Alia Bhatt talks about working with Ranbir Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Ranveer Singh in the same year
Alia Bhatt talks about shuttling between Gully Boy, Kalank and Brahmastra last year, and now juggling RRR, Inshallah and Sadak 2 this year.
Alia Bhatt is not resting easy. At 26, she is one of the busiest actors in Bollywood. She earned her stripes within seven years of her debut, in 2012 with Student Of The Year. The actress has wisely plucked out films balancing her filmography with entertainers and diverse roles that gives her a taste of both stardom and critical acclaim.
So in the midst of romances and masala entertainers, she effortlessly packs in her role as a victim of sexual abuse (Highway), or a Bihari migrant caught in the rampant drug trade (Udta Punjab), a vulnerable Kashmiri-Muslim sent to Pakistan as a spy (Raazi), or even as a confused millennial with plenty of emotional baggage (Dear Zindagi).
Not just that, she has worked with all the three front-runners of the next generation of stars — Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan and Ranbir Kapoor — and is likely to have one release with each of them within this year itself.
Ranveer may have been the eponymous character in Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy but Alia held her own in her first release this year. What followed next was her latest outing period romance drama set in the pre-Independence era, Kalank (released on 17 April) with one of her favourite co-stars Varun, and directed by Abhishek Varman under Karan Johar's Dharma Productions.
“It is the gut feel that you get within 10 to 15 minutes of a narration. When I heard Gully Boy, I knew that this character is mad. She is too funny. With Kalank, I didn’t even have to read the script because I knew the story. Abhishek is a friend and I knew what he was making,” she says.
Besides being intense, Alia says she is essaying an imperfect and flawed character in Kalank, that required a certain amount of vulnerability and maturity. “It was not easy on sets because both Varun and I were playing very difficult characters, and showing that complex relationship of Roop and Zafar was also not easy. But Abhishek handled us very carefully. Secondly, this heroine look was a big challenge for me because I've always considered myself a bit of a tomboy. My body lacks the grace of a typical heroine.”
However, the actress left the netizens spellbound with her Kathak skills in the song, ‘Ghar More Pardesiya’. “I think I got one white hair while preparing for the song,” she laughs as she lifts a few strands of her hair. “I am not a trained classical dancer. I just enjoy dancing. I am not like Tiger Shroff or Varun Dhawan. My body language is almost like a boy. I trained one year for basic Kathak and for this particular piece for the film, I trained for two-and-a half months with Remo D'Souza. I was constantly memorising even while I was doing make-up, or when I was on the sets of Brahmastra. Everyone around me was like, ‘Leave Alia alone. She’s gone mad’. On the last two days, I went to Pandit Birju Maharaj to get the right expressions which was an amazing experience. Once the song was shot, I was relieved and could live my life,” she says.
Alia, at that point of time was shuttling between three films. She could not afford to have stayed in the character for long. “It isn’t easy to come out of an intense character soon but you have no choice. I was shuttling between three films – Gully Boy, Kalank and Brahmastra. I completed Kalank and straight went on the sets of Brahmastra. I had to get over that intense mood of Kalank. But I am a switch on, switch off person and that process I follow on sets as well,” she says.
This brings her to her experience working with the trio -- Ranveer, Varun and Ranbir. “It is very different with each one of them. Ranveer’s energy is on an another level. We shared a very special bond. It was very new. There was lot of admiration, lot of excitement for both of us. I genuinely love him. He is a gem of a person. I actually feel that Ranveer and I am very similar. Varun is like my right arm. We have a strong connect. I understand what he means even before he says it. We instinctively act together. It is like an unsaid thing. We almost see the imaginary waves going through the two of us,” she says animatedly.
“With Ranbir, it is a completely different experience because I have always admired him. He is my favourite actor since he made his debut. He will always remain my favourite because he is so honest and effortless. When I set to work with him, I was thinking that I will understand his process of acting, but there’s no process. He is like me, he acts in front of the camera, and suddenly off camera, he is seen eating chocolates, or chatting, wanting to know what is the gossip for the day. He is very hard working, so effortless and that is the beauty,” she says.
“The idea for Brahmastra was conceived long back when Ayan (Mukerji, director) had just done Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. I wanted to work with him and I have always wanted to work with Ranbir as well. I pleaded to Ayan that please cast me with him. All these films happened may be because the timing was just perfect and universe had come together to make it happen. But I have always gone with my instinct with all my films, even with Raazi or Udta Punjab,” she adds.
Alia has shot quite a bit with Amitabh Bachchan for Brahmastra and the experience left her spellbound. “It was amazing. What an experience! We were always sitting and chatting in between the shots sharing stuff. He would show us his songs, trailers. Ranbir and I would often pin him down and ask innumerable questions about the happenings during his past films. His journey has been so amazing. It is like an institution and he doesn’t ever carry that on set. He is a thorough professional, and he would suddenly break into a shout or say something funny and change the energy on the sets,” she laughs.
The future, too, looks extremely promising given the films to come, including SS Rajamouli’s Telugu period war film RRR, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Inshallah with Salman Khan, and her dad Mahesh Bhatt’s comeback directorial Sadak 2 alongside sister Pooja Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt and Aditya Roy Kapur.
Before Bhansali’s Inshallah, she will start Sadak 2 sometime next month (May). Sounding a tad bit worried (in a funny way though), she wonders what her “unpredictable” dad was up to. “Inshallah is definitely a new space for me. It is a beautiful story. But before that, I will start Sadak 2. It is an important and big schedule. I am a little scared because it is my dad directing me. I don’t know what he is going to do. He is always so unpredictable. He is kind of giving me those piercing looks and I am feeling conscious with that. I am like, ‘What papa?’ (laughs). But we will have a different kind of dynamic to our relationship with this film happening,” she says.
With RRR, Alia makes her South debut and sounds very excited about working with Rajamouli. “I would have done it blindly without hearing the narration but Rajamouli sir is very gracious. He insisted that I hear it and then take a call. He is a genuine artist and understands the pulse of pan India audience,” she says.
Given the repertoire Alia is building for herself, one wonders if it is getting more and more challenging for her each time to find a role that will excite her. “But I feel that the writers and filmmakers are also raising the bar with so many new themes and characters coming up. At the end of the day an actor is as good as his/her role. We are at a stage when writing is at the forefront. Writing should be given the most importance, closely followed by direction and then the actors,” says Alia. And does she feel she has grown as an actor? “I would like to believe that. In fact, I have grown as a person. But I am not sitting and analysing my growth,” she says, with her usual casual charm intact.
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