She’s sensitive, compassionate and a humanist. Dia Mirza may have begun her career as an actress but she has gone far beyond that role. She was never the glamour doll anyway, always bringing a quiet dignity to even some of the regular, run-of-the-mill films she has been part of. Today, Dia is not just an actor and producer but also a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and recently appointed as the UN Secretary General Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals among other things.
More importantly, Dia never hesitates to voice her opinion on issues close to her heart – be it environment or politics. As is the case these days, she has had to face the wrath of trolls several times but that hasn’t stopped her from lending her support to worthy causes – in her usual dignified manner. Her current work mirrors her present attitude. Dia may be doing supporting roles now but she has been part of some of the most interesting projects of late. Most recently, she was praised for her turn in Anubhav Sinha’s hard-hitting Thappad. Last year there was Kaafir, her web-series and the supporting role in the blockbuster Sanju. Films, activism, social change… Dia is not just the complete woman but a complete human being. Her honesty is perhaps the most endearing part of her. When we questioned her about her debut film Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein that has attained cult status over the years but has many problematic parts, especially when viewed through the current moral prism, Dia does not deny it. Any wonder why a chat with her is so special?
You have done some stellar work recently. Especially in the web series Kaafir. How did it change your perception of the Kashmir situation?It heightened my perception on what human conflict can do to all people who occupy spaces that are in conflict zones, no one can escape the harsh realities that life throws at you. Some people benefit from privilege, access and education, while many continue to suffer on both sides. Kaafir is a story of human conflict at a very personal and political level. But to me, the character Kainaaz and her experiences were most defining at a personal level.
Are you looking forward to working on more such series/films based on real-life situations or political issues?Absolutely! We must continue to tell stories that are real and true. Stories that define our oneness, our connections and more so, that act as a mirror. It is only then that we continue to grow at an individual level, seeking and finding solutions to life’s diverse problems. As a UN SDGs Advocate, I find it deeply gratifying to be an artist. Through creativity and storytelling, we can bridge many social, political, economic and environmental gaps that we are collectively facing in this world.
Dia Mirza in Kaafir
When you look back at your career so far, what are the things you wish you had done differently?Absolutely nothing. I am a slow burner! I have never been a part of any race. Even in school, I enjoyed relay races more! Every film has given me deeper perspective and clarity and led me towards understanding myself better.
Your debut film Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein… has attained cult status over the years, though it didn’t do well when it released. What do you feel about it?That’s life! We most often expect to meet success immediately and are deeply disappointed when things don’t go to plan, often undermining the merits of truth and love. The intentions that backed RHTDM were honest and the music, timeless. That’s why the story continues to connect deeply with people and so many memories and lives are attached to the film!
Dia, you are a very sensitive and politically aware actress. When you look back at Rehna Hai… do you feel its relationship dynamics would have been acceptable today? In the film, the lead actor is shown to stalk a girl, lie to her, indulge in violence yet she walks away with him…There are aspects of RHTDM that must be questioned! When I examine parts of the story you mention, I find that my character Reena Malhotra did so too in the story. She calls out Maddy’s lies, confronts him and breaks up with him. There are parts that we could have done differently, may be the sequel will give us the opportunity to address these questions and more!
Dia Mirza and co-star R Madhavan in their debut film Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein
What are the films/web series in recent times that impressed you the most?Of the homegrown content, that I have managed to watch this past year, I would pick Gully Boy, Article 15, Kabir Singh, Chhichhore, Badla, Delhi Crime, Made In Heaven, Family Man and Kaafir.
The language of cinema has changed completely today. With the emphasis on small town and real life stories, do you feel that the days of larger-than-life, commercial and ‘masala’ films are over?There will be a happy co-existence of all kinds of narratives that are driven by the perspectives of varied artists and filmmakers. The best part about real stories finding acceptance and huge box office revenue is that it will encourage more filmmakers to be fearless in story-telling.
You are among the few actors who hasn’t shied away from sharing opinions on controversial issues facing the country. What gives you the strength when many of your colleagues refuse to speak out?Strength does not come from physical capacity… just like power does not come from money. It comes from a willingness to learn, understand and seek solutions as a participative citizen of the world. I learnt this very early in life from my parents, my school and then from my experiences traveling through India engaging in conversations with real people. Also, when one benefits from exposure to real problems that plague societies like gender inequality, climate change, environmental degradation and its impacts on women and children, the inequalities that little children confront, it all shapes perspective. My role as a UN SDGS Advocate, Ambassador, WildLife Trust Of India, Artist Ambassador for Save The Children and the work I do with Sanctuary Nature foundation over the years have all contributed in shaping my perspective and desire to act as a positive agent of change in whatever way I can, whenever I can.
The country is going through a grim situation and the role of celebrities is under scrutiny. What is your opinion? Do you feel celebs or influencers with a voice should speak their mind freely or risk offending parts of their fan base?As members of a democracy, we must always speak freely but speak objectively and from a place of concern and empathy only after we have got a holistic perspective on a situation. I will always stand in support of our constitution and the rights it guarantees all people that live on our land.
On the work front, what are the kind of projects that excite you the most?Stories that speak a truth. It could be any genre.
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