‘I AM SCARED OF BE­ING COM­PLA­CENT’

She is only 21 and has al­ready ap­peared in four Bol­ly­wood films, but Alia Bhatt says the se­cret to her screen suc­cess is doubt­ing her own tal­ents

Friday - - THE BIG STORY -

She is jeal­ous of her peers, in­se­cure about her tal­ents and doubts her in­tel­li­gence.

But for Alia Bhatt, a 21-year-old ris­ing star, daugh­ter of noted film-maker Ma­hesh Bhatt and ac­tor and theatre per­son­al­ity Soni Raz­dan, con­stant self-doubt is the key to pro­fes­sional growth.

“My dad al­ways told me that you only be­gin to learn when you con­stantly feel you are not worth it. Doubt is the key to knowl­edge... I strongly be­lieve in that,” says Alia.

With four films al­ready on her CV – the most re­cent, Humpty Sharma ki

Dul­ha­nia (Humpty Sharma’s bride), hit the screens on July 10 – Alia has al­ready firmly un­der­scored her pres­ence in the tough and slip­pery world of Bol­ly­wood. Blessed with a rare and po­tent mix of star value as well as tremen­dous act­ing talent, the rel­a­tive new­comer is al­ready be­ing del­uged by film of­fers.

Alia her­alded her en­try into Bol­ly­wood with Stu­dent of the Year, a com­ing-of-age ro­man­tic com­edy. It suc­ceeded in es­tab­lish­ing her as a hero­ine who could dance well and has great screen pres­ence.

But it was Im­tiaz Ali’s High­way, Alia’s sec­ond film, that es­tab­lished her as a com­pe­tent ac­tor. “High­way made me an ac­tor – it broke me. I found an emo­tional bank in­side me that I didn’t know I pos­sessed. I thought I was a shal­low per­son and I didn’t think I had any depth,” she says.

As the name sug­gests, High­way be­longs to the road-trip genre. But it is the con­tro­ver­sial sto­ry­line that gar­nered a lot of at­ten­tion.

Based on the Stock­holm Syn­drome, it is a love story be­tween a cap­tor and his hostage, a for­mula that has found cel­lu­loid in­ter­pre­ta­tion on many oc­ca­sions. But this Im­tiaz Ali film, like most of his oth­ers, stood out for the way it ex­plores ro­mance not in a fairy­tale en­vi­ron­ment but in nu­ances that or­gan­i­cally evolve through in­ter­ac­tions be­tween two people. The movie de­manded ex­tremely com­plex, lay­ered, sub­tle yet in­tense char­ac­ter por­tray­als from both its lead ac­tors – Alia and Ran­deep Hooda.

Since Ran­deep is a sea­soned ac­tor, known for brood­ing, dark roles, the chal­lenge of con­struct­ing a highly in­flammable on-screen chem­istry lay solely with young Alia. The role also tested her abil­ity to con­vinc­ingly por­tray a girl with a chic look yet a wounded soul, who over the length of the film grows into a young woman who finds com­fort in a phys­i­cal­ity that is deglam­or­ised, shabby yet real.

“I was cau­tioned about ac­cept­ing such a role so early in my ca­reer, but how can one say no to [well known and highly re­spected film-maker] Im­tiaz Ali?” smiles Alia. “He is a pure soul and his pu­rity re­flects in his pas­sion for his craft. There is no fuss or noth­ing fake about him; that is what I love about him.

“Since I did not have much act­ing ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the mak­ing of

High­way, I de­pended on Im­tiaz to walk me through and it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, raw look and all.”

While High­way made her a house­hold name in In­dia, it was 2 States, Alia’s third film, that got her crit­i­cal ap­pre­ci­a­tion for do­ing jus­tice to a script that de­manded hon­est and real­is­tic per­for­mances from its cast. “Just like colour­ing out­side the lines is a mess, in

2 States, colour­ing out­side the char­ac­ter would have been a mess,” she ex­plains. “I sim­ply did my best and luck­ily it was hugely ap­pre­ci­ated.”

2 States, a film based on Chetan Bha­gat’s book of the same name, en­sured that Alia found a durable place in the hearts and minds of her au­di­ence. The film ex­plores the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of a well-ed­u­cated young cou­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures who want to get mar­ried with the ap­proval of their ex­tremely parochial fam­i­lies.

Again, it was a theme that has seen sev­eral cin­e­matic adap­ta­tions, but it was Alia and her co-ac­tor Ar­jun Kapoor’s per­for­mances that made the film a re­sound­ing suc­cess.

“I was blown away by Ar­jun’s per­for­mance in his de­but film

Ishaqza­ade. So when I came to know that I was go­ing to be a do­ing a film with him, I hoped that I would be able to match his en­ergy on-screen.”

The fact that the film was a phenom­e­nal suc­cess proved the two new stars on Bol­ly­wood’s hori­zon had talent that would fuel their growth and spur new trends in film-mak­ing. In an in­dus­try where fe­male char­ac­ters are

‘Shoot­ing in the mid­dle of nowhere, mak­ing do with few luxuries, trans­formedmy life’

of­ten ex­pected to add only glam­our to a film, this was not just rev­o­lu­tion­ary but re­fresh­ing as well.

Alia’s per­for­mance in

2 States didn’t just win her ac­co­lades; it was also key to the suc­cess of the film. “In fact, I re­mem­ber when I told my fa­ther that I was suf­fer­ing from men­tal and phys­i­cal ex­haus­tion dur­ing the mak­ing of the film, he used to say ‘Yeah that’s the way it should be... you’re sound­ing good’.

“I think he was more than happy to know that I was ex­hausted and dy­ing,” she laughs. But it is this up­bring­ing, in which she has al­ways been en­cour­aged to push the en­ve­lope and ex­plore the un­known, that has held her in good stead for Bol­ly­wood. “Act­ing in

High­way was a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says. “Un­til this film, I felt I didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing faced prob­lems that give your per­for­mance depth.

“But High­way made me see a new side to my per­son­al­ity. It made me re­alise I am not shal­low,” she says. “The ex­pe­ri­ence of shoot­ing in the mid­dle of nowhere and of­ten hav­ing to make do with few luxuries trans­formed my life im­mensely.”

So much so that she doesn’t just act but is now will­ing to show off her singing tal­ents too. Alia recorded Sooha

Saha for High­way, which was a huge hit, be­fore re­turn­ing to the mic again to sing an un­plugged ver­sion of the noted singer Ra­het Fateh Ali’s pop­u­lar num­ber

Samjhawan. But the self-con­fessed bath­room singer ad­mits she was not scared to do a new ver­sion of Ra­het’s well known song.

“I am not a pro­fes­sional singer. I did it only be­cause I love to sing. It was not to

Alia’s fa­ther, Ma­hesh Bhatt, told her doubt is the key to knowl­edge

High­way, this pic­ture and left, made Alia a house­hold name

Alia is hop­ing her off-screen con­nec­tion with Varun Dhawan trans­lates on-screen in Humpty Sharma Ki Dul­ha­nia

2 States got Alia crit­i­cal ap­pre­ci­a­tion

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