She’s the industry’s sunshine girl, the toast of tinselville. If she showed her subter- ranean depths in Highway, she cast her spell in 2 States and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. At a time when heroines had stopped having a voice, Alia Bhatt came to redefine a new voice in Bollywood; fearless with novel choices and with acting chops that every blue- blooded actor would be proud of. The pretty and petite Bhatt is truly the defining actor of this decade. The actress gets chatting about the year gone by and her future projects…
Last year was a splendid year for you with three hits. How do you look back at 2014?
■ It has indeed been a very hectic year. Frankly, I didn’t preempt how the year was going to go in the beginning. The year started with Highway, and that took the nerve out of me. But I am very grateful that as each film released, the kind of love, appreciation and support I got was almost unbelievable. I just learned how to enjoy and am very happy about how it passed.
What was the highlight of the year?
■ It is very difficult to select, because each film comes with its own journey, while making it and then releasing it. All the three films were very different from each other, and I am very emotionally attached to all my films. I must say that what made the year very excitable was my video, Genius Of The Year. It got six million hits. I didn’t expect it, as I just did it in fun, but the kind of response that it got definitely surprised me. You can call that a high- light!
Three hits in a row! Obviously you must be snowed with offers. How do you select your films?
■ I will be very honest. There were no elaborate sit down meetings or scripts on my table for the films that I had selected. The selection was pretty quick, and honestly it was decided on instinct. If I don’t instantly imagine myself doing a film or am not excited, then I let go of the film. I feel that if I have to think a lot before doing a film, it means that I am not doing the film for the right reasons.
You have achieved so much at such a young age. How do you handle your success?
■ Of course, there’s this fear of things going wrong or making a mistake. But I don’t keep thinking that at 21 this is what I have achieved. In that way, there’s no baggage because that means taking yourself too seriously. And I genuinely try not to do that. Acting is something I have been passionate about ever since I can remember, and I am enjoying it rather than saying that, ‘Oh My God I have to do it’ types.
You have wrapped up Vikas Bahl’s Shaandar. Can you elaborate a bit about the film. Is it a spoof on the great Indian wedding?
■ No it’s not a spoof at all. I think it’s too soon to talk about Shaandar, but to sum it up for you it’s a bunch of mad people making a film. Hopefully, the the audience will find this mad film interesting. My character is also something I have never played before. I had not seen Queen, but when I met Vikas (Vikas Bahl, the film’s director), I was very excited to be a part of Shaandar, because I was instantly attracted to what he was trying to pitch to me. He did not even have the full script at that time, but there was some kind of madness in the film which was very, very attractive and I signed it.
What was your experience playing Pankaj Kapur’s daughter?
■ Oh, it was amazing. Pankaj Kapur is such a fabulous actor, and so professional. I have learnt so much from him. Considering, the years of experience, he has had, he’s still so unsure about what he is doing. And that is very inspiring for us youngsters. When he has a scene to do, he comes on the set, full of excitement.
Can you recollect the most memorable part of the shoot?
■ I find this question very hard to answer, especially when you are shooting a 40-50 day schedule on an outdoor. It’s very difficult to find one day which was the most memorable. We were like a family travelling together in the UK and Poland, but this journey was altogether very different. So, there’s no one particular moment that I can really pick out.
Coming to Mani Ratnam’s film with Dhanush, is there any particular reason you didn’t want to do the film?
■ I really wouldn’t want to comment on that.
Your unplugged rendition of Main tenu samjhava ki in Humpty Sharma…, spoke volumes about your penchant for singing. And then you opted out of Rock On! 2 for Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab, which is touted to be a film on drug abuse in Punjab.
■ Yes I am doing Udta Punjab, but I wouldn’t want to comment on it either. It’s very early to talk about the film right now. All I can say is that it is definitely different and edgy. I am genuinely not sure when we will start shooting, but it will be sometime early this year.
Is Kareena Kapoor Khan in the film?
■ I wouldn’t want to comment on that either!
Going back to your films this year, what did you discover about yourself whilst doing Highway. You did a road movie after having led a very protected life.
■ It wasn’t only one thing that I discovered while doing Highway. It was kind of discovering myself. There is no doubt that it was a turning point in my life, something that carried a lot of import. I don’t think I can quantify when I say I discovered myself, because there was a connection even though I still didn’t know who I was as an individual.
Imtiaz tapped an emotional side of me which I never knew existed. I led a very protected life, but there was always some question mark even when I was very young. Like in school, I would always walk away by myself and others would make fun of me. I think there has always been a wanderer with- in me which was reflected in Highway.
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania presented a completely different side of Alia, spontaneous and daring.
■ The way Shashank (Shashank Khaitan, the film’s director) pitched the story to me was so interesting. In real life, we are so inspired by films and imagine your favourite film (Dilwale Duhania Le Jayenge) become a reality! It was his first film, and Shashank had struggled a lot, but he made it with honesty and purity. It was not a hugely mounted, big budget film, but it had a heart and people connected with it. I was working with Varun (Dhawan) and we share that kind of relationship which worked very well for the film.
Are you doing Shashak’s next with Varun?
■ That’s also something I do not want to comment on!
You also have Ayaan Mukherjee’s film with Ranbir Kapoor.
■ The film has been pushed for a while, and I don’t know when we will start shooting. I am not very sure about the reason for the delay.
How do you react to jokes about yourself on what- sup?
■ I acted in the video which says it all! Any aspect of acting you would like to work on? ■ I have done only four films, so I have lots of things to work on. My language for one —I speak very fast, and then a lot of technical and emotional stuff. I don’t know what is my strong point, but I know that I am very determined and passionate about my work. I am also very fiery, a trait that will hopefully never go away!
What is that one thing that you have learnt from the people you have worked with, they could be directors, senior actors?
■ I have had the privilege of working with estab- lished people like Karan (Johar) and Imtiaz (Ali). Although, Abhishek (Verman) and Shashank were two newcomers, they are very knowledgeable. Since, I am very new to the industry, everybody has taught me something different. But I admire peo- ple who are extremely professional in their atti- tude. All the actors and directors that I have worked with have a respect for people’s time. I too hope that I never lose this attitude, and while work- ing on a project, everyone including the crew becomes one big family. I am not an actor who just comes, does her work and leaves. I like to be involved in the whole process of making a film, even if it’s pointing at the monitor and saying that something is not looking nice. I give my inputs all the time.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
■ Just emoting in front of the camera.
If you were to have dinner with an actor from the past who would it be?
■ It would be interesting to have dinner with Rekha. She’s so beautiful! ●