Me, Me, Me

Dear Bollywood – when will you stop naming characters ‘Zoya’?

Dear Bollywood,

Hi, it’s me. Zoya. Who we kiddin’ you already know me! I’m your most beloved muse as of late.

And by ‘of late’ I mean since Emraan Hashmi starred in Jannat – the first one – back in 2008.

It was a surreal experience, finally watching the film in 2013, sitting there marking my Year 11’s books and having a mini heart attack each time Emraan uttered ‘Zoya’. It was like he was speaking directly to me! Weird, I know.

Around the same time Katrina Kaif played an ISI agent called Zoya and kicked ass in Ek Tha Tiger. Katrina repping your name. Now, what idiot in her right mind is going to complain about that, eh? As it turns out, that’d be me.


It didn’t stop there. Earlier this month when a colleague jokingly suggested we go watch The Zoya Factor for the next work-social, I decided enough is enough.

May I ask at what point you, collectively, as an industry decided that choosing a name for the lead heroine was just too much effort? What with all the other issues – the #metoo movement, the drive for more female-centric films, and equal pay – did you wake up one day and think: Sod this, ain’t nobody got time to think of the lead heroine’s name. What worked for us the first time? Zoya?

For Sonam Kapoor that is literally the case, she’s playing Zoya again!

Now, considering the limited number of movies the airhead is offered, and that two people in my adult life have thought I resemble her, I’m seriously worried about my reputation. To be associated with a vapid child of nepotism whose only vocabulary seems to be “Y’know what I mean,” as she broadcasts her brainless opinions about everything, is downright embarassing.

This is a person who, when asked about the Kashmir conflict, managed to make it all about herself!


Shahrukh and Salman rinsed the names Rahul and Prem for about three decades of cinema. I BEG YOU find a new name for Sonam before we all start associating her with Zoya!

A few suggestions, if you will:

1. If Simran worked for Kajol in DDLJ and Pooja for Kareena in KKKG, then there are a plethora of desi names to choose from such as Kiran, Divya, Poonam, or I-don’t-know-because-I’m-not-Indian-why-not-use-the-real-women-around-you-as-inspiration?

2. Random selection. Google and print 100 girls’ names, cut, fold, throw into a bag or box. Pick one. That alone requires 99% more effort than your current system.

3. You know how you remix old 90s songs and re-release them, pretending they’re completely new? Do that, but with names.

4. Why do you need a name anyway? Think about it: the 22 y/o heroine is just a decoration piece as the 55 y/o male lead saves the day once again.

5. If you reaaaaally need to use the name Zoya, give 25% of all box office profit to Zoyas across the world. How bout dah? I personally know about 3 and speaking on their behalf, we welcome this yearly monetary tribute.

Could it be that I’ve missed the whole point? Maybe Zoya is the most popular name in India and you’re striving to accurately represent us? Apart from Zoya Akhtar, how many real Zoyas are there in the industry anyway? I’ll wait.

On a serious note, Zoya is a Persian name and predominantly used by Muslim families. I’m sure you’re familiar with the religion seeing as you take every opportunity to bash it in your movies. From Phantom to Padmaavat, your stereotyping of Muslims as topi/surma wearing villains and terrorists is as boring and predictable as…let’s see, having a character named Zoya! Ha! Who would have thunked it?

And I get it. It’s a beautiful name and we Zoyas are pretty magical creatures- hence your fascination with us. But you’re killing it, and I don’t mean that in the YAS! SLAAAY! way. You are actually butchering my name. If I hear it pronounced JOYA one more time by an Uber driver, I’m going to machete his car and send the invoice to Yash Raj Chopra, or whoever.

Please don’t take this personally. The Pakistani film industry is no better.

Courtesy of Hamza Ali Abbasi in Yeh Jawaani Phir Nahi Aani, I had to live with the “Meri biwi Kubra nahi, cobra hai” joke for about 6 months of my life. And yes there was a Zoya in that movie too! Just like you feel the need to plagizarise Pakistani music, they too imitate your successes. Apparently naming a character Zoya is the magic formula to creating a blockbuster.

