'With Kainaaz, I visited some very dark places': Dia Mirza on her role in web series Kaafir
Set in the backdrop of the conflict that exists between India and Pakistan, Zee5’s latest web-series Kaafir, releasing on June 15, is a story is about a young mother who happened to cross the border and is now inside a prison in India. What lies in the centre of this drama is the heart-wrenching performance of Dia Mirza, who is making her digital debut with Kaafir that also features Mohit Raina. Ahead of the release of the eight-episode long web-series that highlights our prejudices, Indulge sat with Dia Mirza to know more about the story, her character and the relevance of the story in the present political environment in the country. Excerpts:
Q: What fascinated you the most about Kaafir?
Dia Mirza: The theme and the story. They were so powerful that within five minutes of hearing the narration, I knew I wanted to be a part of this story. As an artiste and a human being, I have hungered to be a part of such narratives and this was the perfect opportunity to align my personal values and beliefs into a narrative.
Q: The trailer takes us to the world that is full of conflict. What would the series address?
DM: The theme of Kaafir addresses the prejudices we feel against other people and the prejudices we impose on ourselves as women, men, families and societies. And, we are not born with these prejudices. When a child emerges in a world, a child is just naive, happy, curious and engaged and many of the labels that children learn are taught to them — the idea of identity, religion, culture, community, etc. is taught. Writer Bhavani Iyer has a remarkable identity to keep her characters and narratives in a breathing living space that allows for the complexity and what makes us human come to the fore and within that, it gives the viewer the opportunity to discover nobility. I think we undermine the power of nobility, love, grace… these are terms that people don’t use with respect anymore. People use these terms as abuse today.
Q: The trailer is heart-wrenching. Did playing Kainaaz take any toll on your mind?
DM: With Kainaaz, I visited some very dark places. When I was preparing for Kainaaz, I wanted to ensure that I am not acting but feeling the full extent of every circumstance and be as true to that feeling as possible. And, I think when you become a part and when you open your sensories to experiencing the fullness of every emotion without allowing any fear of how dark, ugly or painful it can get, it definitely takes a toll on you. But, the environment that I was working in and the joy and satisfaction of delivering the written material made it much easier. I would go back home on a high everyday. But, I don’t think Kainaaz will ever leave me and I don’t think there is any possibility that I will ever be able to extract her from my personality because I have learnt so much from her, I have gained so much light from her character that I wouldn’t want to shed her.
Q: How do you see the political environment of today?
DM: It is polarised and not just in India but across the world. Why is it happening everywhere? If you look at the history, you will recognise that rulers and leaders served fear and divisiveness when they wanted to control and that’s how they ruled. So, wherever we allow people to foster an environment of fear, we gave them the power to destroy us. Fear, basically, extinguishes every possible opportunity for freedom.
Q: What role does art play in such times?
DM: Art plays a very important role — it transcends borders and unites people. It is the biggest unifiers on the planet and that is the function of art. Art is always fuelled by conflict and chaos. Whenever there is a conflict or chaos, it has produced the best art and that itself has made communication and peace possible.
Q: How relevant is the story of Kaafir in the present times, especially with what is happening in Kashmir?
DM: Two years ago, I went to Baramulla for an Army function and on my drive back to the airport, the Army officer sitting in the front asked me when would you be coming back to Kashmir, and I said, “I don’t know when but I really, with all my heart, hope that when I do come back, the windows and doors of these homes are open.” These are the things that we take for granted, much like many things including a normal childhood where children go to school and that’s precisely what Kaafir would also address. I really hope that every policymaker and bureaucrat watches Kaafir because I believe it may extract the humanity that has been missing for a while.