Bhatt naturally

Bhatt naturally

Bhatt naturally

At 21, and just three films old, Alia Bhatt seems to be at the top of her game. Post her ‘Highway’ success, the actress, who is gearing up for her next release ‘2 States’, talks to Rajiv Vijayakar about being a Bhatt and more...

Alia Bhatt, before and after Highway, is like one of those brain-teasers, where you have to spot some differences between seemingly identical pictures. On the face of it, the Bhatt babe is seemingly the same, friendly, easygoing, quite intense in speech and not clued in, for example, about the political bigwigs of the country, but then there is a difference — at least one.

And that is the subtle increase in confidence, simply because the film earned her huge appreciation even if it was not a commercial success. And so there is a decided assertiveness in her statements now. Carrying herself confidently at the Dharma Productions office of her mentor and producer Karan Johar, Alia looks fresh when we meet in the late afternoon, despite a frenzy of activity since morning.

Killer confidence

How elating it is to be praised, when just 21, for such a mature performance in a second film (or third, if you consider her cameo as Preity Zinta, the child, in the 1999 Sangharsh, her sole outing with her family banner Vishesh Films to date)? And that too when the film itself did not do well?

“I got all I wanted from Highway when I was shooting for it,” the young actress declares instantly. “If Imtiaz Ali is happy with the way I did the role, I am happy too.”

Asked about her new film 2 States, in which she plays the popular character of Ananya from Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller of the same name, she lets on, “Chetan described her so beautifully to me, and since I had already read the book, it was easy to understand the girl. I am a big fan of the book and I think what’s remarkable about Ananya is that she is a forward-thinking girl who is still culture-sensitive, and thus understands her conservative parents.”

Alia also credits new writer-director Abhishek Verman in the way he has re-created Ananya for the film. “He too has been sensitive and has maintained the overall framework of the book. The only aspect that he has changed is that if he was completely faithful to the book, it would have been a five-hour film, so he had to trim it to two hours.”

And what was Alia’s own prep for the film? “Oh, like I said, Ananya isn’t this hardcore South Indian girl. The book too mentions that her family has lived in different parts of northern India, and so she talks normal Hindi, without any accent. There were some Tamil lines to be spoken intermittently, so I did decide to learn the language, but I did not have enough time and had to finally cram my lines.”

Other than this, Alia only had to get her body language right. She explains, “South Indian culture is so rich that most south Indians tend to have this sizing-you-up glance when you first meet them, and I had to kind of imbibe that. Then I had to do a bit of Bharatanatyam.”

Humorously, though, Alia accepts that there are some basic similarities between Ananya and her, starting with the superficial one of a name beginning and ending with the same letter ‘A’. “Yeah, so maybe they signed me though I am not a south Indian myself because Ananya and I are both educated girls from a Brahmin family and enjoy non-vegetarian food,” she laughs gently. “But I go much further. I have Brahmin, Muslim, Kashmiri and German blood all within me.”

Could Alia elaborate on her equation with parents Mahesh Bhatt and Soni Razdan? “I actually do not get to see my parents much now.” she admits. “I am busy shooting, or promoting my films, or doing something work-related. This shortage of time of my own is probably the only change I see after I became an actor. Yes, and I miss looking bad. As an actor, I always must look good. You know what my dream is? To wear pajamas on some red carpet event,” she chuckles.

But she adds that her father is happy that she is busy. “When he calls me up, and if my voice is sounding tired, he immediately tells me, ‘You are tired. That’s nice’, as it means that I am busy.”

Family ties

Any regrets about not yet working for his banner, or possibly being launched by Vishesh Films? “I think that the plan always was that I will make my debut outside. To be chosen among some 400 girls at the age of 17 or 18 for the role of Shanaya in Student Of The Year was satisfying.”

And what about some big secret that she had hinted at when we met last before the release of Highway about why she did not do Aashiqui 2? Was it time now to reveal it? “Did I seriously tell you that?” she smiles. “Well, all I will say is that if I had done that film, I would not have been able to do Highway, which I would not have missed for anything else.”

Alia admires her father for his sheer willpower and strength. “His willpower and strength of spirit is amazing. And so is his punctuality. I would like to imbibe those qualities. He tells me not to be swayed either way by people’s comments and says, ‘If what they are saying is true, why should you feel bad? And if it is not true, why should you feel bad anyway?’”

Her mother, she says, is the epitome of someone who understands everyone else’s perspective. “And what a cook she is,” Alia says with a wishful smile.

What is her take on why her elder (step)-sister Pooja Bhatt did not make it big despite a string of sterling performances? “I think she never really wanted to be an actress,” is Alia’s verdict. “My mom always says that you can be a success at something only if you want to be in that field. But I admire Pooja for her honesty. She can never be diplomatic, and in this politically-correct industry, it is a real achievement.”

Alia, personally, will always be grounded, she declares. “I will never think I am a big star even if I get there — that will be bad for my maansik santulan (mental balance). In every creative profession, you are always learning. My father, who is 65, says that he still has a lot to learn.”

Big banners and A-list co-stars too will happen in due time, she says seriously. “I am just three films old, and my fourth film, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, in which I am a Punjabi girl, is produced again by Karan Johar, who is like a second mom and dad, and opposite my first co-star Varun Dhawan.”

And what about the buzz that she wants to marry Ranbir Kapoor, which she stated on Koffee With Karan?

“Ha, it was just a way of stating that I am a fan of him just as I am of Tom Cruise,” she grins. “I am a private person. Why should I announce who I am in love with on television?”

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