In a happy space

Bollywood buzz

In a happy space

Looking slim and svelte (the result, she says, of a focus on fitness for eight months, including turning vegetarian), Alia Bhatt greets us with effervescence at the Dharma Productions’ office, days before the release of Shaandaar, her first film with co-star Shahid Kapoor.

Both Shahid and Alia portray insomniacs in the romantic comedy that its director Vikas Bahl terms “a fairy-tale from an unreal world of its own of whacked-out characters”. And while Alia loves her sleep, she lets on that her co-star is a real-life insomniac and in reel-life, he is shown as afraid of the dark, which Alia is in real life!

“Shahid tried to scare me at nights by filling my ears with horror stories about the locations we were in, but I did not fall prey to his designs,” she laughs.

Sleep on her mind

A key part of this ‘sleepless’ romance was shooting at night, and Alia recalls that while it was not easy, she got into the routine quickly. “As actors, we get used to night shifts, and in England and Poland in winter, there was a whole month when we barely saw the sun while shooting because of the late sunrise and early sunset.”

Alia admits that it was all great fun overall, as director Vikas Bahl made the concept seem full of quirky fun. “He told Shahid and me to think that the moon was our sun and the world was our playground as no one else was around,” chirps the actress. “We were all in a positive, happy space and that shows in the film.”

In fact, Vikas first met her at a party hosted by Deepika Padukone and she had verbally accepted the film on the five points he mentioned — a story of two insomniacs, her character’s name being Alia too, a destination wedding, a crazy, quirky family, and a mad plot. “Mind you, at that point, my Highway had not got released, neither had Vikas’s Queen nor Shahid’s Haider. And word spread that Vikas had wanted Deepika for the role. But he wanted someone small like me, who instilled protective feelings in all.”

Alia says that her chemistry with the entire Kapur clan in the film was superb. “Shahid and his father Pankaj are similar, though Pankaj-sir asks the director a lot of questions and Shahid does not. Neither of them behaved like big stars despite the experienced, fine actors they are, and both brought in so much youthful energy on sets,” declares the actor.
She goes on, “As for Sanah, despite this being her first film, she is a brilliant, brilliant actress. It’s all in her genes as she is Pankaj-sir’s and Supriya (Pathak)-ji’s daughter. And I automatically felt protective towards her and we had a nice bond, because I remembered my own feelings during my debut film. In any case, Pankaj-sir and she play my father and sister.”

She laughs when we ask if Pankaj reminded her in any manner of her father Mahesh Bhatt. “He did. My father too is jealous of anyone he thinks is my boyfriend, the way he is shown in this film,” she chirps.

Coming soon

Alia is pleased with her lot of films next year as well. “I am doing the comedy Kapoor & Sons with Sidharth Malhotra, Udta Punjab in which Shahid is again there, and Gauri Shinde’s film with Shah Rukh Khan,” she declares. “For me, working with SRK is a dream I had worked towards, though we may not be romantically cast in the film. We are the lead artistes and the story will speak for itself.” Tentatively, again, talks are on also with Ayan Mukerji for his next with Ranbir Kapoor.

Sidharth, her first co-star (Student Of The Year), is doing the comedy Kapoor & Sons, and Alia maintains that there will always be this connect with her first co-actor. “The only difference now is that Sid’s way more lighter now, for he was much more nervous and quieter during our first film, which was understandable as he was the only lead player who was not a star kid in that film’s cast.”

Another co-star from her first movie in Kapoor & Sons is Rishi Kapoor. “Rishi uncle and I have much more work together in Kapoor & Sons than in my first movie. And I love his energy, he’s too funny!” she giggles.

What kind of films does she prefer to do — the larger-than-life commercial kind or the character-driven offbeat ones like Highway and Udta Punjab?

“I would like to do both,” she replies. “Every third or fourth film of mine will be different, and will show that I can play distinct characters. But I cannot ignore the cinema I love and have grown up on, the song-and-dance routine, the films of Govinda, Karisma Kapur, David Dhawan, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan!”

At a slightly later stage, Alia would also like to try out thrillers, but not a horror film at which her father and uncle Mukesh Bhatt are such masters. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she explains. “I want to maintain a connect with the youth audience, but I would not mind trying out the Darr kind of space later.”

And Alia is thrilled that Amitabh Bachchan, no less, has tweeted to her that he was her “humble student” and had a desire to work with her. “That statement showed his greatness, and was a response to something I had said. But I would like to do a film in which both of us and no one else is there in the lead,” says the girl confidently.

Of late, Alia has been multi-tasking, with appearances on television, being a curator with Karan Johar for the English channel, Colors Infinity, and so on. Is doing all this difficult? How is it in terms of time management?

“For me, it is about wanting to do all of this, rather than managing the time,” she instantly replies. “Otherwise, I would feel I am not doing enough. I also want to take up singing, but I do not have the time for that now!”

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