Dia, who is disarmingly easygoing comes across as more delicately beautiful and finely featured in her black and white dress than her hundreds of red-carpet photographs. Mirza may be in ultimate ass-kicking mode on the big screen this October with Acid Factory but when we spoke to the ethereally eternal beauty, she looked more like the world's most famous Barbie doll sitting on the barb wire who talked about well dressed men, the lost memory syndrome, her six male co-stars, her walking-the-edge type of roles and how she surprised her producer and director with an unbelievable makeover. Please welcome the all new Dia Mirza - rough, tough and the rugged.
What's a beautiful babe doing with not so good looking men?
(laughs) Trying to make them all look good and I think I've succeeded in doing that. The posters looks exciting, doesn't it?
You in Acid Factory remind me of Angelina Jolie in Wanted...
I think because Max, the character I play in the film is a tough woman. She is very feminine and sexy but at the same time she is strong. So I guess the vibe is in the similar space.
Any moment you can recall of having lost your memory?
(laughs) No but my mom has. I was actually talking to somebody yesterday and she said something really interesting to me. She said that she had lost her memory for six hours after falling off from a bus and a police case was filed. She had no memory of her name, where she was from, nothing. But when they asked her to sign, she just signed her name. And I was like, 'That's what the film is all about.' When you lose your memory, you don't lose yourself. You are still who you were before losing your memory. Your physicality, characteristics, intonation, reaction and your subconscious remains the same, right?
What's so exciting to make a film with no memory?
That's the most exciting part. You've planted six people in the Acid Factory who have no memory and don't know how and why they got there. It's very easy to play characters if the plot is right. My director, Suparn Verma, recalled a moment during the making of the film when I asked him that I didn't want to know anything about Max, where she is from, etc. Usually I do a character sketch for most of my films. For this one, I didn't want to know anything because there are certain plots and stories that don't need that. Acid Factory is one such film.
And what do you exactly mean?
I mean that sometimes situations are more important than pretext. Your responses to what is happening within that moment is more important. There are three things that I needed to know. One was: She was on the wrong side of the law, was unabashed about it and she was an extremely confident woman. The story of Acid Factory is a bird's eye view. Somebody else is telling you the story and that's what makes it exciting.
We hear a lot about Danny Denzongpa's etiquettes? Is that man on a mission?
Yes. Danny stands for discipline. He is a class apart. That man is so amazing to talk to. I would just spend hours chatting with him in between shots. I mean, these people are carrying history with them. They've been around for so many years. They've worked with all kinds of filmmakers and so many actors. I also found out that he has a brewery in Sikkim and he actually makes beer. He goes off into the hills and lives most of the time there. He has got a beautiful home in Juhu. He has got a gorgeous son who is studying in London and he is a kind of man who doesn't work post six in the evening. He follows certain norms by which he lives all his life. He wakes up at six in the morning and goes for a swim. He swims for about forty five minutes and is fit as a fiddle. He is an institution and it's really unfortunate that people don't give them their due credit. I think my generation hardly knows him but they should.
Go on then, don't stop. What about Manoj Bajpai?
I've worked with Manoj Bajpai in Dus Kahaniyaan. He is super fun and is actually quite a brat. People think that Bajpai has this really serious image about him but he can be really funny and can get naughty sometimes. He is the one who is thinking like - Whose arm am I going to twist today and who am I going to bully today (laughs).
Four more to go - Dino, Aftab, Fardeen Irrfan...
Dino is again somebody with whom I've worked with before. He is a wonderful person. Dino is too nice actually. Aftab is a bit of a loner. He usually keeps to himself because after pack up we never really saw him. We only heard his music (laughs). That's the way he is made. Nobody was offended by it but of course, we ragged him for not making it to all the after parties (laughs). Fardeen is one of the most well read, dignified and charming man I know. He is so under rated. And Irrfan has of course proclaimed to the world what he is all about and we have accepted it. Irrfan is also an institution.
There is one more. One who is fit to be a princess - Dia Mirza.
She has worked so damn hard (laughs). To train is one thing. We all work hard but I think after I read the script of Acid Factory, I understood that I had to work three hundred times harder on this one. It was very important to see her strength exude in even a frame of a photograph where she is just standing next to so many men. And because she had to be on par with them, she had to reflect that strength. I had to do an am-pm workout with my trainer Rakesh Udyar. He was nothing short of being a Hitler. I used to train for two hours in the morning, two hours in the evening, go all the way to Film City at five in the morning to train with Tinu Varma for the action sequences for three hours, drive back and hit the gym, go back home, catch a nap, wake up, run back to the gym again and phew! It was tough but I enjoyed it because I discovered new levels of strength that I never ever thought I had. I was lifting weights, running distances, etc. It was a huge self realisation.
What's your prerogative while you do a film then?
It's very simple. It has to be convincing and natural. I don't want people to come out of the theatre and say - What a body she had! I want them to come out and say - Wow man! She is solid and is a strong chic. She could stand her ground. She didn't look like a misfit. That's what I want.
Will a film like Acid Factory question the intelligence of the audience?
Not at all. People will love it. I think I am a fairly intelligent person. I've seen the film and I loved it. I didn't have a problem with anything. I hate when people say that it's an action film. Yes, action is a part of the film but the film is about the plot and what these guys are doing in the factory.
You've been a part of many Sanjay Gupta films off late.
Yeah but Sanjay Gupta didn't even see me for Acid Factory. He didn't even think of me for the film. Sanjay has always seen me as a sensitive, petite, demur person and he has always cast me in parts like that. Sanjay never perceives me as aggressive. He thinks that I am just a sweet little girl who's just going to take all the sh** in the world and never complaint about it, and I do that (laughs). But that does not mean there is another side to me that I'm willing to explore. If you are an actor and cannot essay different parts, then why are you acting? I had to beg to be cast in this film. I threatened them with dire consequences (laughs). Just kidding. I secretly worked out, came to Mumbai, went to his office, met with him and the director. Suparn was floored by my enthusiasm and commitment.
And you did a screen test?
I told Sanjay and Suparn that I'll do a screen test and whatever it takes to land this role in Acid Factory. In fact, very few actors in Bollywood do a screen test. I believe that screen test is a must to convince your director that you can do your part well, that you are fit for the role. But they didn't get me to do a screen test. We did a photo shoot instead.
You are so very creative.
Yes and you have to be. You'll understand when I say that it is very vital to be surrounded by people who are as enthused by what you're doing as you are. Suparn, the director got flattered by the same enthusiasm.
"I opened my wardrobe and this is what I picked. A black and white dress from a store called 'White and Black' in America. I love their stuff. Their entire store only sells white and black", and there she was, an epitome of goodness with a larger than life smile. So elegantly dressed as always. No attitude pouring down her cheeks. Only her irresistible persona and riveting presence that hits you like a tonne of bricks. We wave at each other even from an arms length, a warm hug got us close which tells, that we both were in for a good ol' session of Q and A again.