Exclusive: Dia Mirza and Shreya Dhanwanthary speak out on short Grey, consent and inclusive storytelling

The streaming space has something new to offer every weekend, often leaving viewers spoiled for choice. A few days ago, Amazon MiniTV released a short film titled Gray, starring Dia Mirza and Shreya Dhanwanthary. The 30-minute short film that revolves around consent shines a light on the concept with an empathetic vision. Pinkvilla sat down for a brief chat with the short’s two main actors, Dia and Shreya, who are the focus of the story. We talked about consent, why the script spoke to them, and how much the space for female performers has changed. Read interview excerpts:

Directed by Sakshi Gurnani, Gray is about consent. How important do you think it is to have a female point of view on such topics?

Shreya: With a concept like consent, it’s a black-and-white concept. But because we don’t talk about so many things in our country, whether it’s gender, boundaries, body image, when an uncomfortable situation arises with someone we know, I don’t think we’re equipped with the tools to manage this situation. So when a movie is trying to shed some light on something like that, having an empathetic voice really helps. This is a situation that women face most often. So that helps.

Diameter : I generally try to avoid assigning a genre to a lens from which any narrative is viewed. I think there are men who are perfectly capable of looking at things with great empathy and sensitivity. But, I think, it’s definitely been a huge plus for Sakshi to have directed this narrative. It is an experience that women most often have and it is good that a woman told this story.

What spoke to you the most in this scenario?

Diameter : The story itself and the fact that it’s not typical. The nuance and simplicity of the narrative really touched me and the fact that this is a subject that really needs attention. Also, the way he was treated. These are the aspects that really attracted me to the project. I was glad Shreya was on board. She is a very intelligent and fine actress. I really learned to love her, her work and the choices she makes.

Shreya (laughs): Dia makes me sharminda (shy). The script and the story were in a gray area where we probably all found ourselves at some point. Even if the concept of consent is black and white, people do not know how to recognize a “no”. It focuses on a particular incident, particularly with someone you know. I think it’s important that something like this exists and we are nevertheless taking a small step forward.

One thing you learned about each other while filming for Gray?

Dia (laughs enthusiastically): I didn’t know Shreya had a photographic memory. She can read 6 pages of dialogue and remember every word. She’s also an amazing singer. I discovered her because she was embarrassing my life by singing songs.

Shreya (intervener): There are other things too but they are NSFW.

Dia Mirza is exactly what I had imagined. I said earlier it feels like a safe place. For someone who epitomizes safety and warmth, that would be the photo of Dia Mirza – smiling and a pretty face with the word “warmth” written next to it.

Priyanka Chopra recently said that at first the women were pitted against each other and the casting was based on the male lead. Dia, have you witnessed this since you started back then? How is it different for you today?

Diameter : It’s pretty much the same today. Unfortunately, the majority of men still control the industry. Little has changed. I think what digital media has done is at least opened up opportunities for us. We get space to be part of stories we really want to be part of.

I feel like digital media has democratized the space a lot more. So at least now we’re not ruled by the box office and things like that…which determines the selection process. Shreya is a perfect example.

And Shreya, your initial journey was very different from Dia’s. Today, screenplays are written only for women. How do you see this change that has taken place?

Shreya: The digital medium has not only changed this aspect, but it has also increased the size of the cake. The cake is bigger for everyone. Previously, I feel that access was a bit restricted. Thus, those who had a lot of luck, privilege and tenacity would come out on top. The playing field is now huge and the opportunities in front of and behind the camera have multiplied. Our sense of discernment must improve so that we can have much more quality than quantity.

Future plans?

Diameter : I am currently cycling for Dhak Dhak and have already learned to ride a bike for it.

Shreya: I do Chup with R Balki and Adbhut with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Diana Penty. Both films are different and you will like it.

Shreya, do you consciously choose intense roles? Or are you ready to make fun, airy characters?

Shreya: I want to do everything but no one looks at me and says, “Chalo, we’re going to give him something fun. In fact, pleasure is very difficult to represent on screen. Now I’m a little worried…

Diameter : I think it will be totally effortless for you because I think you are inherently a fun person.

Shreya: But no one knows.

Diameter : I’ll tell them everything, don’t worry.

Shreya: There! Next work because of Dia Mirza.

ALSO READ: Dhak Dhak: Dia Mirza previews her perfect start to the day as her son Avyaan accompanies her on sets; PEAK

About Debra D. Johnson

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