Shaheen Bhatt pens a heartfelt letter for our September digital cover star Alia Bhatt
"There is no introduction for the readers about who the ‘real’ Alia is because the way I see it, there is no secret Alia, no version of you that’s cloaked in disguise"
I’ll admit, I imagined writing you a letter like this would be easy – a cop-out almost. But, when I actually came to doing it, I was chock-full of questions rather than rousing thoughts to fill a page.
What could I possibly say to you in a letter replete with indispensable censorship that you don’t already know? Are there undisclosed feelings I’ve neglected to share that could benefit from public unveiling? Does this count as candour or exhibitionism? Is it even you that I’m writing to?
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After all, my function is to pull back the curtain, to give you pieces of advice that act as revelation, to thank you for things as a form of disclosure. My function is also to introduce those reading to who you ‘really’ are, to let them in on the top-secret parts of your personality that you’ve hidden away – and this is precisely where things get problematic.
You’ve already shown the world exactly who you are. There is no introduction for the readers about who the ‘real’ Alia is because the way I see it, there is no secret Alia, no version of you that’s cloaked in disguise.
“Acting is only for when I’m in front of the camera,” you said to me when you were 19, and it’s a world-view you haven’t wavered from since.
Alia, from when you were a child, you’ve always been fiercely yourself. On authenticity, you have never been short, you’ve never pretended to be anyone other than who you are. You are as dotty in an interview as you are at home in your PJs at 2am. Testing the limits of being you in every possible scenario has always been one of your most loved pastimes.
On your 27th birthday, I told you that my wish for you was that you become wholly yourself – and uncover who you want to be in every way. To grow into the most authentic version of yourself. It isn’t something I imagined would begin to come to fruition only weeks later.
Through this pandemic, and the last few months in lockdown the bright spot in an otherwise bleak time has been the time we’ve spent together. It has been through this time that I’ve watched the sparks of understanding blossom into a full-blown self-realisation. And there is something truly astonishing in that – being a silent observer to the poetry in motion that is someone’s emotional evolution.
In these past few months, I have witnessed you display the sort of resilience and emotional stoutness that I could only have dreamed of for you. I’ve watched as you’ve weathered incomparable loss and become acquainted with the unfamiliar texture of grief. As you’ve shed old roles and adopted new ones. As you’ve sifted with remarkable gentleness through external onslaught for fragments of insight and gratitude.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them,” said Maya Angelou.
The highs and lows of the past few months have in no way reduced you, on the contrary, I have watched in astonishment as it has only enlarged your spirit, cementing your commitment to being truthful to who you are.
Authenticity is a choice, to show up and be yourself is a choice. It is in times of adversity that we must choose who we want to be and it is in adversity that you have become more “you” than you’ve ever been before. That you are the most you’ve ever been. And lucky too, because we could do with every ounce of realness we can get right now.
P.S. You make everything better.
Go behind the scenes with Alia Bhatt on the set of our September digital cover shoot:
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Photographer: Shaheen Bhatt; Styling: Samar Rajput; Assisted by: Rupangi Grover (styling); Actor’s PR agency: Hypenq PR