Born in Hyderabad to a German father and Bengali mother Dia Mirza recently acted in her first Bengali film, Paanch Adhyay. She spoke to Namrata Joshi on the Bengali in her.
I see these candid images of my mother, clicked by my father, lining the corridor walls at home. In a crisp dhakai sari, big red bindi, jet black hair with the middle parting. I never met her parents. Her father was a lecturer in Osmania University and her mother was all of 14 when she got married. Am told am quite like her. Like my grandmother am finicky about cleanliness, love to cook and have learnt her recipes. Being a Bengali is all about that—the home cooked food, the macher jhol, aloo dum. A lot of my summer holidays were spent at my Mamoni's house. I got a lot of my Bengali grounding from there, I learnt the language there. There is this word in Bangla, shushudi. I have memories of that, before a child goes off to sleep the back of its arm is stroked and tickled with nails. That's so Bengali. Then there was the Rabindra Sangeet. We used to attend the Bengali Samiti's Durga Pooja in Hyderabad. I remember the aarti, the bhog—the serving and the eating.
Bengal has been a deep, subtle influence. It's about being like my mother—not ritualistic but a big believer in Shakti. That we have the capacity within to make anything happen. My mother has always been a friend, very liberal. It reflected in the way I grew up. I listened to Brahms, Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethovan. And the ghazals too. It was all about the intellect, about stimulated conversations, asking questions. That was the way to grow. To expand by seeking, by not losing the child in you. It's difficult to encapsulate how much in me is Bengali but it is a very large part and am discovering it as I am growing older. Simple things like the powder after the bath, the way the sari is worn, the red bindi, the bath before sleeping... Since Outlook asked me I have started joining the dots and seeing that at a subliminal level there's a lot that’s Bengali in me. I have seen a lot of Ray movies, Gautam Ghosh was our house guest when my parents were in Berlin. I have seen Aparna Sen's films, love what Konkana has been doing. I love Shantanu Moitra's music. Aparajita Tumi had some great melodies.
When I started shooting for Paanch Adhyay I wasn't too sure about attempting a Bangla film. But as I got into it, familiarised myself with the dialogue I began feeling at home, totally at ease. The DNA kicked in. Shooting 25 days at a stretch for it has been the longest that I've spent in Kolkata. Earlier I was there for a few days for Parineeta.
My mother's family is spread all over the world. There is hardly anyone in Kolkata. I used to visit an aunt often back then. Visiting Victoria Memorial was a must. I remember the heat used to get me. I used to wonder at the logic of being there in summers. I also think that there's South Kolkata and then there's the rest of Kolkata. The colonial influence, the streets reminiscent of the past, the mansions of Thakurs and Zamindars. I hope none of it ever goes away from South Kolkata. I guess there's a nostalgia that most people feel for Kolkata, what brings out a strong connection, what people hold on to. Otherwise it's steel and glass facade everywhere. Our highways now look identical to anywhere in the globe.
Am amazed at how the Music World in Kolkata stores the music and movies which you won't find even in Bombay. It has a large, diverse selection reflecting the choices of the buyers. The treasure in the second hand bookstores is also unreal. Kolkata for me is the city of nostalgia. It's strong and overwhelming. I feel a belonging and familiarity. Paanch Adhyay creates a fascinating world. I wonder if it is what the city brings out. The film is a perfect ode to my mother. And to the Bengali in me.
The thing about Mumbai is, when you visit there from Belgaum, you feel like lead, and just want to lie down in bed, feeling like you are both heavy, and drained at the same time. It seems, the climate is because of the sea. But, when feeling like this, one appreciates the air, even when there is no breeze, from the sea. How one can be invigorated, and totally like I said, is really unusual.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT