Before she became an actor, Dia Mirza was told that if she was too beautiful, she would no longer be relatable; people wouldn’t see her as a person but a distant fantasy. At first, she dismissed the idea, but later, says Mirza, this proved to be true. “When I started working in films, no one saw me as an actor or a human being. I was just a pretty face,” says Mirza, “I was told I should do a film because it has four hit songs and a superstar.”
At Express Towers on September 25 to open Screen’s 63rd anniversary celebrations with a Screen Big Picture event, Mirza was in discussion with Screen editor Priyanka Sinha Jha on
the changing face of women in cinema.
Having made her debut as a “naive 19-year-old”, the 32-year-old talked about her journey and how she launched her production house, Born Free Entertainment.
Mirza recalls the ’90s as the worst time for female actors. “Films were male-dominated, made for a predominantly male audience. I would be linked with actors and directors for the film publicity. It was demeaning and humiliating,” she says.
Mirza started refusing films — her most empowering decision so far. She then turned to social work. Soon, she bagged a “small but significant” role in Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta and Rajkumar Hirani’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai. “Vidhu Vinod Chopra took me seriously. I learnt the technicalities of making a film, which helped me start my production company,” she says. In 2011, she launched the company with Sahil Sangha. They have since produced Love Breakups Zindagi (2011) and Bobby Jasoos (2014).
Mirza believes that the industry today has more space for women. “Films have stories of women and the audience wants to watch them. The real and raw personalities of younger actresses like Alia Bhatt and Parineeti Chopra are being tapped into.” As for beauty, Mirza believes that “actresses today are immensely talented and beauty is no longer a pre-requisite.”