A Minute With: Alia Bhatt
Alia Bhatt made her Bollywood debut as a lead actress in the 2012 college romance â€śStudent of the Yearâ€ť. In February, she won over critics with her performance in the offbeat film â€śHighwayâ€ť, 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 â€ś2 Statesâ€ť, what the film â€śHighwayâ€ť did for her acting career, and why she considers herself â€śmediocreâ€ť. Here are excerpts from the interview:
You are playing a woman from Tamil Nadu in â€ś2 Statesâ€ť. 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 doesnâ€™t have the heavy accent. Also, there is a justification for it, which is that her family has travelled and sheâ€™s 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 â€śYeh toh Madrasi haiâ€ť, 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 weâ€™ve tried to characterize it, rather than having everyone saying â€śaiyyoâ€ť all the time. That is not how people talk in real life.
What about the stereotypes youâ€™ve had?
Yeah, like you have these notions that all south Indians donâ€™t eat chicken, or that they donâ€™t 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 â€śHighwayâ€ť got a lot of accolades. Was it difficult to move from a rather intense movie to a film like â€ś2 Statesâ€ť?
It was obviously difficult for me to get away from the emotion of â€śHighwayâ€ť, because I had become so emotionally involved with that character. But â€ś2 Statesâ€ť 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 â€śHighwayâ€ť, it is about this girl who is discovering herself. In â€ś2 Statesâ€ť, 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 â€śHighwayâ€ť break boundaries for you? I am not sure your first film did that.
No, it didnâ€™t. In â€śStudent of the Yearâ€ť, I was testing waters. â€śStudentâ€ť gave me reach, that she is a Hindi film heroine, can look into the camera and make faces, and dance. It didnâ€™t give me the actor tag and I know it. I never thought Iâ€™d get a film that would establish my acting credentials so soon, but I did get it. â€śHighwayâ€ť made me as an actor – it broke me. I found an emotional bank inside me that I didnâ€™t know I had. I thought I was a very shallow person and didnâ€™t think I had any depth. I didnâ€™t have much to worry about in life – everything was put out on a platter for me. But â€śHighwayâ€ť 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.
Isnâ€™t that characteristic of someone new to the industry? Most people lose their sense of earnestness once theyâ€™ve 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 â€śHighwayâ€ť, 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.
Youâ€™ve 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 donâ€™t 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 itâ€™s been put off so many times. There have been talks, but it hasnâ€™t 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.