Sanju's Maanyata Dia Mirza on why the role in Rajkumar Hirani's film came at just the right time in her career

Seema Sinha

June 30, 2018 12:26:33 IST

Dia Mirza has worked with Sanjay Dutt on films like Parineeta, Dus, Dus Kahaniyan, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Shootout At Lokhandwala and Alibag (not released) — and yet, when director Rajkumar Hirani narrated the script of his Dutt biopic Sanju to her, she remembers feeling incredulous at the stranger-than-fiction quality of it all. Dia plays Maanyata Dutt (Sanjay's third wife) in the film.

“It just blew my mind. I have worked a lot with Sanjay but realised that I knew so little (about him). And it is only when you hear a first-person account, with the kind of time Raju (Hirani) and Abhijat (Joshi, the writer) invested into understanding (an individual) in depth that you discover just how little you do know! Sanjay Dutt's life is so unbelievable, it's crazy,” Dia said.

A bizarre factoid that jumped out at Dia when going through Sanju's script was of Dutt apparently having 308 girlfriends. "My reaction was — 'Are you kidding? Is it even humanly possible?' Apparently it is. I found it quite amusing. But these were just affairs. It is not possible to have real relationships with so many women, possibly one night stands or short affairs,” Dia said, laughing.

Dia Mirza as Maanyata Dutt in Sanju

Dia Mirza as Maanyata Dutt in Sanju

Did Dia wonder why Hirani was making a biopic on Sanjay Dutt? "How could I even think that a biopic on Sanjay won’t be interesting!" she countered. "Since the time I joined the industry, I have heard so many anecdotes about him. Also, when you are working with Sanjay, you get a sense of his history. I was working with him during a phase when the court hearings were going on and he verdict was impending. We've all known that he's destiny's child, in a sense. And when I heard the script, I understood why Raju and Abhijat were so invested in the story. There were so many lives within one, so diverse, so layered — entertaining, exciting, crazy and sad.”

Barring Ranbir, no other actor in the film — Dia, Manisha Koirala (who plays Dutt's mother Nargis), or Paresh Rawal (portraying Sunil Dutt) spoke to Sanjay as part of their prep. Dia says she didn't discuss her role with Maanayata. “Maanayata has not been involved in the making of Sanju but I have obviously met her a lot socially. I was also very much aware of Sanjay’s life as I worked with him and later, when Maanayata came into his life. Right from those days, I have seen her journey although not closely. I wouldn’t call myself a close friend but I have always been a well-wisher because I empathised with the situation that she was in. It is next to extraordinary for any human being, especially a young mother, to go through what she did. I am sure she had the support of his family but nothing can compensate for having your partner by your side. So I have great regard for Maanayata,” Dia explained.

Like others on the Sanju team, Dia has nothing but praise for co-star Ranbir Kapoor. She especially lauds his dedication to his craft: “He has the most amazing temperament. I have worked with so many actors and I have never witnessed this level of patience and calmness in a person. It is unreal. He would have a 4 am make up call, he would sit for 4-5 hours to get the prosthetics done, and then come out in the scorching sun. He would be present in the moment 100 percent with not even an iota of irritation despite the physical discomfort. He takes professionalism to another level."

Ranbir Kapoor and Dia Mirza in Sanju, as Sanjay and Maanyata Dutt

Ranbir Kapoor and Dia Mirza in Sanju, as Sanjay and Maanyata Dutt

She said of their equation: “Because of the nature of our relationship shown in the film I had to respond to Ranbir in a certain way. When the camera was rolling, every second was precious because he is so alive and present as an actor that even if you do something organically in the moment, you get a response from him instantly. It is so rare and wonderful.”

“Off camera though," Dia continued, "Ranbir is just fun. He is like this walking encyclopaedia on the film industry. He has the most interesting anecdotes to share given that he has literally grown up in the industry. We would have good laugh when he would give us all the gossip!”

Dia may have started out with big banner projects opposite actors like Salman Khan (Tum Ko Na Bhool Payenge, 2002), Vivek Oberoi (Dum, 2003), R Madhavan (in her debut film, Rehna Hai Terre Dil Mein, 2001) but her career didn’t take off the way she expected. As she puts it: “Compared with my contemporaries, maybe I didn't do many big films, or I did big films and they didn't do well. Then it does affect people’s desire to work with you. I just had a stroke of bad luck in the beginning. At that time, the industry was very different. The approach to casting, what qualifies you to be part of a film... that certainly impacted me, my career. Today, we are more professional.”

Exciting projects died out for Dia as they unfortunately do for many actresses after they reach a certain age. "I refused a lot of offers because they were terrible," she said. "It was a very frightening phase, and it was only after a gap of over two years that I got something exciting. I really longed to be in a good film, so when Raju offered me Sanju, I was ecstatic and relieved.” Dia floated her own production house in 2010 and would also like to take up direction, “because my primary passion is story-telling and that is why I turned producer”. Her last film as a producer was the 2014 Vidya Balan-starrer Bobby Jasoos.

Dia, who lists Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Dibakar Banerjee as some of her favourite directors, is currently in talks with certain filmmakers for a web series. “To sustain a career of 17 years takes a lot of goodwill, discipline and the desire to work. I could have said 'I’m done' and stopped (acting) long ago but that hunger in me is unsatiated. I love acting, I love being in front of the camera and I will continue to pursue opportunities,” she said.

Updated Date: Jun 30, 2018 12:26 PM