Dream A Little Dream…
Two days of back-to-back meetings, press conferences and evening appearances; an eight-hour flight to Bali with a longish stopover in between and despite it all, Dia Mirza still manages to walk into The Oberoi with skin glowing, hair artlessly waved around her visage and just a lashing of mascara to complete her porcelain princess look. All you blushing brides to be, slaving over two-month beauty rituals to achieve that perfect complexion for the big day, eat your hearts out. This one’s got it down pat already.
We unwind at a late lunch of nasi goreng and oversized coconuts oozing with the sweetest water while gazing at a bunch of fit, blond surfers who hit the waves with seeming effortlessness. The conversation automatically veers towards exotic dalliances; would Dia be comfortable with an across-the-seas romance, considering her European heritage.
“My dad was German; he died when I was nine. I’ve got my looks from my mother, but my complexion and nose resemble my father’s. I’m comfortable with where I come from, but ultimately, I think I would want to settle down with an Indian man. I’ve met lots of interesting foreigners, but there’s never been an iota of attraction! Besides which, I still sometimes want to live out my childhood fantasy of being a farmer’s wife, bringing him a lunch potli of bajra rotis, onion and green chillies!”
We both laugh hysterically as she explains this comment. “My mother would always talk about this idea, I guess it passed on to me too. Then there was the Doordarshan influence, my only exposure to television for years. I did move on to other dreams – living like Heidi on the Alps and milking cows or selling hotdogs in New York city, but then Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and Sooraj Barjatya brought me back to the Indian tradition of the seven-day-long weddings with churas, mehndi, haldi, shaadi songs, pheras… I want a church wedding too, where I walk down in white with my bridesmaids by my side. If I had my way, I would include a quick nikaah as well – kabool hai, kabool hai, and it’s done!
“One thing is for sure, I will get totally decked up. I want to be a gorgeous bride and create a beautiful picture and memory for my husband that he will never forget. My favourite line is from the film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai – ‘Ye dulhan waqt lagayegi!’”
It’s our one free evening in Bali before the shoot begins and we head out to a few quaint boutiques for some window shopping while Dia catches up on some sleep. A couple of hours later though, she calls, impatiently waiting for us to return. As we order our pizzas and soups by her private pool villa, I question whether she has a need for constant company. “I do enjoy being around people, but I’m also a loner. My parties are huge fun; a message goes out inviting everyone over for food and games; alcohol you get yourself, since I don’t drink and I don’t like the impersonal feel of bartenders and caterers. I’ll usually limit the guest list to 20 or so; setting the table, sorting out the crockery and cutlery, deciding the menu are all my domain. There will be lots of music – the Beatles, Carpenters, Sinatra, Pink Floyd – hip hop, alternative rock, ’80s stuff. Games like Taboo last until three a.m. Pictionary usually leads to violent fights. In general, we have a blast!”
The hands-on hostess can easily whip up “Italian, Hyderabadi and anything that involves baking; I’ve watched my mum and my cook and learnt. I’m pretty self-sufficient that way; I’ve been packing my own breakfast since I was seven. Honestly, if I were marooned on an island, I would figure out a way to build a house or light a fire.”
It will be a lucky man who wins himself this wife! “Oh yeah!” she readily agrees. “If the kitchen was up in flames, I’d know what to do. I don’t need a husband to help out if the pressure cooker suddenly bursts, or if the bulbs require changing and the gadgets have to be fixed. He doesn’t have to take over my accounts or run our home. But yes, I would want him to hold my hand when we were out and snuggle me protectively if anyone were badgering us. And definitely, he has to understand my need for cleanliness! Even now, when I walk into the house at 11 p.m., I’ll sweep and swab if the maid hasn’t been in. If he is untidy, we can’t be compatible. Unless he has a great way of making up for it – with a million dollar smile and the cutest sheepish expression in the world. Like Sultan, my Labrador. He’ll walk in from the rain, sloshy paws all over the place, but one doleful expression from him and I’m all forgiveness.”
Next morning, I walk into Dia’s spick and span suite (she has neatly lined up the Louis Vuitton bags being used for the shoot and hung the ready-to-wear dresses with military precision in the wardrobe) as she potters about in itsy-bitsy shorts and a pastel strappy top. We attempt a quick trial of the clothes and accessories and she stops to admire the workmanship of the dramatic ebony Shantanu Nikhil lehnga I am pairing with a Vuitton cocktail dress for the cover. What will she be wearing for her big day? “Don’t do this to me, you will get me killed!” she shrieks, on being asked to choose her favourites. “Tarun Tahiliani for my main wedding lehnga…he’ll do something feminine, chic and aesthetic. Maybe in a peachy-pink or even a yellow,” she muses. “Nikhil and Shantanu will have super fun with my cocktail gown. Rocky S, one of my oldest friends, will have to do an outfit for one of my receptions. There’s something so royal and elegant about Ritu Kumar’s clothes; I won my pageant in her designs, she had mentioned then that she would love to make me something when I get married. Hemant Trivedi, Rohit Bal, Vikram Phadnis; so many people I’ve bonded with over the years; I’ll be spoilt for choice.”
