MUMBAI — She’s improving by the film, thanks to her increased self-confidence, showing up with a relaxed, calmer demeanor and with sharper thinking on key matters. Success (“2 States” and “Kapoor and Sons” in particular) does that to stars, and Alia Bhatt is a star even if she jokes that she isn’t one yet. We point at the two posters behind her in the office room at Balaji Telefilms, where her name leads her three co-stars, and she quips, “If you read from the other side, my name comes last!” We gently remind her that English is read left to right and not like Urdu. And she just smiles…
We chat with the bubbly youngster on her new film “Udta Punjab,” on acting, working with her father’s banner and other matters.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: So what was your biggest challenge with “Udta Punjab?”
A: That my character here is like cheese to my real-life chalk! She is as different from me as can possibly be, or even from whatever I have done so far as an actress. The prep lasted over a month — workshops with actor Pankaj Tripathi on my looks, my dialect that was a blend of Bihari and Punjabi, and my body language. I also discussed my character a lot with my director, Abhishek Chaubey, to understand exactly what she is like and what she has gone through.
Q: The ragamuffin look — torn and grimy clothes, disheveled hair, dirty hands — how much did that help your performance?
A: It helped a lot. Makeup and get-up do help to the extent of 50 percent! The look itself was so much away from me that when I was in it, I became a different person altogether. It made me get into my character’s zone.
Q: So was unwinding necessary after the shoot?
A: No. After it took six months to mentally get out of my character in “Highway,” I decided I am never going to let any character seep that much into me again! I am not into any kind of method acting either. If I do that, I might strike a false note somewhere. So when a director says, “Action!” I switch to my character, feeling like she would and relating to her. I try and become that person.
But yes, this film was so demanding that every one of my 21 shooting days were more tiring than the previous one! It was physically very traumatic. I could not wear shoes, so I hurt my feet running on the concrete! I hurt my back and had a muscle tear as well. In fact, I would rush to my vanity van and grab 30 to 45 minutes of sleep every time a shot or the lights were being changed! And every evening at the hotel, I would use the salts Shahid Kapoor suggested I put in the tub to just drain my exhaustion away and make my feet free of pain!
Q: With all the four main characters having distinct stories, how much is the interaction between you and your co-stars within the film?
Q: And Kareena happens to be your idol.
A: Yes, but I would attend the shoot and got to chat quite a lot with her. And we had chai together as well.
Q: “Udta Punjab” is about drugs and the kick they give. What gives you a kick?
A: Being on stage, with the crowds screaming and shouting!
Q: You tend to balance the mainstream with an offbeat kind of cinema. Do you think that will give you bigger rewards in the long run?
A: I think that it is my love for films that will give me longer innings. If I do films that audiences love, those films will take me far. I also need to do films that make me uncomfortable, as well as those in which I am comfortable. That will also prevent me from being bored of work. They say that the sky is the limit, because the sky is limitless! I want people to believe that there is nothing Alia cannot do!
Q: So what is the difference in your take on acting now and five years ago when you first started working as an actor and had a certain picture of this profession?
A: (Ponders) Hmmm… Nice question! I imagined acting to be a part of a fairy-tale Cinderella story, a dream world with everything pretty, glamorous and happy in it.
But today, though my love for acting has grown each day, the responsibility and pressure builds up with each year and film. It’s no longer a dream world but a job now — and not in the negative sense! What I mean it is that you are so used to doing what you do that you don’t want to know how it will feel if it is suddenly not there in your life!
Q: Apart from Gauri Shinde’s film with Shah Rukh Khan, Ayan Mukerji’s superhero movie with Ranbir Kapoor, and “Badrinath Ki Dulhania” with Varun Dhawan as the next part of the “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania” franchise, we hear you are finally doing a movie with Vishesh Films, your home banner, in “Aashiqui 3.”
A: (Smiles) Yeah, I am in talks!
Q: Talks — with your home banner, father and uncle?
A: (Smiles more broadly) Yes, with my father and uncle!
Q: Would you like to star in an updated remake of the 1992 “Prem Deewane,” which relatively went unsung and had your sister Pooja Bhatt’s terrific comic performance?
A: I don’t think I can. I am very apprehensive about re-creating films that have been made by my family.