On Alia Bhatt’s birthday, directors Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde, Meghna Gulzar on what sets her apart
Alia Bhatt turns a year older today, but it’s hard to believe. The contagious smile and child-like face hasn’t changed much since her debut in 2012 (Karan Johar’s Student of The Year). Like many kids with parents and family working in the film industry, Alia made a glamorous debut but unlike most others, she has broken away from star kid presumptions and carved a unique place for herself in Hindi cinema.
Alia is a versatile performer and has earned box office success steadily. But what sets her apart is the fact that in a short span of time, and at a relatively younger age, she has added tremendous value to the role of a heroine. She can be a love interest in a film, like she is in Gully Boy, but still have the best lines and the spunkiest moments. She can also be sedate and controlled like in Raazi.
A big part of Alia’s success has been her approach to working in films. In Gully Boy, Alia’s role has moments that draw wallops and cheers from audiences. When she gets into a proper fight with another girl, or hits another with a beer bottle, her performance is feisty and heartfelt.
Zoya Akhtar, her director for the film, found Alia’s ability to focus her biggest asset. “The one quality of Alia that stood out for me is how centred she is. She is in the moment like no other actor I have worked with. She channels that focus even when it’s not her shot,” she says, adding “she is as committed when she is off camera, enabling her co actor in the most respectful way. I find her instinct very strong and she accesses it easily. She know how to cut through the noise, the bullshit, the fluff and reach that honest place which is so rare to hit each time.”
While working on a film, Alia does not obsess over her appearance — a fact this is evident from her turn in Udta Punjab, one of her career-best performances.
Gauri Shinde, who directed her as the commitment-phobic, impulsive, young career woman in Dear Zindagi calls her lack of vanity a big advantage. “One special thing that I realized about Alia, was that once on set and ready, she loses all sense of vanity, which is great. She doesn't care about how her make up is how her hair is how she looks. She trusts the director, in this case me, to figure that for her. She goes entirely into her character and invades that space freely,” Shinde adds “This may seem like a small detail but it’s a big deal to be unconscious of your looks, profiles, angles, and make up. It’s rare and Alia’s commitment to a role far exceeds that.”
Alia’s initial years in Bollywood drew a fair share of ridicule for her lack of knowledge of current affairs. Some called her "dumb" post her first stint on Koffee with Karan. Bhatt’s collaboration with All India Bakchod, a comedy gig, to make a funny skit on her brain sharpening, proved that she is anything but short of intelligence. She turned a disadvantage to an advantage. Ever since, caution and discretion have entered in her interactions with the media. But those bursts of spontaneity and effervescence make her all the more appealing. She sounds natural when she responds to the press.
It’s this element of spontaneity while approaching a performance that Meghna Gulzar, who directed her in Raazi, found most appealing in Alia. “I have always told Alia this: she is the most focused 25 year old I have ever met. This shows in her work and in her personality. She is extremely hard working and yet, an extremely instinctive actor. She reacts to a character, she reacts to the surroundings. And that’s why the performance feels effortless. I think this is the most interesting dichotomy about her.”
Gulzar adds, “As a professional, she is extremely intelligent and sharp. I discovered that there is an entirely other side to her when she is with her friends or having pajama parties. I think this makes for a beautiful combination. It’s her dedication and focus that struck me as unparalleled. I was actually spoilt as a director on Raazi. Things like memorising morse codes for sequences in the film, or having to learn to drive a non automatic vehicle (she knows how to drive an automatic car), for a very crucial sequence, are things that she took to like a duck in the water. She made it seem so effortless like it was second nature for her, and that’s where her dedication as a person comes into play.”
In the last couple of years, Alia’s personal life, given her relationship with Ranbir Kapoor, has taken centrestage. Amidst the white noise surrounding her love life, its quite easy to forget that above all, Alia is an actor who can change the game for the female lead in the long run. She has made author-backed choices, not played it safe when it came to choosing filmmakers, and has already built a versatile track record. Her risk-taking has paid off, and hopefully she will continue to do so.
Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 13:31:02 IST