A tale of cross border struggle


A tale of cross border struggle

Bollywood star Dia Mirza talks to City Times about her experience of shooting for web series Kaafir, which premieres in the UAE today

By Arti Dani

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Published: Sat 15 Jun 2019, 11:40 AM

Last updated: Mon 24 Jun 2019, 6:53 PM

There comes a point in everyone's life when they no longer feel the need to get validation from anyone. To feel sufficient is perhaps one of the most fulfilling feelings in this world. Bollywood star Dia Mirza seems to be at that point in her life. While talking exclusively to City Times, the actress said that she feels in sync with her dreams, aspirations and her contribution to the world of art. "Right now, I feel like I know my mind and my heart better than I ever have. And I feel grateful that I can channelise that understanding into the work that I am doing - whether it is content generation or working as UN advocate or just being able to use my voice is such a privilege."
The 38-year-old actress added that she is having the time of her life exploring various aspects of being an artist. "I don't go to work a single day because I am having so much fun doing everything that I do, be it acting or producing. I am having the time of my life."
Dia also feels that the world opening up and respecting the contribution of women at the workforce is perhaps the reason why women are discovering the potential of their voice and life and using it to the optimum. She was talking to us about her latest digital series Kaafir, which premieres today. She will be seen exploring an unfamiliar territory in this eight-episode show, where Dia portrays the life and the struggles of a young Pakistani mother and her daughter who crossed over to India and are held as prisoners.
Going digital
Dia came into the spotlight when she won the Miss Asia Pacific title in 2000. Her debut film Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein did not do well at the box office, but it developed a cult following in the coming years and is one of the most watched movies on Indian television. She was recently seen in Ranbir Kapoor's Sanju in a special role. As for her latest digital project, Dia Mirza said that the theme of the show inspired her to be part of the story. "At a time like this, we need these kinds of human stories. As an artist, it gives me a great sense of pride and pleasure to be part of this project. Kaafir was also very challenging because this was a character that comprises a solid emotional core and understanding of what it meant to be trapped in conflict and what it does to the human spirit. I feel so strongly about these themes as a human being."
This story is based on actual events, and the 38-year-old actress feels confident that this show will transcend all barriers. "I play a Pakistani woman, Kainaaz Akhtar, who is in prison in India for seven years ,whose case is fought by an Indian lawyer. The story is about why and how she got there and her circumstances in prison. It is also about her journey with a lawyer because he has a reason to help her. There is also a child involved." 
Emotional investment
Directed by Sonam Nair and written by Bhavani Iyer, Kaafir is set in Kashmir. Though Dia spent a lot of time studying her character in a workshop with Atul Mongia, she knew that she wanted not to act the part but to become the part. "The preparation entailed an inward journey, and it required me to go to places that I have never been to before. Hence, apart from the workshop and script reading, there was a lot of emotional investment." 
Dia also studied a lot of literature that contained human conflict to help her absorb and develop a more profound sense of understanding and empathy of what freedom means to an individual. "Also, I read a lot about what the India-Pakistan partition did to people and how it continues to affect the social and political climate of both countries. I read a lot of Manto and other progressive writers. There is a song called Bol that is written by Manto and sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan. I kept going back to that song as it became my sensory reference. So from reading books to making music playlist to just finding everything that I could in my heart to feel what I could in this journey, were my preparation for this film," she added.
Kaafir was mostly shot in Himachal Pradesh even though the story of the show is set in Kashmir, but the entire team tried to make sure to look and sound as authentically Kashmiri as they could. "In an ideal world, we would have shot in Kashmir but we couldn't. We had to shoot in locations that geographically looked very similar. The cinematographer Pratiksha had such incredible gravity that it is difficult to believe that we did not shoot in Kashmir," said Dia. 
What's Kaafir about?
Kaafir chronicles the life of a young Pakistani woman (Dia) who comes to India through a strange series of circumstances and is unable to return home.
The series revolves around the relationship between the woman, who is accused of militancy, and her Indian lawyer (Mohit Raina) who makes her justice his sole objective.
Dia is a fan of meditation
Meditation helps the actress unwind and keeps her sane in this world, which can get chaotic at times. "Meditation, meditation, and meditation. It means the world to me. I cannot even emphasize the power of centering your mind. I meditate 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. I have been meditating for years." 
Traumatic scenes in Kaafir
Does playing such intense characters take a toll mentally as well on an actor? Dia says it does. "Some moments (in Kaafir) were so profoundly traumatic. There were so many scenes when even the camera would be cut, and we would continue crying because we were so overwhelmed by what the person had felt during that moment. Some of the scenes were so emotionally empowering that we would be hugging and crying even minutes after the shot was cut. There were moments when my director would take her headphones off because she couldn't take what she heard anymore. But it was so precious to be able to experience, witness what this woman must have felt."
Dia in the digital world 
Dia is not new to the digital space as she just created a show for a web platform. She enjoys the liberty of being part of the digital world where creativity knows no barriers. "This place gives you the freedom to tell the story that you want. It has empowered storytellers and actors in a way that the box office never allowed us." Her top favourite shows on the digital space are Delhi Crime, The Crown, and Black Mirror. arti@khaleejtimes.com

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