Girl crush: Alia Bhatt


Girl crush: Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt is just your regular fidgety, idealistic, painfully frank twenty-something movie star

By Tanmay Bhat  April 29th, 2014

My first interaction with Alia Bhatt, someone I’d previously known only as my friend’s little sister, was a month after Student of the Year, her debut film in 2012. She was in her pyjamas, peering into her phone and giggling at what I assumed was a picture of a cat doing a human-like activity (the Bhatt household loves cats). I really like this about her, the fact that she’s not afraid to be 20. She’s always game for doing something fun, uses the word “ya” in conversation and isn’t shy of being a ditz. What’s even cooler is that she manages to do all of this while being a movie star. Fortunately, Bollywood’s penchant for sucking the personality out of actors hasn’t affected her yet. Five minutes into the interview, she was biting her nails non-stop while talking about her upcoming projects. You gotta love 20-year-olds.

TANMAY BHAT: I’m supposed to make this fun. So please be fun. Will you be fun?

ALIA BHATT: I’ll be fun. 

TB: So what’s up? What’s new?

AB: In my life or work life?

TB: Isn’t work your life right now?

AB: Hmm. I’m shooting Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, which Dharma is making. And I’ve lost some weight.

TB: Why?

AB: Because I needed to.

TB: For the movie?

AB: For myself. I went on this very strict diet.

TB: You lost weight before Student of the Year too, right?

AB: I did. I lost about 14 kilos. I used to be quite the chubby one, but never thought I needed to lose any weight. I actually thought I was really sexy. I’m less confident now.

TB: Do you constantly think about your flaws and how to fix them?

AB: Definitely. All the time. My biggest flaw, I think, is my body. And my Hindi accent. And my diction. And…

TB: So… everything?

AB: I’m talking about work! Otherwise I have 75 flaws. (Picks her teeth.)

TB:...she says, picking her teeth.

AB: (Sheepishly) That’s not a flaw!

TB: Your Hindi is fine, though.

AB: Not at all. It’s better, but not fine.

TB: Why do you think that is? You grew up here, didn’t you?

AB: Ya, but my diction was never corrected at home because my mother [actor Soni Razdan] doesn’t speak very good Hindi. My sister [Shaheen Bhatt] speaks it better than me. My father and I never spoke much in Hindi. My father and I never spoke much, actually.

TB: Hmm. How was it shooting with Imtiaz [Ali] for Highway?

AB: It was great. You know how people have that experience after school – they go study abroad or party and are on their own? I finished school and started shooting, so I never had that. I feel like shooting for Highway was my ‘experience’. And I love Imtiaz as a director and as a person. My father says I met him when I was five and that he said to me, “Be nice to him so he’ll take you in his film.” 

TB: This must happen a lot?
AB: A lot. All these directors have seen me as a child… (Mahesh Bhatt walks in and settles on the couch opposite.)

MAHESH BHATT: Can I sit here? I’ll be part of the furniture.

AB: Of course you can sit here.

TB: You were saying...

AB: I don’t actually remember any of these people from my childhood. Sure, people do talk to me nicely because I’m his daughter. But that’s about it. The best part is I get to hear these amazing stories about my father, from when he used to drink – he’s not had a sip of alcohol in 26 years.

TB: You sound almost sad about it, like, “Dad! Why don’t you drink any more?!”

AB: (Chortles) I get to hear all these cool drunk stories about my father. I’ve just never seen that side of him.

TB: Does it annoy you when people say you had it easy?

AB: It used to make me mad and I’d keep saying that I did so many auditions, after which I was shortlisted. Then I stopped bothering.

TB: Do you still audition?

AB: Well I did a look test for 2 States. For Humpty also. But auditions, no.

TB: You make your own decisions about films. But is there someone you go to for advice?
AB: I discuss a lot with Shaheen. And I go to Karan [Johar]. He has my back and I trust his opinion. It really helps to have someone who’s experienced to keep you from making bad decisions. 

TB: So now you have people for everything? To dress you up when you go out, do your make-up?

AB: Only for press events. I’m not mental that I’ll dress up so much every time I go out! I think sometimes people like seeing the real you. Not too much of the real you also, just someone who’s relatable. I want to get on the red carpet in pyjamas and sneakers.

TB: Lady Gaga did that. She wore pyjamas made of sneakers.

AB: She’s also worn carcass and I’m not going to do that.

