Just heartbeats away from another triumphant performance in Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi, Alia Bhatt speaks to Subhash K Jha on what it means to be the youngest superstar in Bollywood.
You just had a private screening of Raazi. What were the responses like?
It was for the crew cast and family. You know, I can’t be objective about my own work. This film is different from my others in that it has certain suspense element. All of us associated with the film knew what the surprise element was. So I was looking at the responses of my guests to see how they reacted to the surprise element. And it was all very heartening, very encouraging.
Does people’s approval matter to you?
Of course it does. There are some people in my life whose opinion is really valuable to me. That apart, I make all my decisions myself. The scripts I read and decide to do are chosen by me. Of course I sound off the scripts to some people close to me. But for better or worse the final decision to do or not do a film is mine.
I’ve read the novel Sehmat from which Raazi is adapted. Sehmat according to me is a far more revealing title?
We were in two minds about whether to go with Sehmat or Raazi. We finally went with Raazi. Naming the film after the protagonist seemed a bit…
Not narcissistic. But it kind of deflects the attention from the film to the actor. I am more comfortable with the film not being named after my character.
You got to work with your mother (actress Soni Razdan) for the first time. What was that like?
It was as though she had come visiting me on the sets and decided to join me in front of the camera. We were very professional in front of the camera. And like any mother and daughter when it was off. Sadly it was mostly work work work. We hardly got any time to hand around together.
Raazi is your first political film. And you play a selfless woman ready to die for her country. Do such people really exist anymore?
I believe Raazi required more preparation than all your other roles so far?
I’d agree with that, yes. The closest I came to preparing this much was when I did Udta Punjab. For Raazi I set aside a month before shooting. I cleaned up my Urdu language. I learnt how to drive a jonga (a jeep used by the Indian army). I learnt some self-defence moves plus some techniques that spies have to learn before they are on their job. It was a lot of hard work and fun. But I think no amount of preparation can really prepare you for that moment when you finally face the camera.
Do you prefer going into a character unrehearsed?
I prefer going into my character without polishing her flaws and imperfections. I don’t want to be this shining diamond on screen. I like to show the vulnerable unpolished side of my character.
Speaking of brushing up your Urdu, was that hard for you to do?
It was a new way of working. Normally we don’t pay that much attention to the way we speak our lines. But let me tell you, Ranveer Singh, my co-star in my next release Gully Boy, is very much into linguistic fine-tuning. He actually works on the voice, the tone, the way the dialogues are spoken for his characters. I like that.
You have done some really entertaining ads with Ranveer Singh?
Yeah, I enjoyed doing those with him. Even in those ads you can see how much he works on his voice and accent. But shooting Gully Boy with Ranveer is a different experience altogether. Zoya Akhtar (the director), Ranveer and I had loads of fun.
Do you also play a rap singer in Gully Boy like Ranveer does. Are you a Muslim character again?
No I am not a musician in Gully Boy. As for the way I look. I leave it to Zoya to explain all that when they are ready.
Zoya would be your third female director, fourth if we count Sangharsh which you did as a child with Tanuja Chandra. How different is working with Gauri Shinde. Megna Gulzar, Zoya Akhtar as compared with your other directors?
Six years as a leading lady. How do you look back at the frenetic rush of projects and the stardom that you’ve obtained? Are you exhausted? Do you need a break?
Not at all. In fact I am more enthused now than ever before. I love that rush of adrenaline that I feel when I start a film. I also love promoting my films.
How do you deal with the uncomfortable questions on your personal life?
I don’t have to deal with it. Those who ask about it have to deal with it. I am very clear that my personal life is personal. It is my space. Which is not to say I will deny having a relationship. But I won’t validate a rumour or gossip by accepting or denying anything that’s written about me. I am okay with journalists writing about my personal life. I won’t talk about it. It’s as simple that. Controversies, rumours gossip are all part of the game. I don’t get rattled by what’s written about me, except for a few times when the report was completely off the mark.
Would you miss the limelight when you are no longer in it?
Of course I know a day would come when it won’t be there anymore. It is therefore important to not take it too seriously, to enjoy it while it lasts. I am having a blast.
Have you signed anything new?
Actually, I have. But I leave the announcement to the producers. At the moment I’ve Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boyz which in complete. Now the one year would be taken up with Bramhastra and Kalank, both Karan Johar’s productions which I like home to me.
What is the one thing that you most look forward to every day?
The early morning inspirational message that my father sends every morning. I preserve each one of them.
Are they his own or forwards?
I don’t know I never check. I am just happy for my father’s words of wisdom.
Do you remind him when he forgets to send it?
I never have to. He is very good with keeping his rhythm of routine going, at least with me.
You sound far more mature now than you did earlier. I think you finally know who the President of India is?
(Laughs) Yes, finally.
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