– By Farhad Dalal
With back to back releases in December in the form of Aarya 2 and Decoupled, Dilnaz Irani is riding on a high. In an Exclusive Interview with Farhad Dalal from Popcorn Reviewss she talks about her struggles early on, how the onset of OTT has resulted in opportunities for artists like her and the year 2022 ahead.
1. Firstly, congratulations on the success of Decoupled and Aarya 2. How has all the attention been lately?
2. Do you reckon that with the rise of OTT platforms, more and more newer artists are being recognized and welcomed?
Yes, for sure everyone is getting noticed. And by everyone I mean everyone from directors, to cinematographers and other technicians- everyone is benefitting from it. Many new people are getting chances to showcase their talent. And soon it could lead to saturation, similar to the one which we witnessed with television. But I believe that will motivate people to work harder and produce fresh content as well. So in terms of opportunities it is a BIG YES! The pandemic was a difficult time but thankfully work has begun now. More importantly, there are so many different kinds of roles being written in different web shows which does lead to good opportunities for me. The canvas of OTTs is such that there is a whole characterization graph where you truly get to live a character. And being an actor, I love living different lives through the characters which I essay. So yes, really happy with it!
3. Take us through your Highs and Lows in the 20 years that you have been in the Industry.
So my first assignment started in Star bestsellers(on Star TV network) while I was working as a Software Professional. Soon the TV industry boomed and I had won the Gladrags Mega Model contest, so I got noticed while I was modelling. And 4 years into my IT professional career, I decided to call it quits. It was a big decision for me as I was leaving behind a steady job that gave me a stable income. This also meant that I had to go against people around me who were discouraging me from pursuing a career in acting. After leaving my job, there was work for me but that did not translate into work which was payable. And after a point it does become difficult surviving in a city like Mumbai. My career graph has always been up and down. After every big project, suddenly I found myself with no work. In between I saw my colleagues doing well and I would be lying if I would say I wasn’t insecure. Everyday was a fight to be secure, the battle was more mental and internal. Being an actor is not easy as you have to deal with a lot of rejection daily.
You really need to be mentally strong but there are times when you question yourself. While I never doubted my abilities as an actor, I used to wonder if this is even meant for me. And this included me doubting my looks or not doing enough PR(Public Relations). There was a time when I did think of quitting acting or maybe just opting to become an acting teacher professionally. But the universe had other plans and it had a habit of giving me a big thing every time(it still does). While chatting and discussing with a friend about me wanting to quit acting, I landed up with the offer of Jodha Akbar. The same thing happened two years back before the pandemic where the only work which I had was theatre plays which didn’t pay me well. But thankfully post the first wave of the pandemic, offers started beginning to pour. I feel a major difference between then and now is that the process is more streamlined in the industry and that has definitely benefitted me.
4. Does the length of your role matter to you while selecting a script?
5. You have gained success in Theatre and OTT, which one would you prefer over the other and why?
Theatre is always Home for me. It is definitely my first love and I do have a soft spot for it. It probably is because I started off with theatre plays and I have been a part of more than 50 plays. I am the SRK of theatre(laughs). The thing is I do get a lot of lead roles with meaty parts which for an actor is always interesting. In OTT, I haven’t yet transitioned into lead roles. The feeling of performing in front of a live audience just gives me so much pleasure! But I feel I do not want to limit myself either. Basically for me camera is a medium – be it Television or Films or OTT, I enjoy being in front of the camera too. In 20 odd years that I have been in the industry, you have the amount of experience to tweak your performance whether it is for a play or OTT. So I reckon both are equally important for me and both are currently providing me ample of good opportunities.
6. Recently, you had posted a picture of yourself with a caption on how hard it has been tackling trolls who have been fat shaming. We at Popcorn Reviewss are criminally against it. But with several jokes being made on even popular comedy shows, do you think people need to be more responsible while consuming such content? Also, how hard is it for you personally to handle such trolls?
Ofcourse, one definitely needs to be responsible, be it the audience or a filmmaker. For instance, if a filmmaker is dealing with issues like Mental Health, Violence or Fat Shaming, he definitely holds the key of being responsible. Whether he chooses to showcase what the society is through his film or showcase what is wrong in the society along with possible solutions, the decision lies with him. In Decoupled, there were instances where the character of Madhavan was being called out for being a sexist. But in no regard was he being glorified, so for me it was just a portrayal of a character. So at the end of the day, the filmmakers should realise that it is the society who emulates onscreen antics. Regarding the fat shaming bit, with Instagram and the use of filters for pictures, people do not realise that Social Influencers take about a hundred pictures before finalizing the best one which is then uploaded. You need to understand that real life is very different from reel life. You do not have a flat stomach, it will curl! People aren’t aware of several reshaping tools that are used for pictures. So when celebrities are called out for being fat, it causes an eating disorder which in turn leads to several mental disorders leading to needless surgeries. I know of a few celebrities who have opted out of social media and have taken therapy sessions. People need to understand that Fat is not necessarily bad, people can be flexible too. It is the 21st century and it is important that we break the boxes that we have been residing in. So I wish to touch a few people through my posts on fat shaming. I do get DMs of many women which makes me realise the same. I am no saint either, I too put out my best pics, we all do. But somewhere we need to draw the line. Social media is great but needs to be balanced out as well. So I do not argue with the trolls, I choose to ignore. But my posts do all the talking!
7. What does 2022 hold for you? Any upcoming projects or theatre plays which we should be looking forward to?
Year 2022 definitely looks very promising. There is a series lined up on Amazon Prime which would be out soon, the official announcement is awaited. Other than that there might be another film releasing this year. Also 2022 would be keeping me busy. I start shooting for a film next week and there is a new play which I am a part of which got slightly delayed due to the omicron variant. So exciting times ahead!