'Not being in front of the camera, that thought was scary.'
'At that time, Raju sir came in as a maseeha.'
Dia Mirza plays Maanayata Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani's Sanju biopic.
The titular character, of course, is played by Ranbir Kapoor, whom Dia describes as a 'formidable force of nature'.
Looking pretty in a brown checkered dress accessorised with a belt and brown pumps, Dia is all smiles despite the numerous interviews she has been giving to promote Sanju.
"Ranbir Kapoor is the most alive actor," Dia tells Rediff.com contributor Urvi Parikh.
You worked with Rajkumar Hirani in Lage Raho Munnabhai. What has changed in so many years?
Nothing. We have just grown up.
I don't know how is it possible for someone to see the success that he has and still remain so grounded and normal. He is exactly the way he was.
When I first worked with Raju sir, he was the first director who made me feel respected. He gave me the opportunity to voice my opinion.
When we had workshops and discussed scenes, we explored the characters and the situations.
He was so open to different viewpoints and opinions. That is amazing.
For me, at that time, it was a liberating experience because I had not worked with those type of film-makers.
I always worked with directors who told me what to do.
At some level, those film-makers didn't feel the need to engage in a conversation about the film's characters.
Even now, Raju sir is the same. He is open to suggestions and questions.
I joke about this, but it is a fact -- Lage Raho Munnabhai was one of the first full scripts I heard.
Up until then, directors would give me a one-line direction and the details were given on the day of the shoot. Maybe it was how things worked back then.
Raju sir spoilt me. I always wondered why others can't do the same.
But I was lucky. After that, I worked with Reema Kagti on Honeymoon Travels Private Ltd and that was a different experience too.
Did you say yes to Sanju because of your equation with Rajkumar Hirani or because the role interested you?
It is a combination of many things.
After I did Love, Break Ups, Zindagi, I produced Bobby Jasoos.
In the meantime, many films were offered to me. I did not like what came my way.
It was a terrifying phase of my life.
I always joked that ever since I became an adult, the only work I knew was to become an actor. And then saying no, that was frightening.
Not being in front of the camera, that thought was scary.
With every 'no', the gap increased.
The lack of surety that it is going to happen some day and that the dry spell will go away and I will finally break out of this...
At that time, Raju sir came in as a maseeha.
I was like Thank God! This is awesome.
To be able to do a movie on the life of a person with whom I have done so many movies, that is interesting. I was grateful and happy.
Now that I look back, I realised it was so good to say no to bad movies back then.
What prep went into playing Maanayata Dutt, about whom there are a lot of preconceived notions?
Everybody has preconceived notions about everyone in public life.
Until you get into the details, you don't know the truth.
We all have a sketchy outlook about people who are in public life.
Even in the public discourse about Maanayata, there has been an unquestionable reality that she has been a strong support to Sanju sir.
She has stood through him, by him, with him in what could be described as a tumultuous and challenging period for anybody.
She bore children for him, and raised them when he was away.
There is nothing but big respect for her.
How many times did you interact with Maanayata for the role?
Raju sir and Abhijat's (Joshi, writer) research was too strong. They had all the answers to my questions.
The little bit of homework that I did was to watch videos of his (Sanjay Dutt's
I have known her socially for sometime now.
I have, in my own way, witnessed her journey from the outside. The insight was provided totally by Raju sir.
As an actor, I just wanted the honest emotions to come out in the movie through my character.
If I achieve that, that's it.
Is this your most challenging role?
It was tough.
Before any scene, I would ask questions.
I asked myself questions as Maanayata and I would be overwhelmed by it.
I wouldn't have an idea of how she had the fortitude to do whatever she did.
Has Sanjay Dutt or his family watched the movie?
No, none of them have watched the movie. They will hopefully watch it with the cast and crew.
I asked Sanju sir about the movie. He is very shy to say anything. Also, a bit embarrassed.
How was it working with Ranbir Kapoor?
He is an incredibly talented actor.
The most endearing thing about him is his temperament.
I am yet to meet a grounded, normal, simple person on a film set.
He would sit in prosthetics for five hours, come out in scorching heat.
He would have been physically uncomfortable, but not once did I see him irritable or agitated, even for a second.
He was like in zen mode.
I asked him if he meditates.
My husband is like that. I ask my husband: Were you meditating in your mom's womb?! He has so much patience!
I have no idea how they do it.
Ranbir Kapoor is the most alive actor in the scene.
If you try to surprise him with something, his response is instantaneous. It is not even an afterthought.
While I am talking to you, if I reach out to your hand, you would not hold it, but he would. He is that alert.
I would smile after every shot.
You have known Sanjay Dutt. Now that you know a lot about his life, what do you think of it?
He has led an extraordinary life.
One that has been subjected to extreme and constant public opinion.
Right from the day he was born to this day, he has been in the public eye.
I cannot even imagine how terrifying it is.
And despite that, the flaws, the upheavals, he remains such a generous, kind and affectionate human being.
He has been very protective towards me.