Then there are, “the 300-year-old saris passed down from my great grandmother to me.” And all those timeless Hyderabadi jewels she has inherited? “I will be wearing the navratna, the uncut basra pieces as well as this stunning pair of kadas my mother has given me. In general, I tend to reach out for historic, Mughal, vintage designs.”
What about the crown jewel, the engagement ring? “That depends on what my man can afford. I’ll be touched with whatever he can put together; if it’s on my finger, it will be special.” Dia’s penchant for being sentimental is evident when I question her about the best gift she could pass on. “I paint, I write, but the thing I do best is pottery. I find it so therapeutic; my attachment to mitti is more than to any expensive thing I own – I would have to love someone tremendously to give them something I’ve made.”
How perfect does this special someone have to be? “No man is ideal. You have to make the best of who you’ve got. There will obviously be some inherent quality about him that will connect us. Our basic core values have to be the same; it’s a fallacy that opposites attract, what keeps people together is their similarities. Besides, it would be nice if he was pleasant looking at least! One wants to wake up to someone who looks good. And another thing, he must be open to the idea of adopting; I want to give birth to one child for the experience and then adopt another two.
“You know, I often ask my mother, how will I know when to commit…and she calmly says, Diu, you just do. My mum remarried after my father passed away; my stepfather was more my real dad; I even took on his last name. My parents were great together; they taught me that respect breeds love. I also realised very early in life that you can lose someone you love and then learn to love again. It’s given me hope and faith and made me a great optimist. I don’t want to be with an actor because that involves too much insecurity, uncertainty and an environment of falsehood, but any other professional from my industry is okay. I believe in the institution of marriage totally; there is a reason why century after century, year after year, day after day people are following this path. And I think this belief is stronger in the youth of today, there’s no family pressure to settle down anymore, one gets into this commitment with the intention of sticking with it for life. Like Zayed (Khan) and Mallika or Arbaaz (Khan) and Malaika.”
The mood lightens as we head to the beach for our cover shot. Dia stops to admire a horse, begging us to be allowed to ride one for the feature (time does not permit us to allow this indulgence). She coos and cuddles a little puppy and then plays dreamy bride to the hilt.
I take advantage of this mood and ask her to describe her fairy tale wedding. “In India, but out of Mumbai, except for the main reception. Maybe Jodhpur or Jaipur if it’s in December. Or even my hometown Hyderabad. My girlfriends will plan my bachelorette, where they will take me out of the country and I’ll make an exception and get drunk all night. No male strippers though!
“I have plans for my sangeet; everyone will have to dance for me, do stage performances, prepare a skit… I remember a bunch of us – Riteish Deshmukh, Hrithik and Suzanne Roshan, Celina Jaitley, Kunal Kapoor, Farah Khan and me creating a musical love story for Zayed. I want that!”
We end an eventful day of racing around the resort trying to catch the perfect light and Dia chooses to relax by browsing through my purchases of the day before. “I’m careful about how much I spend,” she comments. “Brands or labels are not important. I can walk into a Prada store, eye a bag and walk out happily if I can’t afford it. I’m whimsical about what I buy. I love my 200 pairs of shoes. I won’t hesitate to pick up hand woven heirloom saris from Benaras that I can pass down to my daughter. She would go crazy with my junk collection from Accessorize.”
As I try on my newly bought flowy jersey dress and a faux snakeskin clutch, she continues, “I’m like you. I want to wear something the minute I buy it. And I do lose control occasionally; I spent Rs 50,000 at one outing in a little store at Phoenix Mills called Forever New; this was one day before I was scheduled to leave for a New York holiday.
“But at least I pack light. And it takes me half an hour to get ready – mascara, faint brown line above the lashes, enhanced cheeks, some gloss. Conditioned hair that I’ve loosened from its wet knot or at most, a few minutes with a straightening iron.”
So we know she won’t keep the husband waiting on her honeymoon and thereafter. “Honeymoon!” she interrupts. “I want to go to Greece, Italy, France; actually, the entire European belt. For one month at least. I’m happy to pay if my husband can’t. Or, we’ll go to Goa. I can enjoy the world anytime,” she merrily chirps.
And enjoying the world, she is. Globetrotting is already part of her daily life, as is the notion of settling down. “I love that question, because I always say to everyone – I’m already settled. Owning your own house, living independently, caring for a dog like a family member; aren’t those all parameters of being settled down?”
They sure are, but what about the dream wedding and the happily ever after marriage then? “All in good time,” she twinkles. “Give me another three years.” We’re counting the days, Dia.