Thanks to both of you, I will soon be known as ‘Joya Cobra’.

Pack it in.

I mean it. This is a message from a woman at the end of her patience.


The Real Zoya.

P.S. One final tip. You’re an industry that plagizarised its own name from Hollywood by replacing the first letter with ‘B’. Do that again. I’d be happy with Sonam playing Boya. It suits her, y’know what I mean?


12 thoughts on “Dear Bollywood – when will you stop naming characters ‘Zoya’?”

  1. OMG THIS POST WAS HILARIOUS! Blog more, please! I didn’t realize Sonam Kapoor was so stupid. I only know that she’s the daughter of Anil and used to kinda be fat and stars in some lesbian love story movie (I only know that because of Netflix). Bollywood has changed… although maybe not so much. Why do they love Zoya so much though? Like are any of the characters even Muslim or Muslimish? Stupid BJP. That’s what I say when there’s anything about India I dislike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you saw the comical side to this post, as intended – some people are getting super triggered and leaving comments as if Bollywood is their sister ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ I guess they must be BJP supporters too! I don’t get the fascination with the name, I’ve yet to see any other name over used like this.


      1. I think they like it because it’s unique (for them) and is short. People love short names. I think it’s seen as cool and hope. Back in the day, all the women had these long names like Qamarunissa. I would actually like to bring that trend back, but don’t think Mr. Rafia is going to go for those super Hydro names. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha don’t worry I know how that feels – what’s been keeping you up? Hope you manage to get some rest soon. Ditto about bringing back long names, it just sounds so amazing when someone takes a few seconds to say your name – like Qamarunnisa and Qurutulain, it’s beautiful. I’ve noticed so many of my students have 4 letter names – Dima, Dina, Sara, Muna, Fajr, Hajr etc….when someone comes alone with a longer name it feels so good pronouncing it.๐Ÿ’œ

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I honestly do not know what has been keeping me up. I went to visit my parents last weekend and new beds are always trouble for me. But could there be another reason? We’ll find out in next week’s episode! LOL. Qurutulain is another nice long traditional name! At least in the West, I think parents like to name their kids these short names because of past traumas of teachers not being able to pronounce their names and other kids making fun of them. I guess that’s a valid reason. No matter what I do, I can never get people to pronounce my last name correctly. Heck, even my family can’t! Hydros can’t pronounce ‘qaf.’ LOL. But I don’t want to cater to those ghorays. Let them learn! Let them struggle for once in their life! LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha ah sleeping in a different bed is such a pain in the a**. I find it so embarrassing explaining it to people who invite me to stay the night, how can you put it politely – Oh sorry my old grumpy self needs her own bed to sleep in because sleep means more to me than your lovely invitation so thanks but I won’t be staying the night k bye. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I can’t pronounce Ayn properly so I have butchered a few students’ names too but I learnt eventually. Hope you’re getting better sleep now.๐Ÿ˜Š

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness, this was such a hilarious read Zoya. I was just telling a friend the the other day, pretty much all the characters I’ve come across are named Zoya in Bollywood movies.. I’ve also noticed another male name that keeps coming up is Kabir (again a very Muslim name)! ๐Ÿค”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right! Kabir is becoming more popular. What’s really annoying is these characters are either Sikh, or if Muslim then their religion is downplayed to the point where you wonder – are they really Muslim? Strange. It’s one extreme or the other with Bollywood๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ, you’re either a terrorist or practically an atheist

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes so right. I feel the same too. There’s never an average Muslim character in the movie, it’s either one extreme or another. I sometimes wonder whether they even get someone to check their scripts at all. *sigh* ๐Ÿ™„ Anyways, thanks for the laugh and keep these posts coming, I really enjoyed reading through it ๐Ÿ˜€ xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. HAHAHA! This post was everything and so fun to read! Also Zoya is a very nice name! I was wondering if you could checkout my new piece on living in a hierarchical patriarchal structure where slut shaming still exists. And I would really appreciate it if you could comment some feedback to improve the writing style. Looking forward to hearing from you. โ€“ Kiran


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.