Interview By: AMUL VIKAS MOHAN
If there is one actor who has grabbed the industry by the scruff of the neck in recent times it has to be Alia Bhatt. The actress just continues to impress with every single movie she becomes a part of. Be it an inspired performance in RAAZI or her simply outstanding work in a movie like GULLY BOY earlier this year. Alia is ready with her 12th major release in seven years of her film career with next week’s mega release KALANK and I had the good fortune to talk to the actress. We spoke about everything from KALANK to her anticipation of working with her father in SADAK 2 and also her keen knack of box-office know-how. Read on for an excerpts.
First things first, what is that one thing that really attracted you towards ‘Kalank’?
The fact that it was an ensemble, and also it was like this dramatic story about human relationships and written in an almost thriller-like format. I like the fact that it was so– crisp, very dramatic and has a full Hindi film vibe. But with a lot of layers that gives you the contemporary kind of touch as well.
This is the first proper period film you are doing, in terms of costume drama; though ‘Raazi’ was also in the similar genre but totally different.
Yes, costume drama, it is like a full on period film in terms of its costume, jewellery and all of that.
So, how was that experience?
Not easy. (Laughs)
Not easy, as in?
Not easy, as in; it’s difficult to look pretty with those things, to walk around, look graceful. It doesn’t come very naturally to me.
So was this a good learning curve for ‘Inshallah’?
That we will see what I am doing in ‘Inshallah’ (laughs) but it was a learning curve in general. I know it’s not easy to do things like this and to maintain your peace and calm, even though you are really not feeling peaceful and calm, completely. But I had to do it and also think about the character – the character was way bigger than all this costume and all these minute problems. But to feel comfortable is very important while acting and I was not always comfortable; I was quite uncomfortable most of the times.
Multi-starrers these days are such a big rarity. I don’t know why, but people just don’t make them. So how difficult or easy was that aspect for you, because it’s a multi-starrer and you have to be secure enough as an actor to get into that zone…
Well, I have never been that kind of actor anyway that I would have any insecurity about my part. As long as it’s a part that is rounded off, there is a full arc and there is a full story and curve to the character; I don’t think it matters. And that’s where your trust in your director comes along, where you really believe that this director will handle you with care and make sure you’re given that kind of justification. I think Abhishek has done that and if it’s hard or easy, it’s for him. For us, we are following one journey, he is following six. So he really had it difficult.
And how has Abhishek Varman’s approach changed since his debut film, which you were a part of as well?
Well, he had to be way more hard-working for this film because of the kind of scale and the whole canvas of it. I don’t know how he has changed because with me, our vibe will always be the same. He has definitely become more encouraging, earlier he would not even say – ‘nice’, ‘good’ or whatever. Now he is at least starts saying that, but when he says, it is a rarity (laughs). With him and I, it’s kind of a telepathy, I would know. If he didn’t like something, after the take I’ll be like –‘yeah, sorry that didn’t work’ and he will be like– correct! So, usually when Abhishek comes and gives direction he leaves the video village. Suppose he is sitting on the video village, and then he will leave to come, give the direction. With me and him, I would stop him if he would leave and come to explain. And I’ll be like – yeah I know this, that. So we have that kind of tuning because we understand each other very well and I think that works.
Do you reckon now because of ‘Kalank’, there is going to be a lot of advent of multi-starrer films once again? You’re part of another one – Takht also. So do you feel that now the scenario is going to change?
I think it should, I mean multi-starrer films are fun. All of us actors in Kalank for instance have our own kind of journey, and we are very happy in our secured space and also very excited for each other’s journey. And I’m sure it’s going to be the same on ‘Takht’ as well. Even ‘Takht’ is a genuine true ensemble, it’s quite fun.
This is your fourth film with Varun Dhawan, how has he changed as an actor, what do you think he doesn’t do what he use to do because initially you both got launched together with the same film and probably you had the same set of mindset …
He has always been energizing, I think he has calmed down a bit; he has become a little bit more matured. But with me, he will still be the same. He has changed as an actor, and I think he is responding very well to direction. And also he is getting lost more and more in his moments which I think is, quite lovely. Because you see him do really nice things and that really works; it was a very difficult character that he was playing. Different for him, for the characters he has played in the past. I keep saying this – Varun from being a boy has become a man (smiles).
You’ve had such a great year at the movies. Last year you had ‘Raazi’, this year ‘Gully Boy’ to start the year with. What keeps you going in terms of when you pick a film, what is the thought process now, because you have to maintain the record; do you reckon that or is that something at the back of your mind?
What keeps me going is that I want to keep going. I don’t feel like there should be some stopping, like it should just be a process of learning. You’re on a journey and then you have certain stops and those stops are usually your films releasing and then you pick up some pieces and go ahead. It is a journey and you have to keep moving forward and fly with not too much speed but with some sort of attention and care.
How excited are you with the prospect of your father directing. He is one of the finest film-makers, story teller, in the industry…
I am extremely excited and honestly I am a bit scared as well, I would say I am more scared than excited. And scared in a good way, because he is raring to go and I think he is kind of high on spirituality and one of the most evolved humans in the world. His mind thinks in very different ways and that’s’ probably the reason why my sister and I are brought up in a very different, liberated manner. I also carried a lot of my emotional quotient being high to my parents. My dad is like waiting to erupt. He is a volcano.
Was there a lot of pushing for him to become a director? He has come on direction after 20 years…
I did not do any pushing. My dad is unpredictable so he can throw a surprise on us about him directing a movie.
Lastly, you have done 11 movies and this is going to be your 12th release in terms of major movies… what is the one element that has changed you as a performer, actor and as a person in the course of these seven years?
I have become more hard-working and more centered in a way where I’m not distributing my energy on unnecessary things. I have a lot of energy kept for my work, but I also have lot of quiet time for myself and with my loved ones. So I have that balance and I believe, I need that balance or else I will go mad (smiles). As an actor, what I really started enjoying is, playing with direction. When I get direction, I like playing and experimenting with it. You can have an omelet cooked in any style. I like the ability to play around and try directing in different ways to see which works the best. I get very excited by new direction, direction in general.
I know you’re one of the few actors who keeps a keen eye on what the box-office of your films is looking like. So what is your gut saying about ‘Kalank’?
‘Kalank’ is releasing on Wednesday that gives us many days until ‘Avengers’ releases. So, I’m quite excited that it is releasing on a holiday followed by Friday, Sunday which are also holidays. So three big holidays and I think Wednesday to Sunday is big five days for us to understand where the film is heading. I have a certain number in my mind for the film but I will keep that to myself. I had it with ‘Gully Boy’ and it surpassed my expectations. So I’m hoping that’s the case with ‘Kalank’ as well.