Giving up a career in economics and political sciences was a gamble that has certainly paid off for Dorra Zarrouk.  The Tunisian actress, who is commonly known by her first name only, has established herself as one of the Arab world’s most in-demand artists.
Following her studies, Dorra took on various minor roles in her home country, but it wasn’t until she moved to Cairo, Egypt,  that she started getting the attention of well-known directors and producers. Her Egyptian debut was thanks to the late director Yousuf Chahine, who cast her opposite Menna Shalaby and Khalid Saleh in Heya Fawda (which showed at the 2007 Dubai International Film Festival before going on general release). Fast forward five years, and the 34-year-old actress has starred in box office hits including Al Awelah Fel Gharam, Al Hob Keda, and Leilat Al Baby Doll, as well as the television series Tayara Warak, Khass Gedan and Al A’ar. 2012 has been a good year so far for Dorra; she has enjoyed success with her Ramadan TV drama Zay Al Ward, as well as appeared as a guest star in Mustafa Sha’aban’s Al Zooga Al Raba’a, which has also received rave reviews.
Now you can catch her in the film Baba, opposite Ahmad Al Sakka, currently out in cinemas across the UAE. 
-Tell us about your role in Baba.
-Baba is a romantic comedy directed by Ali Idriss, and the role is quite different to any other role I have taken on. It is centred around a couple — played by myself and Ahmad Al Sakka — and the interconnected events that affect them and the people around them. It looks at the subject of newly married couples in the Arab world and their quest to have children, so it is a really interesting subject.
-What was it like working with Ahmad?
-I really enjoyed filming with Ahmad. Before being cast in the movie, I knew of him, but I knew of him from afar. So basically, I was like any other individual who knew that he was a hugely successful actor and that he was very well loved by the public. But after working with him and getting to know him properly, I discovered why people love him so much — he is very kind, very nice, generous and giving, so I thoroughly enjoyed shooting the film with him. I think there was good chemistry between us when filming, and hopefully viewers will be able to see that.
-You had a busy Ramadan season with Zay Al Ward and Al Zooga Al Raba’a...
-Yes, I loved it. Mind you, Zay Al Ward is currently still on TV and doing well [the series is 60 episodes]. It took a lot of work, but I am extremely proud of the project. It got compared to Turkish series because of its length, but you know what, long series is not something new in the Arab world. Look at works such as Layaley Al Helmeya and Ra’afat Al Hagan — people used to watch these long series.
-In El Zooga Al Raba’a, you return for a second role opposite Mustafa Sha’aban. Was it intentional?
-It was a different type of appearance, it was more of a guest role, but I was really keen on working with Mustafa again. After all, I think my character of Samah in Al A’ar was one of my most successful roles to date. However, in Al Zooga Al Raba’a, my character was quite different to that of Samah, so it was something new.
-It is rumoured that you are keen to play Laila Al Tarabulsy (the former first lady of Tunisia); a role that Hend Sabri is also quite keen to play...
-Actually, no. The role was not offered to me, neither did I refuse or accept the role. All that happened was that I appeared on a show with Ebrahim Eisa, who asked me if I were to choose between taking on the role of Laila Al Tarabulsy or Suzanne Mubarak [former first lady of Egypt]. Although I do not want to play either, I chose Laila, because she is an evil character and really hated, so I think it would be a challenge for any actress.
-What’s next for you?
-Well, I am taking a bit of a break, but there’s a host of people I would love to work with, so watch this space. I am really keen to work with filmmakers such as Dawood Abdul Sayed, Sandra, Sherif Arafa, Mohammad Diab and Amr Salama. I want to enter their world!
Eid Al Fitr movies:
So how did the season’s most anticipated films fare during the first screenings during Eid Al Fitr at the Egyptian box office?
1) Baba, starring Ahmad Al Sakka and Dorra: 105,000EGP (Dh63,591)
2) Tettah Raheeba, starring Mohammad Heneidey, Amy Sameer Ganem and Samiha Ayoub: 50,000EGP
3) Mr & Mrs Aweis, starring Hamada Helal and Bushra: 20,000EGP
4) Al Bar, starring Mohammad Ahmad Maher: 10,000EGP
Silver screen Turkish delights
With Turkish TV dramas having become huge in the Arab world, it was only a matter of time before Turkey’s movies reached our cinemas.
It has been confirmed that Fetih 1453: Battle of Two Empires will show across UAE cinemas from September 6. Dubbed Turkey’s biggest box office hit of all time, the historical drama stars Devrim Evin, Ebrahim Celikkol and Dilek Serbest. Evin plays Mehmet II, who ascends to the Ottoman throne after the death of his father, Murat II. After braving internal and external enemies, he decides to complete what he was destined to do — conquer Constantinople.
The film, directed by Farouk Aksoy, will also show in Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Making its debut on Al Hurra TV on September 8 is is Rayheen Ala Feen?, a television drama set in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution that follows the lives of five young Egyptians.
Directed by Tamer Ezzat, the 13-episode series — produced by Film Clinic’s Mohammad Hefzy — follows the lives of Islam, Mario, Sondos, Zoghby and Hanan, who each represent different political and socio-economic perspectives. The programme highlights their individuality, as well as their interactions with one another as they face issues such as the role of women in society, freedom of expression and the difficulty finding jobs in the new Egypt.
“By focusing on five young adults, Al Hurra’s audience is able to view a cross-section of Egyptian society revealing their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges as they go about their daily lives,” said creator and executive producer Fran Mires.
“Rayheen Ala Feen? is at times, humorous and dramatic, but always poignant. I have no doubt that these five individuals will capture the heart of the audience. Each person has their own compelling story.”
“Yousuf takes his drama seriously, therefore he refuses to appear opposite any actresses who do not take themselves seriously.”
— A source close to Egyptian actor Yousuf Al Sherif confirms he does not take on roles opposite actresses who are known for wearing skimpy clothes.
“Filming Sharbat Loz was a lot of fun, but one of the most challenging things was losing weight for that wedding dress!”
— Egyptian actress Yusra on her role in the successful Ramadan TV drama Sharbat Loz.