The highly-competitive Alia Bhatt is ready to prove her worth with Kapoor & Sons, but asks that you don’t take her too seriously
To borrow from the hit American sitcom, everybody seems to love Alia Bhatt. Even when she fumbles over a rapid-fire general knowledge question or delivers a colossal flop, the 22-year-old seems to be able to take the stumbles in her stride. She converts an embarrassment into an opportunity and participates in a mockumentary about herself called Genius of the Year. Shaandaar may have been the biggest flop of her fledgling career so far, but it didn’t stop her from a signing a film with Shah Rukh Khan. As the millennial girl of the moment, Alia can give you a road map to new-age Bollywood. Not only does she act her age, she also dresses it, ditching false eyelashes and haute couture for a style statement that reflects generation now.
Next week, Bhatt returns to the marquee with Shakun Batra’s reunion drama, Kapoor & Sons, also starring Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan and Rishi Kapoor. At first glance one would be inclined to believe she is repeating her trademark manic pixie dream girl act, an assumption both the director Batra and she refute. “That’s not really true,” says the fast-talking Bhatt. “There is a big difference in the story and plot of this film. It’s a new world where my character is far more mature and jovial. Ok, so it’s a very heavy part, but the focus is on the family and relationships.” Kapoor & Sons comes right after Shaandaar, a film that was decimated by critics and that sank at the box office. Bhatt, fortunately, managed to garner a few positive reviews and came out relatively unscathed.
She’s candid enough to admit that one cannot really be prepared for failure. “I am a sore loser — in games, life and films. I felt very bad when the film did not do well. However, I have no regrets. It seemed like the right project and it was a team effort so we are all a part of the result. No matter what, I think the journey was important for me,” says Bhatt, who has already begun shooting Gauri Shinde’s film with SRK, a huge jump from her 2012 debut, Student of the Year.
Following her instinct
What’s notable about the actress is her ability to take jibes and jokes in the right spirit. She laughs at herself. There’s a playfulness about her that permeates her interviews, her roles, her humour and, yes, her sartorial style. “It’s true. I don’t take myself too seriously. You only get offended if you take yourself very seriously. This is my personality. I just set out to do my job well,” says Bhatt. As for her fashion choices, like her professional decisions, they are based on instinct. “I want to be having fun. I believe in variety. The same way that I don’t want to eat the same food every day, I also don’t want to do the same work or wear the same clothes.” Comfortable in Zara shorts, or pop art embellished dresses or the much-talked about pale green and gold embroidered tunic with white pants and jhumkis she wore during her film’s promotion in Gujarat, she calls the shots. “In all my choices, even the causes I support, I am my own person. I don’t want to wear clothes that make me look older or sexier. I want to be comfortable. I will not even choose an earring if I don’t feel comfortable in it. Similarly, I will choose a film based on my instinct rather than what I think the audience would want,” she says. After four years in the industry, and no doubt many years of observing and learning from her family — father Mahesh Bhatt, mother Soni Razdan — Bhatt says she calmer now, more aware and understands that “a good film will always do well.” Ten days before the release of her next film, she says, “There is no point in hyperventilating before a release. I am just grateful for the roles and the love that comes my way.”
Ready for change
Bhatt turns 23 on March 15. Her gift to herself is to move into her own apartment. Her family is known to have a great love for cats. I ask her if she is taking any of the feline favourites with her and she says, “I want to take one of my cats. My mother is not letting me take the other one.” Her ambition going forward is to sing more songs and head to Hollywood. Travel is one of her passions. “I want to experience things. If I don’t travel and have no experiences, how will I grow? I need new perspectives.”
Circle of friends
Bhatt and her peers, unlike generations of actresses past, display an open admiration and respect for each other. Their appreciation and camaraderie appears genuine, whether it is Bhatt’s praise for Shraddha Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra or her admiration for Sonam Kapoor. Yet Bhatt admits that she, too, has been envious of her peers. “Anybody who says they have not been jealous of someone is not being truthful. I, too, feel jealous of actors and actresses. You feel this way because you have a drive. But it’s up to you how you convert those hopes, ambitions and feelings. I look at it differently,” she says. So, Sonam Kapoor “inspires” her for her personality — for standing up for her choices and beliefs without a care in the world. Parineeti Chopra, Bhatt says, is “a fab actor” and Shraddha Kapoor “has that Hindi film heroine quality and she is an incredible singer”. The new-age actors come with an openness for new-age acting techniques — body language and dialect coaches, physical training, workshops and so on. Bhatt says she leaves these decisions up to her director and does what is required of her. “I take it as it comes,” she says. “Sometimes it’s nice to show up, be spontaneous and interpret the scene on the set. But if the director says I need workshops, I do them. All these things add to the character’s personality.” Her own preparation entails reading the script repeatedly, doing some amount of research and watching videos, learning the scenes and creating worlds for herself — worlds in which she doesn’t take herself too seriously and wouldn’t want anyone else to either.
Three days shy of 23, Bhatt is already commanding `75 lakh to `1 crore a day for her endorsements. And she has quite a few, having recently added MakeMyTrip to her kitty. Rajiv Rao, the national creative director of O&M India, says Bhatt defines the new breed of Indian movie stars—young, cool, with no airs and quite comfortable having a laugh at her own expense. “But at the same time, she has done enough films to prove that she is a good actor. That’s what people love about her and what adds to her brand image, making her attractive to advertisers,” he explains, adding, “Alia appeals to today’s youth, who look at life in the same way. She is also bold and aware of her brand value,” thus not hesitating to ask her due. “It’s not about age anymore, but whether you are bankable and buzzing,” he concludes.
“I am very picky about the brands I endorse and I am very involved in the decisions. The brand should represent who I am and what I represent. For instance, Maybelline and Garnier are young brands and I totally relate to them. Most important is the exposure you get from ads, especially in smaller towns where people watch a lot more TV than visit the cinema. They see you on TV and get to know you; they remember you.”
On social media
Today social media is a part and parcel of life, but it’s up to each one of us how much we want to use it. I don’t feel much pressure to post things. I only post when I feel like it. And I find social media helps me reach fans and gets me a lot more love