Being an actor empowers me as an activist
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Puja Talwar
What strikes you first about Dia Mirza is her warmth. She exudes an aura of cheerfulness which, to say the least, is infectious. Flashing her 100-watt smile, the actress, who is 22 years old in the film industry, says over the years her designation seems to have changed.
Making the most of goodwill
As a United Nations Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals and a UN Goodwill Ambassador, Dia has been a committed voice for social change, conservation and the environment. Her eco-friendly wedding with Vaibhav Rikhy in February 2021, and her work as a votary of sustainable fashion stand testimony to this. "When you are a full-time activist, you end up becoming a part-time actor. I feel when one is blessed with the power of influence, one needs to translate that into the power of action and truly work towards bringing change. It’s defined my purpose as an individual," she says passionately.
On the other hand, life in the film industry is like trying to find your balance on a bell curve. "I wish more people were willing to cast me," was Dia’s response when we asked the actress, who was last seen in Bheed and Made in Heaven Season 2, why her film appearances have been few and far between. "Nothing brings me more joy than being part of storytelling that can effect change. I am grateful for such opportunities that have been coming along. The activist in me is even more satisfied with the stories I have been part of, like Thappad, Bheed, and Call My Agent. I don’t know if the industry even recognises that I care deeply about being an artiste. It is something I have the greatest value for, because I recognise that being an actor, especially one in mainstream content, further empowers me as an activist," she says.
While she feels women who are married and have children are seen through a very archaic lens by the industry at times, she notes that, "When we are willing to put ourselves out there and give the time and commitment that a project needs, people respond better, which is why I feel so many more married actresses with children continue to do work that satisfies and fulfils them."
In between packing, researching and giving last-minute instructions to her staff at home before she leaves for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month, Dia confesses that this is the first time she is leaving her 2-year-old son Avyaan alone for such a length of time. "I have been telling him every day that Mama is going off to work for Avyaan," she says.
Her eyes light up at the mention of Avyaan. "There is no evidence of the terrible twos yet. He is a very gentle and peaceful child who is always asking questions and is filled with wonderment and joy. He makes every moment of our lives more alive. So we are busy dancing in puddles and singing songs, watching him dance. He loves classical music, he listens to Vivaldi, Mozart and Beethoven, and of course Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain. We were worried he would say ‘Alexa’ before ‘Mama’," she jokes, adding, "his first word was ‘Tiger’, he surely is my son."
Dia says the best compliment she received for parenting was from her mother. "She told me, ‘I love the mother you have become’; you have no idea what it meant to me," she says in a voice filled with emotion.
Dia who has always been candid about her many struggles, be it her parent’s divorce or her own in 2019, says she learnt a very long time ago that the best way to heal was to smile through the storms. "I have always been that way. My mother will tell you that as a young girl dealing with big emotions, I would always find a way to be positive and happy. There are many aspects of my life where I have had to take time out to heal, but even through those times I found a way to smile; that’s just me," she says.
Looking back, looking ahead
The actress is filled with nostalgia when she talks of Hyderabad, where she grew up. "I miss the space, being outdoors, climbing trees. I miss my home in Hyderabad — it has been demolished and a big apartment complex has come up in its place. My growing up years there taught me so much and I think a large part of the work I do today is born from that facet of my life and the time I spent with Nature."
Dia, who debuted with Rehna Hai Tera Dil Mein, says that if she got a chance to meet her 20-year-old self, she would tell her to be patient. "There is no hurry; it only ends when you decide it ends. Focus on your growth — there is nothing more empowering than that."
She will next be seen in the all-girl road trip film Dhak Dhak.