MUMBAI— She has had a blazingly good run at the box-office, with “Badrinath Ki Dulhania” (2017), “Raazi” (2018) and “Gully Boy” (2019) all hitting gold. With the cream of assignments among films to come, including S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR,” Ayan Mukerji’s “Brahmastra” with beau Ranbir Kapoor, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Inshallah” with Salman Khan and her dad Mahesh Bhatt’s comeback film “Sadak 2,” Alia Bhatt is easily at the top of the heap. India-West met the chirpy woman of substance at the Hotel Sun’N’Sand for a quick chat before the release of her latest film, “Kalank.”
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: How was it doing a serious and period film with Varun Dhawan after three lightweight stories?
A: It was certainly not easy. For both of us, these were very difficult and new characters. I think that’s when your director really matters. Abhishek Verman handled us very carefully. It was not fun and games but challenging in a good way.
Q: Are Roop, you character, and you, similar in any way? This is similar to a question we asked Varun as well about his character.
A: We do have some similar qualities. Roop is evolved in her head, and I believe I am. She’s ahead of her time, and I think that I am in step with time. She’s a strong and brave girl, and I believe I am both, and like me, she’s not perfect and does not always make perfect choices. She also follows her heart, and I connect with that. Yet, she is way braver than I could ever be, and unlike most of us, she has fortitude and is patient with life, whereas we find it difficult to go with the flow and want things to be our way every time.
Q: How was it working with a male director again after doing two consecutive films with females – Meghna Gulzar and Zoya Akhtar?
A: I do not think there is any difference – a director is a director. There is no difference even in their approaches. Maybe they can be different as human beings.
Q: You danced so well in “Ghar More Pardesiya” and the look Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s character gives you is almost as if she was really admiring you.
A: It’s very sweet of you to say that, but I do not think anyone can dance like her! No, it was not easy, because I am not trained in classical dance, I am just an “enjoy” dancer, and I do not even look at myself as either delicate or graceful because I am more like a boy in normal life!
So there I was, training for one year in basic Kathak under a lady named Tejashree, and then working with Remo-sir for two and half months. I was shooting for both “Kalank” and “Brahmastra,” and would practice the song and movements the moment I had some spare time. People on the sets and even my friends thought I had gone mad. Then on the last two days, I went to Pandit Birju Maharaj-ji, and the way he changed and sang the song was a revelation, and I thought, “Arey, aisa bhi hota hai!” He gave another dimension to it. After the song was over, I could be free again! (Smiles)
Q: So how easy is it to wean off a character?
A: I am a switch on-switch off actor, and you do not have a choice if you are shooting two or three films at a time. You have to get over a character. Even outside films in life, you have so much to do.
Q: How would you compare Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan and Ranbir Kapoor?
A: Ranveer’s a gem of a man, and I genuinely love him. His energy is at another level altogether, and as human beings, we are a lot similar. We also feel a lot of admiration and excitement about each other. Varun is like my right arm – we have such a strong and instinctive connect. It is as if invisible waves are passing between us.
As for Ranbir, he has been my favorite actor ever since he started 12 years ago. He was a completely different experience, and I would always wonder what his process was because he was so honest and so effortless. But I found there was no process! He would be relaxed between shots, gossiping or eating chocolates! He’s very, very hard-working and I think he is the best actor we have today!
Q: What do you feel about “RRR?”
A: Oh, the Telugu part is VERY difficult, and I am learning a bit every day! Honestly, I would have done a Rajamouli film blindly, but he was graceful and insistent that I have to hear the story. As usual, it is something special and amazing, he is an artiste in his filmmaking, understands the pan-Indian audience, and he reaches to them before any actor connects.
I had been wanting to do a South film for years, and it is a dream come true that my first film is with Rajamouli-sir! I also love the way Dharma Productions presented the “Bahubali” franchise, and Rajamouli-sir is presenting “Brahmastra” down South. At the end of the day, we are the Indian film industry, the hugest in the world, and we must collaborate because that can only make us richer.
Q: How was it shooting with Amitabh Bachchan on “Brahmastra?”
A: Ranbir and I would always sit with him and ask him about his times, and it was so amazing to listen to an institution like him. He would never carry any airs to the sets, and would suddenly get into a “Yo Baby!” mode.
Q: You will be working for the first time with your dad Mahesh Bhatt, who is returning to direction with “Sadak 2.” When are you beginning the film?
A: We will be starting in May, and honestly, I don’t know how it is going to be. I am scared, and I don’t know what he is going to do, because dad keeps looking at me oddly! I guess we will add a different dynamic to our relationship!
Q: And what about “Inshallah?”
A: That will start too in a few months, and is a completely new space for me.
Q: You are at the top now, which is said to be a lonely place.
A (Smiles) I don’t know what top I am at, but sometimes it can be good to be lonely. But I don’t think I am, really!