MUMBAI—Before her triumphant performance in Meghna Gulzar's "Raazi" is out for all to see, Alia Bhatt says she prefers to show the vulnerable and unpolished side of the characters she essays rather than shining like a perfect diamond on the big screen.
In an interview, Alia Bhatt spoke about "Raazi," her film journey and what's on the plate next.
Q. You had a private screening of "Raazi.” What were the responses like?
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.
Q. 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.
Q. You got to work with your mother (actress Soni Razdan) for the first time. What was that like?
A. 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 hang around together.
Q. "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 am sure they do. That's how civilization moves forward. It is true that self-preservation is the first instinct of every human being. Would anyone put the country before one's own life the way Sehmat does in "Raazi?” Yes, of course! What about the jawans who put their lives in danger to protect the country? So yeah, I think it isn't impossible to have that level of selflessness even in today's day, and age, provided there is the right impetus to look beyond yourself. And Sehmat finds that impetus.
Q. I believe "Raazi" required more preparation than all your other roles so far?
A. 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-defense 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.
Q. 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.
Q. Speaking of brushing up your Urdu, was that hard for you to do?
A. 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 Boys,’ 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.
Q. You have done some really entertaining ads with Ranveer Singh?
A. 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 Boys” with Ranveer is a different experience altogether. Zoya Akhtar (the director), Ranveer and I had loads of fun.
Q. Do you also play a rap singer in “Gully Boys” like Ranveer does. Are you a Muslim character again?
A. No, I am not a musician in “Gully Boys.” As for the way I look, I leave it to Zoya to explain all that when they are ready.
Q. 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, Meghna Gulzar and Zoya as compared with your other directors?
No different at all. There is absolutely no difference between working with male and female directors. I don't think we should evaluate talent according to the individual's gender. If you are referring to women as more sensitive directors, then let me remind you, my father Mahesh Bhatt made some very sensitive films like "Arth,” "Saaransh" and "Zakhm.” So I won't go with a gender division of directorial abilities.
Q. 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?
A. 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.
Q. Would you miss the limelight when you are no longer in it?
A. 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.
Q. Have you signed anything new?
Actually, I have. But I leave the announcement to the producers. At the moment I have 'Gully Boys,’ which is complete. Now one year would be taken up with “Bramhastra” and “Kalank,” both Karan Johar's productions which is like home to me.