A woman doesn't have to rebel against her cultural roots to achieve empowerment, says actor Dia Mirza as she believes the portrayal of progressive female as bold doesn't hold true for a "vast majority".
The actor said her latest movie Dhak Dhak, which released in theatres countrywide on Friday, presents the aspirations of a culturally-rooted Indian woman. "I feel a certain language, tone has been assigned to women, who are being depicted as progressive. While that may be true for them, it doesn’t define the vast majority of women, who are seeking agency.
"It (the film) is so important for the rest of those women who don’t use foul language, who are not sexually avert, who are rooted in culture but are still seeking agency and empowerment. This is the story that will give those women the opportunity to say that," Mirza said.
The actor, who essays the role of Uzma, a mechanic and a housewife in the movie about four women bikers, said at this stage in her career, she wants to play impactful roles.
"I want to be part of stories that make a difference. Like, Kaafir (her 2019 OTT series) was a role of a lifetime. It was such a powerful story, written with such nuance. It shaped my journey as an artist. I was waiting for years to find something like that. Then we also have something like Dhak Dhak for the big screen."
The film also features Ratna Pathak Shah, Fatima Sana Shaikh, and Sanjana Sanghi, Dhak Dhak who embark on a biking expedition filled with emotions, adventures and self-discovery.
According to Mirza, the film doesn't show women who are rebelling against their culture and roots. "The most beautiful thing about it is that in order to show progressive women, we have not used the device of making them defiant of culture and their roots. They are rooted in their culture yet they are the ones who are seeking agency, and are out to find themselves.
"We all have that moment (of finding yourself) in life. For me, that point in life was when I discovered that so many of my choices were stirred from a place of fear. As women we inherit a lot of fear, like constantly being told, ‘don’t do this, be careful, wear this, don’t wear this, etc’," she added.
Mirza said female stars are often used as decoration in commercial projects and their characters are given little attention or significance. "We are constantly put in boxes and constantly stereotyped. Nobody was willing to see us from any other lens apart from the glam one. Most of the films were patriarchal. Women for the most part in mainstream commercial films were largely window dressing, there was just so little emphasis or importance paid to those parts."
Citing the example of some of her films like Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein and Lage Raho Munnabhai, the actor said she too has played roles that presented her as a typical heroine.
“I was fortunate that in my first film, ‘Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein’, there seemed to be a balance, there was this opportunity to stand up, express opinion but at the end of the day, she did go with the stalker, even though as endearing as he was.
"There were some roles like that (stereotypical) far and a few in between, like ‘Lage Rahe Ho Munnabhai’ and ‘Parineeta’. Like, in ‘Lage Rahe…’, she is forced to marry, she is manglik, the tradition track, etc."
Mirza said it took her 23 years to find a story like Dhak Dhak. Dhak Dhak is directed by Tarun Dudeja and co-written by Parijat Joshi and Dudeja. It is produced by Viacom18 Studios in collaboration with Taapsee Pannu and Pranjal Khandhdiya's production company Outsider Films in association with BLM Pictures.