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Redefining Bollywood Romance

Apr/07/2024 / by Abhijit Masih
Fawzia Mirza

Fawzia Mirza explores sexual orientation in their latest award-winning film

When it comes to Bollywood romance, Fawzia Mirza has fearlessly flipped the script. Through their groundbreaking film The Queen of My Dreams — recently nominated as a Festival Favorite at SXSW—Mirza presents the traditional romance through a queer perspective. As a writer, director, producer, and actor, they have charted underlying themes of identity and self-discovery that continue to pave the way for the next generation of filmmakers. We spoke to them about their journey and what’s next. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in filmmaking?

At first I wanted to be an actor—I did theater and speech team in high school. But when I went to college, my family wanted me to focus on “a serious career.” I decided to go to law school in Chicago. It was there I realized I loved acting. I took a class and promised myself I’d pursue it. 

But I needed a job immediately, so ended up getting a job at a law firm as a litigator at a firm in downtown Chicago. It was there that I started lawyering by day and taking acting classes at night. I started eventually writing because there weren’t authentic roles representing my identities. And then the last few years I’ve completely pivoted into writing and directing. 

What inspired you to create “The Queen of My Dreams”?

THE QUEEN OF MY DREAMS was the name of my first short film I made that world premiered in 2012. It is inspired by the famous song “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani” from the 1969 Indian film Aradhana. I then developed a one-person show with the help of a Chicago-based company Catharsis Productions and Brian Golden. The feature is a loose adaptation of that play. The film centers love and hope and possibility. 

The film explores themes of identity and self-discovery. Can you share some insights into why these themes are important to you as a filmmaker?

I believe film and art can save lives. My first short film I made out of necessity—trying to understand if I could be South Asian and Muslim and love Bollywood romance all at the same time. The short film was a very public way of dealing with a very private struggle. Making that film helped me, sharing that film helped me and others. It was then that I realized the power of filmmaking and sharing your story. For me, art is liberation.

The film has garnered attention for its LGBTQ+ representation. How do you see the role of cinema in promoting inclusivity and diversity?

Art saves lives. Art also serves as a way to show people the humanity of all of us. 

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers, particularly those who may face challenges related to their identity or the themes they wish to explore in their work?

Everyone has a story to tell—don’t be afraid to tell it. Being who you are, your most authentic self, is a powerful thing.

Seema

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