TB: Because that’s not relatable.

AB: It’s taboo!

TB: This is what you’ve always wanted to do? Movie star, dancing to your own hit song…

AB: Ya, looking into the camera, making expressions, with the blower. Er, the blower is the thing with the nozzle that makes your hair fly.

TB: Right. What’s difficult about being famous?

AB: I didn’t expect looking good to be such a burden. It’s just very stressful. A few months ago, I found myself becoming paranoid about what I would wear each time I went out. I was dressing in the hope that people would like it – I wasn’t comfortable in those clothes. Now I’ve stopped that. Also, I have to compromise on sleep a lot. The less I sleep, the better I look. If I sleep a lot, my face becomes huge, but if I sleep for seven hours or less, I’m cool.

TB: Is this actually a condition?

AB: (Laughs) It’s a condition, I found out recently. And it’s fatal.

TB: What?

AB: It is. If I sleep too much, I… don’t look good.

TB: Ah. Okay. You have weird fans, right? Narendra Modi fans and your fans – same crazy?

AB: I love them. I think they’re really cool. They’re not crazy, they’re just really excited. Very, VERY excited.

TB: So basically, crazy. Have you had a stalker yet?

AB: Not yet. One should happen, no? So you know you’re making an impact.

TB: And 2 States. How was it shooting that?

AB: It was really interesting to play a Tam-Bram. I didn’t have the time to learn Tamil properly, but I had a tutor and learnt the twang. She’s a modern South Indian girl, so it was fine.

TB: What was it like working with Arjun [Kapoor]?

AB: It was fun. He’s a really good actor and he helped me a lot with my diction.

TB: You know everyone’s going to say that you’re dating, right?

AB: They’ve already done that. Apparently I’ve dumped him and moved on to someone else too. I haven’t looked up whom I’m dating right now.

TB: What about women in the industry? We’re always hearing about these cat fights.

AB: I’ve not had that yet. Everyone is competitive, everyone wants to win awards, everyone wants to be loved. That makes people fight. I’m very competitive, but I don’t hate people for being better than me or as good as me.

TB: You don’t? I hate people who are better than me all the time.

AB: Like, I feel that Parineeti [Chopra] is a superb actress, and I think she’s so good that it motivates me to be better.

TB: But you also hate her a little.

AB: (Laughs) NO! I don’t hate her, no! Don’t write that.

TB: Fine, for the record, Alia doesn’t hate Parineeti. What about all the hate you get? How do you deal with that?

AB: I’ll be honest, not very well. People call me fat, they say, “Alia is a little baby playing dress-up, send her back to school.” I feel bad; nobody likes to hear bad things about themselves. But it also helps me. It makes me do something about it. But when they say things like how I’m so ordinary looking, then I know they’re talking crap.

TB: Do you get noticed abroad?

AB: Yeah, a little. It’s nice. International.

TB: Do you ever worry about what you’ll be like at 30? Are you terrified of going all Lindsay Lohan?

AB: Yeah, that is actually my worst nightmare. Having something like that end my career.

TB: Drugs? They’re great for weight loss, actually.

AB: NO! I have a strict no-drugs policy. I mean getting into that zone, just being, like, this party chick. Honestly, though, I don’t worry about my career burning out in the future; I’m terrified of it burning out even now.

TB: (To Mahesh Bhatt) Mr Bhatt, how does it feel to hear your 20-year-old talk about creative burnout?

MB: (Considers the question) Burnout is a phenomenon of those who have lived fiercely on the creative landscape. They burn out, but then there is a period of… it’s like seasons of life – winter, autumn and… (Alia’s eye-rolling is out of control at this point.) There comes a phase when you are empty and then life refuels you and then you’re ready for another. I think burnout is inevitable in this journey and you have to rejuvenate.

AB: That’s a poem on burnout. Basically, I’m saying I don’t want to burn out.

TB: What’re you going to do now?

AB: Chill with my sister. Oh, you mean, like, in life? The plan is to shoot for my next film and hopefully get more offers. I’ve said no to just one movie, otherwise I’ve taken on whatever I’ve been offered. So you know I haven’t been offered that many movies!

TB: Where do you see your career headed? Who inspires you?
AB: I don’t want to be like this kind of actor or that kind of actor. I want people to want to be like Alia.

