The ‘Student of the Year’ has grown up. Alia Bhatt on her breakthrough experience of shooting for Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’, being a Patakha Guddi, singing for AR Rahman, achieving the perfect body and being a Jennifer Lawrence fan girl.
From Karan Johar’s Student of the Year (SOTY) to Imtiaz Ali’s Highway, how would you describe the worlds of your two directors?
The world is entirely different because the content of the films is different. SOTY and Highway are like South and North. I had to do a lot of learning before SOTY. Since it was my debut film, I didn’t know anything at all when I faced the camera. I had no idea about clothes and make up. I had to learn to walk in heels. I learnt doing ‘the heroine thing’ in SOTY. On the other hand, Highway was all about connecting with myself. Highway has been a life changing experience. I come from a protected environment of a Juhu house and I wasn’t exposed to life as shown in Highway. It’s not that I’m a snob but I was cocooned from the reality of life. The film made me aware of life and myself.
What’s been your biggest takeaway from working in Highway?
The film has impacted me on a deep level. I feel if it weren’t for the film, my life wouldn’t be the same. That’s the reason I really want this film to do well because it has been THE experience of my life. I’m not the same person after this film.
The film’s team has some really interesting Highway diaries to share. Can you tell us about your shooting experiences?
I had a lot of questions and self doubts whether I’d be able to shoot the film the way Imtiaz wanted it to be like. But I connected with the character on such an instinctive level that I decided to go all out. I sat on the ground, swung from the trees, learnt to live without hot water and electricity. Sitting on a chair became a luxury. I didn’t look at the monitor once during the shooting, which was vastly different from SOTY where I wanted to see every little frame to see how I was looking. I didn’t even brush my hair while shooting for Highway. We travelled throughout the country, into the villages and I got to meet so many women — real women — and I realised how strong they are. They have so little but they have such depth. City living makes us so disconnected with reality — we are in our bubble. At least I was. I’ve also been bashed for it but I’m honest about it.
What is Imtiaz Ali’s special quality as a director that you connected to?
Imtiaz has this quality that makes everyone around him feel really passionate. It’s a little more for him than the film. He’s a really good person and that’s what I like most about him.
Did your dad Mahesh Bhatt give you any advice for Highway?
He told me, ‘you’re going to have a life changing experience while making this film’. He would like it when I would call him up from the shoot location sounding so exhausted. I think he liked the tired tone in my voice — not in a sadistic way but he was happy that I was working so hard.
Were you nervous when you were asked to sing Sooha saha for AR Rahman?
I was very nervous but I was also excited. Though I’m not a trained singer, I knew that I’m not a bad singer. But I didn’t think I’d be able to impress Rahman sir. I’m just glad he didn’t throw me out of the recording studio. I’m very grateful to him and the experience was so good that I’ve decided to learn music. I’ve asked my mom to arrange for a music teacher for me.
You are all of 20 but you appear so confident in your public appearances. What do you attribute this to?
I think my confidence stems from my honesty. I’m brutally honest — about everything and even myself. I tell it as I think it. I’m not politically correct. I’m definitely not diplomatic. I get bashed up for what I say but I don’t know any other way. As actors, we are always playing other characters. It’s so exhausting and time consuming to figure them out so when you get the time to be yourself, you should take it.
How do you deal with the pressure of looking good all the time?
Even though I try not to overthink and dress the way I want to, I admit that there’s way too much pressure on female actors to look good. I’m well aware that I don’t have the perfect body type. I’m constantly struggling with myself to achieve the perfect body.
But does something like a ‘perfect body’ exist?
It does in my head. I want to be fully toned. I know I’m not there yet but I’ll get there.
So have you given up food or what?
No, no. I eat. I’ve just given up fried food but on my cheat days I have French fries. I’ve given up wheat completely though—no rotis and bread for me.
Is there any Pooja Bhatt film that you wish to be remade with you?
Not really. But if it were to happen then it would be Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin. I’ll be too scared to attempt it because the magic won’t be recreated. But then they did it with Aashiqui 2 and they were quite successful so maybe.
Is it a dream to be directed by your dad?
Oh yes. Definitely. But it probably won’t happen.
But does he direct you in real life? Maybe stage scenes at the dinner table?
(Laughs) No, he doesn’t.
Do you keep tabs on the work of your colleagues?
Yes. I watch films and I like to check out what the other girls are doing. Right now, Deepika Padukone is at the top of her game and I’m very happy for her. She really deserves all the accolades and success coming her way. She’s worked really hard for this. Personally, I’m a Jennifer Lawrence fan. More than just her acting, I love
Do you have a dream role?
Not really. I like to keep it real and take up what’s offered to me. The best things in life happen when you least expect them. I’ve imbibed this from Highway and its theme of Patakha Guddi which symbolises the spirit of being free, of not being worried about anything and being comfortable in your own skin.