‘You are not just representing yourself but also your country’

Zoya Afroz

Zoya Afroz, crowned the second runner-up at Femina Miss India 2013, will now be competing at the Glamanand Supermodel India contest and will represent India at the Miss International 2022, as the holder of the title Miss India International 2021 

Starting her journey at a young age, Zoya made her first appearance as a child artist in the 1998 on the television series ‘Kora Kagaz’. She continued to do so in films like Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999), Mann (1999), and Kuch Naa Kaho (2003). In 2014, Afroz made her Bollywood debut as an adult in the thriller film ‘The Xposé’. She recently starred in the MX Player series ‘Matsya Kaand’ alongside Ravi Kishan, Ravii Dubey, and Piyush Mishra, among others.

In this interview, Zoya talks about her role of a con artist in ‘Matsya Kaand‘ and the efforts that went into perfecting it, her ongoing preparations for Miss International 2022, and her acting journey.



Tell us about your part in Matsya Kaand. How did you get associated with it?

As an actor I feel that the story and the character are two of the most important things. When I auditioned for Matsya Kaand, I had to do the introduction scene of my character Urvashi which I loved doing. It was so much fun. The particular sequence requires Urvashi to do a magic trick. Now, Urvashi is very outgoing and she is full of life. It was really very exciting to live the life of a con artist and I just grabbed the opportunity. As an actor there was great scope for me to build the character and that’s what I enjoyed the most. Also the fact that I was surrounded by a wonderful bunch of actors egged me on to deliver my best.   


How did you prepare for the part of Urvashi?

Well, I had to learn a lot of magic tricks as that’s essential to the character. Urvashi is both a magician as well as a con artist and she uses these magic tricks to con people which means she really has to be very good at them. Also, I had to prepare for the action sequences. It’s a big responsibility to bring a character on paper to life. When an actor comes on board they also give it their own perspective and their own nuances which basically bring the character to life. 


As a woman there were so many things that I could relate to with Urvashi’s character. In a world full of men, especially with a show like Matsya Kaand which is set in a very male dominated world, Urvashi brings out that grace and charm without being docile or submissive. I particularly liked that about Urvashi. Generally when we have a female character in such a situation, she is usually looking for external support but Urvashi is not that kind of a person. She is more than capable of looking after herself and taking care of her own affairs. 


You won the title of Miss India International 2021 and will represent India at the Miss International 2022 beauty pageant. Tell us about the competition and your journey so far.

First of all, it’s been an amazing journey because it’s really not just about winning a title and wearing the crown. For, you are not just representing yourself but you are also representing your country and millions of your compatriots. There, nobody calls you by your name; they call you by your country’s name. It has been a childhood dream to make my country proud and so in that way I felt very patriotic. 

Miss International is one of the Big Four—the four major international beauty pageants for women being Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss International and Miss Earth. Miss International is one crown that’s yet to come to India. It’s been 60 years but no Indian has yet won it. So my goal is very clear. I want to bring the title to India. 


Tell us about your preparation for the next year’s pageant? 

The preparation is going very well. It includes a lot of ramp walking, speech training, etc. How you behave on stage is very different to how you behave in regular life. So a lot of stage training is involved. Fitness, of course, as beauty, brains, body, it’s all required. So I am working on each and every aspect to become a better version of myself. Learning about different cultures is also very important. Ultimately, I will be presenting my culture to the whole world. Then there is Q&A which is my most favorite round as it really tests you. So, I am preparing very hard for that as well. 

After winning the Miss India International 2021 title Zoya Afroz will represent India at the Miss International 2022 beauty pageant

As someone who dons multiple hats, how do you look at modeling, pageant, and acting careers? 

Each is very different from the other.  Modeling involves working for different brands while pageant is all about being yourself. You have to present yourself in the best possible way. Acting of course is a completely different ball game where you play completely different characters from what you actually are. Now, I have been working in the industry since I was three years old on films like Hum Saath Saath Hain and that has kind of added on. So, I would say I was an actor first before I even decided to be a model and a beauty pageant titleholder.


Which of the three do you find most challenging?

Acting is certainly challenging as it is all about playing something you are not. You see, pageant is something that is me. I always say that you should always be very authentic to yourself and not portray yourself to someone else, especially when you are representing yourself and your country. So that is something that comes very naturally to me. But when it comes to acting, that is something that I really have to work towards. The characters tend to be so different from who you are as a person, even though Urvashi is similar to me, like intrinsically, but outwardly she is very different.


Your journey started out at a very young age as a child actor. How do you reflect back on your journey?

It’s been so special. Every child has got some talent and if parents can spot that early then it can be helpful for the child. I have been so blessed that I got to face the camera so early. And I used to love being in front of the camera and my parents acknowledged that and they realized that I should be in front of the camera I loved it me so much. So I owe it to my parents because very few people are able to spot talent in their child at such a young age. So not only did I gain experience of many years but more than that I enjoyed it very much. Also, it’s not that I was bad at studies. I was also a very bright student and always passed with distinction. I was always someone who wanted to balance and I think that comes somewhere because of my mother as she always likes to keep things in balance.


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Murtaza Ali Khan has been a film critic since 2010. He has curated and presented retrospectives and film festivals for various embassies and high commissions in New Delhi. He has also served on the jury for a variety of film festivals. He tweets at @MurtazaCritic