Photographs: R Burman; Styling: Nidhi Jacob; Creative Director: Prashish More; Make-up and Hair: Daniel Bauer/Artist Factory India

 

My first interaction with Alia Bhatt, someone I’d previously known only as my friend’s little sister, was a month after Student of the Year, her debut film in 2012. She was in her pyjamas, peering into her phone and giggling at what I assumed was a picture of a cat doing a human-like activity (the Bhatt household loves cats). I really like this about her, the fact that she’s not afraid to be 20. She’s always game for doing something fun, uses the word “ya” in conversation and isn’t shy of being a ditz. What’s even cooler is that she manages to do all of this while being a movie star. Fortunately, Bollywood’s penchant for sucking the personality out of actors hasn’t affected her yet. Five minutes into the interview, she was biting her nails non-stop while talking about her upcoming projects. You gotta love 20-year-olds.

TANMAY BHAT: I’m supposed to make this fun. So please be fun. Will you be fun?

ALIA BHATT: I’ll be fun. 

TB: So what’s up? What’s new?

AB: In my life or work life?

TB: Isn’t work your life right now?

AB: Hmm. I’m shooting Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, which Dharma is making. And I’ve lost some weight.

TB: Why?

AB: Because I needed to.

TB: For the movie?

AB: For myself. I went on this very strict diet.

TB: You lost weight before Student of the Year too, right?

AB: I did. I lost about 14 kilos. I used to be quite the chubby one, but never thought I needed to lose any weight. I actually thought I was really sexy. I’m less confident now.

TB: Do you constantly think about your flaws and how to fix them?

AB: Definitely. All the time. My biggest flaw, I think, is my body. And my Hindi accent. And my diction. And…

TB: So… everything?

AB: I’m talking about work! Otherwise I have 75 flaws. (Picks her teeth.)

TB:...she says, picking her teeth.

AB: (Sheepishly) That’s not a flaw!

TB: Your Hindi is fine, though.

AB: Not at all. It’s better, but not fine.

TB: Why do you think that is? You grew up here, didn’t you?

AB: Ya, but my diction was never corrected at home because my mother [actor Soni Razdan] doesn’t speak very good Hindi. My sister [Shaheen Bhatt] speaks it better than me. My father and I never spoke much in Hindi. My father and I never spoke much, actually.

TB: Hmm. How was it shooting with Imtiaz [Ali] for Highway?

AB: It was great. You know how people have that experience after school – they go study abroad or party and are on their own? I finished school and started shooting, so I never had that. I feel like shooting for Highway was my ‘experience’. And I love Imtiaz as a director and as a person. My father says I met him when I was five and that he said to me, “Be nice to him so he’ll take you in his film.” 

TB: This must happen a lot?
AB: A lot. All these directors have seen me as a child… (Mahesh Bhatt walks in and settles on the couch opposite.)

MAHESH BHATT: Can I sit here? I’ll be part of the furniture.

AB: Of course you can sit here.

TB: You were saying...

AB: I don’t actually remember any of these people from my childhood. Sure, people do talk to me nicely because I’m his daughter. But that’s about it. The best part is I get to hear these amazing stories about my father, from when he used to drink – he’s not had a sip of alcohol in 26 years.

TB: You sound almost sad about it, like, “Dad! Why don’t you drink any more?!”

AB: (Chortles) I get to hear all these cool drunk stories about my father. I’ve just never seen that side of him.

TB: Does it annoy you when people say you had it easy?

AB: It used to make me mad and I’d keep saying that I did so many auditions, after which I was shortlisted. Then I stopped bothering.

TB: Do you still audition?

AB: Well I did a look test for 2 States. For Humpty also. But auditions, no.

TB: You make your own decisions about films. But is there someone you go to for advice?
AB: I discuss a lot with Shaheen. And I go to Karan [Johar]. He has my back and I trust his opinion. It really helps to have someone who’s experienced to keep you from making bad decisions. 

TB: So now you have people for everything? To dress you up when you go out, do your make-up?

AB: Only for press events. I’m not mental that I’ll dress up so much every time I go out! I think sometimes people like seeing the real you. Not too much of the real you also, just someone who’s relatable. I want to get on the red carpet in pyjamas and sneakers.

TB: Lady Gaga did that. She wore pyjamas made of sneakers.

AB: She’s also worn carcass and I’m not going to do that.

TB: Because that’s not relatable.

AB: It’s taboo!

