
Nora: No, I didn't think of those things! But yeah, like more colourful. I thought everyone would be in a lehenga and step out of the house in bangles. I hadn't worked in Canada, and I was sent here a few weeks after signing the contract with a company. I thought I would be picked up in a limo with a butler who'd take me to a fancy hotel and a chauffeur would drive me to auditions.
Patrick: So, what was it instead? Like a Maruti or a rickshaw? You had a personal rickshaw!
Nora: [Laughs] I got out of the airport with my stuff and that's when I was like 'oh wowww!' There was this skinny driver waving at me. He took me to a bashed-up car that couldn't even fit my luggage! And then, he pulls up in front of this flat.
Patrick: This is beginning to sound like a sinister sex trafficking story!
(Prawns butter garlic and mash with broccoli arrive)
Nora: It was a bad experience. I have scary stories to share. I had to live with eight east European girls in a 3 BHK flat; everyone was competitive. The girls were mean to each other. I felt like I was back in high school.
Patrick: So, if they were all living in not-so-nice conditions, where was all their money going?
Nora: The agencies were pocketing it. They were leaving these models in situations where they returned to their countries with no money. Your visa needs to say that you're being paid a salary, which was like 2.5k a week. That's nothing, and they wouldn't even pay that!
Suman [to Nora]: And this was an Indian agency?
Patrick: And they are still around?
Nora: Scarily enough, they still exist.
Patrick [to Suman]: Haan, so put that in your article. Seriously, let's expose them.
Suman to Patrick: What was your first time in India like?
Patrick: In film school, I had a friend who was from Bandra. In 2010, he suggested I come down to Mumbai. London was really difficult to find work in, so I came here.
Nora: And what about now?
Patrick: Because I have built my career here, returning [to London] would mean starting from scratch. Also, I feel like there's so much potential and energy in the Indian market. You can do new things here whereas everything has already been done in the West. So, yeah, I was meant to come for six months, but I stayed for eight years.
I did experience a culture shock initially. It took a while to get used to things like the extreme poverty, the culture of domestic help, and hierarchies. But now, when I go back, I feel like, 'This is really weird'.
Suman: So you worked a little bit in London, right?
Patrick: Yeah, I was trying to start my own production company, and making corporate videos. I worked in a bar and all sorts of jobs just to get by. I thought I should try a change of scenery. And that turned out well. The industry is a bit smaller here and I had a friend who had made inroads. So, it was easier to get started here. It took fu&%ing ages, but I don't think if I stayed in London I would have got this opportunity.
Suman: And what about you?
Nora: When I was in high school, I had a part-time job at a men's clothing store. Then I took up a telecom company job where I would have to sell lottery tickets to people.
Patrick: You took up modelling first and then dancing?
Nora: I never learnt dancing!
Patrick: Did you do like a crash course for that video [Dilbar, 2018]? It was quite remarkable.
Nora: No. I mean, I don't know, man. Ever since I was five, I loved dancing. I have taught myself most of the moves that you see me doing.
Suman: So, what's next for both of you?
Nora: I want to merge the Indian, Arabian and Moroccan markets. Also, we don't have global Arabian women icons, and I want to become one, while taking India with me.
Patrick: It's similar in a way for me, too. When I came to India I realised that back in the West, we know nothing about Indian cinema. It would be nice to wake up audiences to what this country has to offer.
Your favourite local Mumbai dish?
Patrick: Vada or samosa pav.
Nora: Brun maska.
What are you watching at the moment?
Nora: Sacred Games.
Your favourite Hindi word?
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