Alia Bhatt: Being perfect is boring...
Stressing that she wants to play the myriad hues of a woman's personality, Alia Bhatt on holding her own and making sense of her success
Kicking off the year with Gully Boy, Alia Bhatt is ruling the roost in B-Town. Her line up features films with Karan Johar (Takht), SS Rajamouli (RRR), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Inshallah) besides others in the works. One would assume the actor, 26, has no downtime as she does a double shift promoting Kalank and shooting for Brahmastra, which will be her first movie with boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor. "I get enough time to myself despite all of this. I make sure I pamper my cat [Edward], have meals with my parents and chill with my sister [Shaheen]," says Alia. Over the next 30 minutes at a Juhu hotel overlooking the beach, she decodes what feeling on top of her game does to her mind space if her age has led people to undermine her and gravitating towards playing the defiant woman over a damsel in distress.
Edited excerpts from the interview
With your upcoming films, the wins for Raazi at award shows, do you feel at the top of your game?
I consciously don't let myself feel overconfident. I feel motivated to create work and push boundaries. Every time things go right in my life, professionally and personally, I become more driven, focussed, and hard working. Success should never be a reason to slack; it's the impetus to go at it harder. It's almost a decade in the movies for me. The first five years were a breeze. When Student Of The Year (2012) happened, I had no clarity on where I was headed. I look at the last decade as an adventure trip with a few fabulous pit stops. I feel settled now. I am naturally an over thinker and stressor, so, I consciously have to pull myself away from negative thoughts. I want to take each day as it comes.
Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan
While you have learnt acting on the job, people often claim that you have a natural flair for it. Do you agree?
No, I have consciously tried to learn each day, from every director I have collaborated with. No one is a natural. I still look at every role as an Everest to climb, that's my process. I remember when Udta Punjab (2016) came my way, I was petrified. But there was an underlying excitement, not fear. However, I am not delusional. I am aware of my limitations. When I read something, I know if I can crack the psyche or not. If I can't do justice to the ethos of the film, I will back out than do a shabby job. Every film makes me go back to ground zero and follow my instinct.
So, a film with Varun Dhawan and Abhishek Varman feels like home turf and is thus, easier?
It is home ground, but nothing is easy about it. Abhishek and Varun are my best friends. Varun makes me feel comfortable at work and that's essential because this is a difficult film. There is moral support when work gets overwhelming. I was shooting Brahmastra and Kalank simultaneously, some days were just impossible to get by. It's not easy to live up to Abhishek's vision. Roop, my character, is a millennial living in the 40s. Her thought process may be evolved, but she is always graceful in her demeanour. We deliberately kept Roop imperfect. I like that because as an actor it's a challenge to bring out the vulnerabilities of a character. Being perfect all the time is boring and a burden. The climax of the film was draining.
Talking about women expected to be perfect, a large part of the audience found your character Safeena from Gully Boy, toxic. Did you see it the same way?
I saw her as wild and that was liberating. The violence is not something I endorse, but she is real. What else would happen to someone who has been pigeonholed? She built up a lot of negative energy inside her, but as a person, she wasn't toxic. I understand the traits are similar - she was manipulative, but Safeena was also honest and colourful, with her heart in the right place. Minus the violence, she was a top character.
Do you gravitate towards strong women parts?
They come to me and to be fair, women roles in films are written with greater responsibility and heft. I opt for different shades of a woman. Sehmat in Raazi wasn't fiery like Safeena but she was incredibly brave. If I love the film, I will go ahead regardless of it being women-centric or not.
Both Kalank and Gully Boy are ensemble films. Termed as one of the top female actors of this generation, do you feel deterred agreeing for multi-starrers that aren't being driven by you?
That's a negative attitude towards cinema in general. Films are larger than any actor. I look at characters as how they affect the larger storyline. If you pull a character out of the storyline, do you still have a film? If you don't, then the character is important. Vying for screen time and the eternal war over it is trapping, which no actor should submit themselves to. I will still do a two-scene part if I love the story. Sometimes, we all do smaller roles in greed of working with a director and their vision; and that's fine too.
Is it ever hard to share your opinions in an industry where the prevalent notion is that age is synonymous with experience?
I have been raised to nurture unabashed opinions. My mentor Karan Johar keeps a democratic set up at work where no matter who you are, how old you are if you feel something, your point will be made note of. The industry is a much better place than we make it out to be.
Romancing Salman Khan on SLB's orders
Bhatt says that working with Khan and his pool of experience, inspired her to do better. "Bhansali is a visionary. People are too quick to judge. There is a plan in place and a reason behind the [unusual] casting. I am thrilled to be working with Salman. Even I never thought this combination [working with Khan and Bhansali] is possible. It will be an intriguing journey and Salman is genuinely warm and kind. They are a magical duo together and I am blessed to be in it."
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