TB: This is what you’ve always wanted to do? Movie star, dancing to your own hit song…

AB: Ya, looking into the camera, making expressions, with the blower. Er, the blower is the thing with the nozzle that makes your hair fly.

TB: Right. What’s difficult about being famous?

AB: I didn’t expect looking good to be such a burden. It’s just very stressful. A few months ago, I found myself becoming paranoid about what I would wear each time I went out. I was dressing in the hope that people would like it – I wasn’t comfortable in those clothes. Now I’ve stopped that. Also, I have to compromise on sleep a lot. The less I sleep, the better I look. If I sleep a lot, my face becomes huge, but if I sleep for seven hours or less, I’m cool.

TB: Is this actually a condition?

AB: (Laughs) It’s a condition, I found out recently. And it’s fatal.

TB: What?

AB: It is. If I sleep too much, I… don’t look good.

TB: Ah. Okay. You have weird fans, right? Narendra Modi fans and your fans – same crazy?

AB: I love them. I think they’re really cool. They’re not crazy, they’re just really excited. Very, VERY excited.

TB: So basically, crazy. Have you had a stalker yet?

AB: Not yet. One should happen, no? So you know you’re making an impact.

TB: And 2 States. How was it shooting that?

AB: It was really interesting to play a Tam-Bram. I didn’t have the time to learn Tamil properly, but I had a tutor and learnt the twang. She’s a modern South Indian girl, so it was fine.

TB: What was it like working with Arjun [Kapoor]?

AB: It was fun. He’s a really good actor and he helped me a lot with my diction.

TB: You know everyone’s going to say that you’re dating, right?

AB: They’ve already done that. Apparently I’ve dumped him and moved on to someone else too. I haven’t looked up whom I’m dating right now.

TB: What about women in the industry? We’re always hearing about these cat fights.

AB: I’ve not had that yet. Everyone is competitive, everyone wants to win awards, everyone wants to be loved. That makes people fight. I’m very competitive, but I don’t hate people for being better than me or as good as me.

TB: You don’t? I hate people who are better than me all the time.

AB: Like, I feel that Parineeti [Chopra] is a superb actress, and I think she’s so good that it motivates me to be better.

TB: But you also hate her a little.

AB: (Laughs) NO! I don’t hate her, no! Don’t write that.

TB: Fine, for the record, Alia doesn’t hate Parineeti. What about all the hate you get? How do you deal with that?

AB: I’ll be honest, not very well. People call me fat, they say, “Alia is a little baby playing dress-up, send her back to school.” I feel bad; nobody likes to hear bad things about themselves. But it also helps me. It makes me do something about it. But when they say things like how I’m so ordinary looking, then I know they’re talking crap.

TB: Do you get noticed abroad?

AB: Yeah, a little. It’s nice. International.

TB: Do you ever worry about what you’ll be like at 30? Are you terrified of going all Lindsay Lohan?

AB: Yeah, that is actually my worst nightmare. Having something like that end my career.

TB: Drugs? They’re great for weight loss, actually.

AB: NO! I have a strict no-drugs policy. I mean getting into that zone, just being, like, this party chick. Honestly, though, I don’t worry about my career burning out in the future; I’m terrified of it burning out even now.

TB: (To Mahesh Bhatt) Mr Bhatt, how does it feel to hear your 20-year-old talk about creative burnout?

MB: (Considers the question) Burnout is a phenomenon of those who have lived fiercely on the creative landscape. They burn out, but then there is a period of… it’s like seasons of life – winter, autumn and… (Alia’s eye-rolling is out of control at this point.) There comes a phase when you are empty and then life refuels you and then you’re ready for another. I think burnout is inevitable in this journey and you have to rejuvenate.

AB: That’s a poem on burnout. Basically, I’m saying I don’t want to burn out.

TB: What’re you going to do now?

AB: Chill with my sister. Oh, you mean, like, in life? The plan is to shoot for my next film and hopefully get more offers. I’ve said no to just one movie, otherwise I’ve taken on whatever I’ve been offered. So you know I haven’t been offered that many movies!

TB: Where do you see your career headed? Who inspires you?
AB: I don’t want to be like this kind of actor or that kind of actor. I want people to want to be like Alia.

Photographs: R Burman; Styling: Nidhi Jacob; Creative Director: Prashish More; Make-up and Hair: Daniel Bauer/Artist Factory India