The name change is definitely difficult for me during the interview with supernova Bollywood starlet Sara Loren, the Pakistani TV actress, model and live-dance performer formerly known as Mona Lizza. I stumble and call the petite yet perfectly proportioned beauty “Mona” when I meet her. Dressed in myriad sumptuous bridal outfits by Zainab Chottani, Sara is in the midst of shooting Laiqa Hasan’s bridal make up looks that will appear in various magazines.
Meanwhile, a BBC TV crew arrives to interview Sara about her upcoming role in the Bollywood trilogy, Murder 3. Initially, she is reluctant to speak to them but Laiqa cajoles her and she talks to the reporter. Finally, we settle down in a quiet enclave and she orders what is the beginning of an endless round of healthy green tea for herself. Although it is probably gratingly annoying for her to reiterate the reason for the perhaps strategic name switch, Sara obliges.
Is Sara Loren inspired by the sensuality of Italian movie icon Sophia Loren?
“I am inspired by many good actresses, not just one,” she says. “I am interested in and guided by numerology, horoscopes and the power of birthstones. I was told that Mona, the name I was born with and which was chosen for me three months before I born, and Lizza were not lucky for me in showbiz,” she explains. The Sagittarian who was born on December 11 adds that her lucky number is two and haltingly says that Sara — a name she thinks that suits her — in Hebrew means “Princess” and Loren in Latin represents “Laurel” or victorious praise. “I needed a name that was powerful and I think it is working out,” she says.
Sara made a whirlwind public departure from Pakistan to live and work in Mumbai in 2010 and was in Karachi to have her visa stamped and to complete shooting the final scenes of Anjuman, a remake of the Pakistani classic which originally starred the late Lollywood legend Rani and in which the title character played by Sara is a courtesan.
“Anjuman will be released in late February 2013 after a screening,” Sara says “Begum Rani was very pretty and talented and we are very different and so I didn’t attempt to recreate Rani’s way of acting or gestures.” The film’s narrative is buoyed by a love triangle with actors Ali Khan and Imran Abbas vying for Sara’s character’s attention. Directed by Yasir Nawaz, the film includes two songs sung by Indian playback singer Sunidhi Chauhan which will no doubt add appeal.
In 2011, she also shot two other Pakistani films: Nargis, Gidh and producer Asim Bhatti’s Sultanat directed by Faisal Bokhari and starring Javed Sheikh in which she only appears in an item number.
“I told Asim sahib that I liked the item song and asked him why should only Indian films have item numbers?” Sara gloats. “Why not do them in Pakistan? It was fun shooting the scene but I have no idea what happened to the movie and its release,” she says almost disinterestedly.
She says her move to Mumbai was spontaneous. “There were no exciting projects happening in Pakistan. I was bored and looking for excitement. I am a dreamer. I want to do so much! I love travelling and want to see the whole world. I wanted a change in scenery and went to Mumbai looking for exciting projects. There was no preparation. I just packed my bag and took a chance.”
Sara says she now lives in a studio apartment in the upscale district of Versova, 10 minutes from Lokhandwala, the large residential and commercial enclave in the Andheri district of Mumbai.
“Yes, you can say that I am now living in Mumbai,” Sara says coyly. “I don’t feel I am struggling per se but just waiting for the right projects; roles that help to highlight the kind of wide-range actor that I am. I want to concentrate on that. I think over time I will convince Bollywood directors that I am not just another pretty face. It will not just happen after one project. Similarly, in Pakistan it took seven years of acting in TV dramas to have directors and audiences appreciate my potential and talent.”
Many are expecting Sara to follow in the footsteps of shock queen Veena Malik with her controversial magazine cover shoot in India and Meera and her alleged on-set slapping shenanigans with Mahesh Bhatt. “They have their own thoughts and ideas about their careers. Those publicity tactics seemed to have worked for them. But the type of life and career I want is in my head and I am working really hard in order to get more serious roles and achieve my dreams.”
Is segueing into the steamy and almost sexually explicit niche left by Mallika Sherawat and Jacqueline Fernandez in Murder and Murder 2, respectively, a wise move for someone looking to be accepted as a serious actor? Five months ago and after becoming Sara Loren, she signed up to act in Murder 3 under debutant director Vishesh Bhatt, son and nephew of Mukesh Bhatt and Mahesh Bhatt respectively.
“Previously, I had refused quite a few films that had a lot of intimate love scenes,” Sara explains. “I rejected them as I didn’t see any potential growth for myself as an actor.”
“The story in Murder 3 which I really liked is different from the previous two films of the hit franchise,” Sara takes pains to explain and adds that her love scene which includes lip-kissing lead actor Randeep Hooda was not gratuitous.
“India is an open society. All actors do such scenes. The love-making scene made sense in the story. It was necessary. But it was the shortest love scene in the history of cinema,” she guffaws. “Actors have to be responsible about markings and camera angles, etc, so it’s all technical. Before the scene and after each cut I was in fits of giggles so it was both funny and sexy at the same time,” she laughs.