By Jean-Paul Eliard
27 November 2023
Hi Mia, I'm glad to do this interview
Can you introduce yourself to the visitors of cinema-movietheater.com?
I’ve been acting since the age of 16, but my formal education was consolidated after graduating from the National School of Drama, New Delhi.
I’ve received training by some of the finest international artists of this world.
Ethnically, I am part-Bengali and part-Nepali.
I was born and brought up largely in Calcutta until I finished university. My family currently lives in Mumbai and Jaipur however I get to work from any part of this world where I am invited to work.
I have maintained a consistent career in international films as a leading artist along with stage.
The work has been showcased and lauded at major festivals such as Sundance, TIFF, Venice, BAFTA, MAMI..etc. My last two feature films are Stolen & The Braid (La Tresse), both released in 2023.
What could you tell us about your character Smita?
Smita is resilient and sharp. I like the way she is strong and gets physically
and mentally stronger as the story unfolds.
You can see her in whichever way you prefer. She seems so mundane and ordinary, who comes from the lowest strata of our society and yet she is full of surprises.
What did you like when you read the script of this movie?
I loved the universality of the experiences. The writing and the acutely
portrayed nuances of life.
Although The Braid is a work of fiction partly about contemporary India, it was hard for me to believe a French author wrote it!
In Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, there is a famous line that goes, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
And yet, there is something universal about the suffering of the underprivileged, irrespective of their geopolitical background.
The way lower-caste communities were depicted in the book, as per my experience - is as authentic as their actual conditions.
How did you prepare for your role?
As a trained actor, of course I had a method.
I met the community of janitors and human scavengers to understand their daily struggles and how they cope with the risks of their jobs.
I picked up their body language and dialects of women from the community after reaching the shoot. However my director and coaches were constantly sending
me references and links related to news articles and documentaries too.
My fitness routine was designed by my coach who is my elder brother Mrinal
I needed to look lean yet strong enough to pick buckets and baskets over my head, fight villains on a railway bridge, and trek the mountains of South India with Sajda on my back. It was an intense training and isolation that prepared me for Smita. The challenge was to look determined and yet not a victim, even though so much was happening in the story with her. She is a mother after all.
I didn’t want her to be misunderstood as a weak woman just because she is poor or untouchable.
I felt she was the heroine of her own life and an example for her daughter. Here I had to perform a visible character from an invisible community.
I felt like I was walking a very tight rope to not make her a larger than life heroine - but the protagonist who is determined to change her destiny. Unless this was maintained I could have slipped off from the resonance that the book had on its readers.
Even my voice had to change a bit keeping the community in mind. I would usually start preparing my body first and then allow my director to take me into the story so I don’t look over-rehearsed. But to look that natural, I had to rehearse a lot.
How was the shooting with Sajda Pathan, Avi Nash and the director Laetitia Colombani?
I have never met Avi Nash yet beyond the screen. And on screen he is magical.
As for Sajda, her magic is my pride and left me bewildered.
She had been one of my finest co actors I got to work with in my life. I feel exactly like a mother when she is around me so naturally she is like a daughter who needs it all from her mom and why not? After all she is truly a god’s child. She is very focused and has a typical wild-calm balance which I like.
She taught me a lot.
And my director Laetitia, she is such an impactful artist and brings out
the best of humanity in all of us.
I think she is someone who built a lot for me today because I managed to hand over the clay she could build her Smita with.
This possibility is probably our casting director’s foresight who spotted the chemistry between us and I am so grateful to Mr. Dilip Shankar for casting me as Smita. Working with her is the smoothest flow ever felt however it was easy also because her characters are so strong, she pushed me with a great smile. I love it when I am challenged with faith like how she believed in me.
It’s every actor’s dream. She is a great actor herself and has directed the greats too so she knew how to tie the blindfold around her actors and prepare them to dive. It was pure adrenaline.
Where is the movie shot?
The film is shot in India, Italy and Canada.
* What memory do you have of the filming?
So difficult to even name one!
The friendships and family that we have managed to build is really special.
The shooting was extremely hot for sure.
One of the greatest memories is Sajda looking at my shaved head. The first moment I saw myself reflected in a child‘s eye so up close in a state I didn’t know who I was anymore.
That wonderful moment is probably one of the best moments in my life, not just the shooting. It was a moment of self discovery and empowerment.
You attended several drama schools in different countries.
** Is there a theatre school from a country that you preferred?
Actually, I have only attended
the National School of Drama (New Delhi,
India) formally on a full scholarship. Rest of the training experiences I received are from places those have either invited me on part scholarship or full when the directors of the institutions or companies have taken their classes within India, barring once
in Beijing, China for the Asian Theatre Exchange program of UNESCO with the Indian theatre’s national team under Prof. Rita Ganguly. So I would like to say I am a rare breed of actor who was internationally trained within India before becoming an international actor.
What is your next challenge / project?
I want to find myself with a project
that puts me into a narrative where
I explore some new life skills, like something I have never thought of doing before. Maybe something like science-fiction?!
Do you wish to add something ?
The world is facing many grave challenges today.
The threat of war, poverty, climate change and accelerating technology is consuming our lives.
I just hope that peace is something we don’t have to fight for in the future. This is why cinema and art has become extremely important to continue our dialogues of hope today more than before.
The magic of empowering and entertaining people through cinema is something I am relying on to express myself through.
Thank you very much for your
interview Mia I wish you all the best
* "Mia Maelzer is an award-winning actor based in India. She is best known for her leading role performance in The Field, a short film by Sandhya Suri that is in The Criterion Collection now. The film won The Best International Short Film Award at Toronto International Film Festival 2018 and had its first premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. This film was also nominated at the prestigious BAFTA 2019 followed by the Indian Film Festival Los Angeles, where it won the grand jury award 2019"
** Mia graduated from the National School of Drama (NSD) in 2016. She is primarily trained in American acting by David Lee Strasberg (New York), European Acting by Ariane Mnouchkine (Paris), Koodiyattam (Ancient Eastern Acting Method) by G.Venugopalan (India), Classical Indian Acting by Rita Ganguly (India) along with many other forms across the world.