Alia Bhatt said yes when script wasn't ready, says Meghna Gulzar
Admiring Alia Bhatt's spontaneity as an actor, director Meghna Gulzar says her improvisations added to Raazi's appeal
Meghna Gulzar on Raazi set with Alia Bhatt
Known to be forthright, Meghna Gulzar asks me right at the start of the interview, "Can you think of anyone better than Alia for the part?" The director reveals that she, along with writer Bhavani Iyer, had Bhatt in mind while giving shape to Sehmat, the protagonist of Raazi. "Even before we had put down a single word on paper, we knew it was her. This is also the first time in her career that Alia agreed to do a film where the script wasn't ready. I gave her a 10-minute narration of the premise. At that time, all I wanted was an assurance from her that I could write the story with her in mind," she says.
As Bhatt slipped into the role of a Kashmiri entrusted with the responsibility of being a spy for India, Gulzar seamlessly found herself taking on a new role — that of a mentor to the youngster. And she is quick to add that the actor was a worthy student. "Alia brought her instinct as an actor, she instinctively reacted to scenes and dialogues. She offered precious suggestions; her improvisations added to the scenes. Everyone believes she is a method actor, but Alia works with spontaneity. She puts her gut feeling to good use," lauds the filmmaker.
The director says that Bhatt had to train in diction and body language to stay authentic to the milieu of the spy thriller. "Language was a huge part of her preparation. We no longer speak the way we did back then [in the '70s] — there was a certain amount of thehrav [gravitas] in the way people communicated. Speaking refined Hindi and Hindustani was essential for the part. I gave her movies and short films to watch, for reference."
Gulzar jokes that Alia Bhatt found it difficult to channel her femininity given her "tomboyish" nature. "Her body language was another thing we had to work on. She is tomboyish, almost to the point of being clumsy where she would stumble frequently. In the film, she was supposed to play this woman who is feminine and dressed in flowy fabrics, yet do the things she was supposed to do which aren't feminine [in the conventional sense]."
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