A Minute With: Alia Bhatt
Alia Bhatt made her Bollywood debut as a lead actress in the 2012 college romance âStudent of the Yearâ. In February, she won over critics with her performance in the offbeat film âHighwayâ, playing a woman who starts caring for her kidnapper.
Alia, the daughter of Bollywood film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, spoke to Reuters about her role in â2 Statesâ, what the film âHighwayâ did for her acting career, and why she considers herself âmediocreâ. Here are excerpts from the interview:
You are playing a woman from Tamil Nadu in â2 Statesâ. Were there any apprehensions about playing this role?
At first I thought I would really have to work on my accent, but after speaking to my director, I realized that this is a modern Tamil girl and she doesnât have the heavy accent. Also, there is a justification for it, which is that her family has travelled and sheâs moved around a lot.
Given that the film relies on cultural stereotypes for humour, were you afraid about these becoming cliches?
I was also one of those people who believed in stereotypes. But now, when people ask me, are you playing a south Indian, I say no, I am playing a Tamilian. There is a big difference. It will be an eye-opener to a lot of people. We have tried consciously not to make any character caricaturish, but to make their worlds relatable and believable. When a character says âYeh toh Madrasi haiâ, that how most people would characterize a south Indian. Or the house of a Tamil person would look different from that of a Punjabi. That is how weâve tried to characterize it, rather than having everyone saying âaiyyoâ all the time. That is not how people talk in real life.
What about the stereotypes youâve had?
Yeah, like you have these notions that all south Indians donât eat chicken, or that they donât drink, and are not open to anything but their culture. Or that a Gujarati will not eat meat or that a Maharashtrian will only speak in Marathi.
Your performance in âHighwayâ got a lot of accolades. Was it difficult to move from a rather intense movie to a film like â2 Statesâ?
It was obviously difficult for me to get away from the emotion of âHighwayâ, because I had become so emotionally involved with that character. But â2 Statesâ looks like it might be normal, but even that is difficult. Just to have an organic, normal conversation, without making it sound like a written dialogue. In âHighwayâ, it is about this girl who is discovering herself. In â2 Statesâ, I had no business discovering this person or bringing anything of myself into this character. Like colouring outside the lines in a picture would be a mess, colouring outside the character would be a mess in this film.
As a performer, did âHighwayâ break boundaries for you? I am not sure your first film did that.
No, it didnât. In âStudent of the Yearâ, I was testing waters. âStudentâ gave me reach, that she is a Hindi film heroine, can look into the camera and make faces, and dance. It didnât give me the actor tag and I know it. I never thought Iâd get a film that would establish my acting credentials so soon, but I did get it. âHighwayâ made me as an actor – it broke me. I found an emotional bank inside me that I didnât know I had. I thought I was a very shallow person and didnât think I had any depth. I didnât have much to worry about in life – everything was put out on a platter for me. But âHighwayâ gave me a feeling that something is missing, and I found that at the end of the film.
So are you more confident now?
I find myself being very complacent. That scares me. A certain sense of honesty and awareness goes a long way and people can see that.Â I want to constantly be very thoughtful when it comes to my work, because if that goes away, I will lose the spark.
Isnât that characteristic of someone new to the industry? Most people lose their sense of earnestness once theyâve spent some time in the field.
I hope it stays. My dad always told me that if you constantly doubt yourself; if you constantly feel you are not worth it, then that is where the learning will come from. Doubt is the key to knowledge, and I strongly believe that.
So will there always be scope for doubt in your thought-process?
It depends on how much it is. If I am constantly doubting, then I will go a little crazy. It is about not having the know-it-all attitude. You have to give yourself to the director, and not go against his vision. Like when I was doing âHighwayâ, it was not a performance. It was my life — it was something that I gave a lot to and forgot that it was actually a film. That was why I was very irritated when the film was releasing, because I felt like I was putting up my life and emotions on display for people to see.
Youâve been referred to as one of the breakout stars. Do you believe that about yourself?
I think I will constantly think I am mediocre. I am self-obsessed, but in terms of looking at myself in the mirror all the time. But not in terms of thinking that I have made it. That will just come back and bite me. So even if I had made it, I donât think I will see it. Unless I make a 500 crore rupee (around $83 million) hit because of me, which will never happen.
Any plans of working with your dad?
I want to, but itâs been put off so many times. There have been talks, but it hasnât worked out. Whenever it will happen, it will be a big deal.Â It will also be stressful. Everyone else has done well with them, so I will have to do it too.