MUMBAI— Alia Bhatt has gone places. And that is not just about “Raazi.” She is leagues ahead of contemporaries and is now comfortably ensconced as the leading star of her generation. Also, though there is also a want of other bankable names, she is rated next only to Deepika Padukone. “Gully Boy” will be her latest release.
A lightning interview saw the chirpy actress call the shots with cute candor.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: As someone who has done decent singing in some films, why have you not recorded a song in this musical?
A: Because there is no scope for me to sing. It is an authentic story without anything fake. It would have been so funny had I burst into a song, and that too sung it myself. If it was in character, maybe Rap would have been okay. We did have a lot of discussion on this, but it does not matter that I do not have a song, because there is much more to my character. Even as a promotional song, it would have sounded like, "Hey! Where did this spring from?”
Q: The response to the trailer is great. But do you think such stories will do well pan-India in what are known as small centers? After all, the music is niche.
A: Honestly, our trailer is solid, communicating the film correctly. It’s tricky to communicate the journey of a boy who is an underdog, which is not a love story, and of course to balance my character, other characters, and the music and not confuse people.
This trailer has had the most positive response ever for any film in my career, and it is overwhelming! The unit did expect a good response, but we were very surprised at the degree. Okay, now we realize that expectations are far higher, so that makes us responsible, and I was a shade nervous. But I watched the film last night, and my doubts were removed – I am pretty happy.
As for the appeal, I think it will do well, and the reason is that the story is very true. Ranveer is the underdog – he has been told he has to lead a certain life, in a certain way, and not imagine anything else. This is a story that relates to everyone, for all of us have a dream, and we want to fulfill it. It is all about passion, about achieving, about a real struggle and truth. How can this have a limited appeal?
Q: What matters when you choose a film?
A: For me, the only thing that matters is the writing – the story and the writing of my character. But it is also never enough to have a good character if the film is not matching up. That does not balance out. And the director is important. But his decision about my co-stars or the music should not matter unless I am producing the film, and I have not yet reached that stage!
Having said that, every role, I think, has a part of you in it if you dig deep enough. I do prefer to choose roles that are a step away from me. In that sense, the closest that any role came to the real me was in “Dear Zindagi.” In “Gully Boy,” maybe I cannot relate to the girl, but I can understand how possessive she is of her boyfriend, and can feel her jealousy and anger even if I will never behave in that way.
Q: Did you enjoy doing this kind of street-smart character?
A: I did! I had a lot of fun because there is a tapori side to me. Like I said, I can feel like my character did, even though I am a Juhu girl who is supposed to be dainty and quite hoity-toity. There is this hardcore Mumbaiker within my heart, my DNA. I like many things about her like she has no time for nonsense, she says what she has to, she gets things done the way she wants – so it is in her attitude. And it’s fun to be incorrect. Being right and good every time can be very irritating.
Q: The big one – how was Ranveer Singh?
A: Oh, he just takes over, he comes down on you! I just enjoy his energy! And he is lovely as a performer – he has blown my mind, and I keep thinking, “Wow! He’s amazing! Fantastic!” As a human being, he is actually a simple, sensitive person at heart. He shows that energy only so that people around him have a good time. He is so positive, and I am sure he must not be feeling all that good all the time. But it is an art to be like him.
Q: How much is your awareness about underground music?
A: My sister is into it, but I was not much aware. In fact, my sister told me that Zoya Akhtar is making a film on Indian underground music. A year later, the film came to me, and I was very excited. After being a part of the film, I realized how actually alive the Hip-Hop and Rap culture is in India, though it has not yet come on a commercial platform that commands attention. The mainstream has not woken up to it yet, but things are changing, like the success of “Apna Time Aayega” shows.
Q: As an actor, how was the shift from an intense “Raazi” to this film?
A: There was a gap of a few months. “Raazi” was a film I was carrying on my shoulder, so I was very stressed, but I did it. With “Gully Boy,” to be honest, there was just a 3-day workshop as it was all about Ranveer doing everything. So I was like “Wow! This is so much fun!” There was no tension; I could be myself. So I was packing up early, sleeping nicely and generally having a very good time.
Q: Your film is opening at Berlinale. ("Gully Boy" had its world premiere at the 69th Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 8; this interview was done a day before the premiere)
A: Yes, we are leaving tonight, and it’s great. I have been there before for “Highway,’ but now “Gully Boy” is in the competition as well, so it’s going to be more challenging. It is a tough audience over there.
Q: Last but not the least, do you think you deserve the National award this year for “Raazi?”
A: You know something? I think you should not demand, but command a National award!