Alia Bhatt on working with Meghna Gulzar: 'I'm glad I have done Raazi because I get to live this character'
Fact: Alia Bhatt puts her best foot forward for media interactions. Also a fact: Alia looks tired and is admittedly “sleep deprived” — this is evident from her routine fumbles, but the sport that she is, she bursts into laughter as she mixes up names and makes fun of her own goof ups. Through it all, her humour remains intact. For example, a journalist asked about her character in upcoming film Raazi, and how she appears to be a perfect mix of a wife, a daughter and a spy. "So in your personal life do you think —" to this Alia cut in saying, “that I can be wife, daughter and a spy?”
When further asked if she’s comfortable holding a gun as her character was required to learn how to shoot, Alia promptly says with a hearty laugh, “No. I was so scared holding the gun, I was screaming at everyone, ‘Hato mere saamne se, dafa ho jao...’ until a crew member told me — ‘Madam usme bullet nahi hai, voh blank hai’.”
Clearly it doesn't take too long to bring the histrionics out.
Alia has been switching between film sets and characters during the past few months. Even before her upcoming film Raazi releases (on 11 May), she’s already started shooting Dharma Productions’ Kalank and has wrapped up her scenes from Gully Boy. Earlier, she went from the sets of Raazi (espionage-thriller) to Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy (musical drama) and then to Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra (superhero actioner).
“I don’t know if I am doing this well. We will see when the film releases kya khichdi pakayi hai maine (laughs out loud). I have finished Gully Boy and now I am in between Kalank and Brahmastra. There are times when I forget who I am. There are days where I wonder what my name is. It’s one of those phases. But luckily these two films are very different from each other; Kalank is my first epic drama. It's an ambitious but emotional story, whereas Brahmastra is a supernatural, fancy and beautiful film,” says Alia.
In Meghna Gulzar's Raazi, Alia plays a young Kashmiri woman who is persuaded by her father and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to spy on Pakistan before the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Alia's Sehmat Khan marries a Pakistani Army officer (played by Vicky Kaushal) and carries out a series of dangerous missions, putting herself at considerable risk in the process. For the adaptation of Harinder S Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat, Alia’s preparation included reading few portions of novel, learning to speak Urdu and Morse code, and driving a Jonga jeep. “I can join the RAW team, if they need me to right now,” Alia jokes.
“But no amount of prep can actually prepare you for what happens on set. It was emotionally draining. We shot the film within 48 days at a stretch without any breaks through 14-hours. There was absolutely no time to ever not be the character. We would wake up from our sleep and be in our characters," she added. Since Sikka’s novel is based on true events, Alia felt a sense of responsibility. “I decided to start her off at the most basic level of niceness and then take my character's graph from there,” she says.
However, while she tried to empathise with Sehmat’s selflessness, she could not relate to the character. “It is too much of a selfless act that she has done for her country – I don’t think any of us have that ability. But I can empathise with her. Even with Udta Punjab, I never really related with Mary Jane [her character], but I empathised with what she went through. Every moment that I was shooting for Raazi, I kept telling myself that I was acting, but this has actually happened. That was a bit scary," she reveals.
Alia shares a warm equation with her director Meghna Gulzar and holds her in high esteem. “I had a great experience working with her and I am fond of her films, especially Talvar, which left a big impact on me,” Alia says, adding, “She is one of the most detailed directors that I have worked with. Her attention to detail is so specific and because of that, her world feels so real and you are pulled right into it. I am very glad that I have done this film because I have lived this character along with her."
And after working with women directors like Gauri Shinde [Dear Zindagi] and now Meghna, Alia is keen on collaborating with Ashwini Iyer Tiwari. “Yes, I have met her for something that I am quite interested in. I am excited to work with her, she is a very nice director,” she informs.
Alia is one of those few mainstream actors who likes to take risks. After Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year  in which she played a fashionista, she has maintained a balance between outright mainstream films (Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, 2014, and Badrinath Ki Dulhania, 2017) and unconventional ones (Highway, 2014; Udta Punjab, 2016; Dear Zindagi, 2016 and now Raazi). Is this a conscious effort?
“Consciously or unconsciously, my heart is reaching out to these roles,” she says, “and it so happens that every film I am doing is different from one another. Instinctively, I am not picking out the same film. It’s just like how I want to eat different dals every day, similarly I am picking my scripts. After Student Of The Year, [Imtiaz Ali’s] Highway came to me and I saw it as a golden moment to showcase that I am an actor. It might have been one of the lower grossing films of my career, but it is a film that had the most impact on people."
“I want to be diva, I want to be glamorous and want to be at the top of all fashion portals of both worlds but I also want to be at the top of all National awards. I want to have the balance. I took on the opportunity [Highway] because every new film will either better my last performance or bring me out from the last bad film, if at all. Also, every film I have done has credited me in some way. Student Of The Year has given me the biggest younger fan base,” says Alia.
While Alia has an interesting line up of films — Gully Boy, Brahmastra and Kalank — she yearns to work in a comedy. “I don’t get comedy films. Everybody wants me to cry, I don’t know why. I want to do a comedy,” she says.
She also admits that she would love to work with her family, “especially a family like mine where everybody is so individualistic in their thoughts, opinion, life, career and cinema." Since there are rumours that Pooja Bhatt may hold the baton for the sequel of Sadak, Alia says, “I would love to work with Pooja; it will be an enriching experience. I am waiting for the day I get to work with her and hopefully my dad [Mahesh Bhatt] can be part of that project.”
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Updated Date: May 09, 2018 08:44:31 IST