Tariq Butt, Staff Reporter
The first ever Hijabi character in the blockbuster, Spider-Man: Far from Home, says she took her role in the film to highlight the fact that millions of women wearing Hijab are ordinary people like those who don’t cover their heads, said a report.
About her much-talked-about role in the Spider-Man film, the Pakistani-born actress Zoha Rahman said that her original role was not about wearing Hijab but later on she was asked if she would like the role of a Hijabi and she instantly agreed to do the role.
"My original role was supposed to be a diverse role as part of the film’s diverse character showing representation of many. When I was given the option of wearing Hijab, I agreed because I wanted to be a positive role model. Traditionally, there have been limiting roles for Muslims in the capacity of a taxi driver, techie, or a terrorist, and if it was a female character she would always be shown as oppressed. It was a big matter for me to represent all those women who cover their heads and are the strongest, funniest and most intelligent women in my life, I know so many of them and I wanted to give them representation in a positive way.”
Zoha was born in Pakistan. Her father is a retired military officer, originally from Jhelum, Punjab province. She studied all over Pakistan, moving schools every time her father was posted at a new place. Around seven years ago, she came to London to study and started modelling for commercials besides studying.
She recently finished her law degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and plans to do Masters in Law as well but for now her full concentration is on her acting career. She has modelled for Qatar Airways, FIFA World Cup, Acuvue, And Wagamama, and Asian immigration law firms before being chosen to play the role of Peter Parker's friend in the latest film from the Marvel-Sony Spider-Man franchise. Her traditional Pakistani family didn’t want Zoha to work in the industry and wanted her to have a secure job as a lawyer but the free spirited girl had her own plans and she has successfully carved her own way out so far.
"I started with the modelling project in London and that was followed by acting roles in various projects. Then my agent sent my portfolio to the casting directors at Marvel. I was invited to audition for the Spiderman because they liked my portfolio, I was shocked when I received the call from my agency that I had been offered the role,” she shared.
In the film, the cast and crew of Spiderman travel across Europe for filming. Zoha was filmed in London, Prague and Venice over the course of a few months. She plays the role of Spiderman’s friend travelling with him all around. "We are with the hero when he sees monsters and then decided to save the world. It was lovely experience of filming.”
Zoha started taking interests in acting when was studying in schools in Pakistan. She said Pakistan’s dramas and shows are popular all over the world. "No doubt Pakistanis are hugely talented, off and on camera. Getting roles in international films is validation of Pakistani talent.” She said that she has received lots of positive response. "I have received messages from girls who have appreciated my role as a Hijab wearing girl. There has not been much representation and not many normal and positive roles for the Muslims and other ethnic minorities. I don’t wear Hijab in real life but I wore it in my role to create positivity,” she said.
Zoha is currently working on a Netflix project and has a few other roles finalised for her. "I cannot say more about the roles I am doing due to privacy contract but these are different roles and the kind of work I am interested in. I am focusing on acting full time and who knows one day I may also work as a lawyer,” said the actress.
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"Alankrita Anvita, Ankur Mukherjee, Amrit Mahajan and I shared and carried that sentiment with us. It really was like finding a community. Meetings were held, not in production houses but in homes over food and music, jokes, and poetry.”