I had the pleasure to observe how Alia Bhatt works the camera on the set of our cover shoot—even if that meant watching her magic unfold in stills sans any dialogue. Less than four months post-partum, the Gully Boy star is back in action. But in reality, did she ever leave? Questions about motherhood are more often than not rooted in misogyny with a sacrificial connotation—or with a stereotypical emphasis on the word change that it will bring to a woman’s career. It is 2023—when will the narrative shift? I exasperatedly ask the actor exactly that as we finally sit together in her vanity van after a productive day of the shoot.
Bhatt is minus the make-up and opulent clothes she was bedecked in a few minutes ago and takes a minute to gauge my question. She sits cross-legged in a black t-shirt, matching trousers and a loose bun—almost amused at the contradiction in the approach towards this subject, as opposed to the loathsome interrogation she is otherwise subjected to. “In my opinion—it happens because it is clickbait, and it is easy to grab people’s attention with such headlines—but I think it is slowly changing. I see a lot of it in the younger generation; even in the way you’re asking me, this question has a lot of sensitivity to it. I can’t deny that things are changing, but it’s a happy change and a happy responsibility. The person should be given the room to decide. Okay, I want to take time off work or get back soon—there is no right or wrong. I genuinely believe the only way to come around this is by doing what you do in silence, and eventually, people will get used to it.”
At just 29, Bhatt’s iconic filmography is built on risky choices—all of which have resulted in making her one of the most bankable stars of the current times. Carrying the trait to business, the actress believes in playing against the odds. As her contemporaries forayed into the world of make-up, skincare, hair care and fashion— Bhatt launched Ed-A-Mamma, an eco-conscious clothing brand for kids. “I decided to do kids wear because there was a genuine gap in the market for sustainable homegrown brands for kids. We initially launched it without my name and sold out on day one purely based on products,” she explains her move.
What may have started as a strategic move has now become strictly personal. Bhatt gave birth to daughter Raha Kapoor in November last year and has started to look at everything at Ed-A-Mamma with a microscopic lens. “It will probably benefit the most from this phase of my life. Now, all of my involvement is very intimate, and you can’t put a price on this experience. There is a certain understanding that I will have from this point onwards. There was a moment when the first package from the infant collection came in, and I was excited like a kid in a candy store. Even though it was for my daughter, I was as thrilled as if somebody was gifting me the products. Things like new clothes for my baby bring me so much joy,” Bhatt beams.
When she’s not busy building a colour-coordinated wardrobe for little Raha, she loves reading books to her infant. “She’s pretty small right now, but I love reading her books as she listens attentively,” the proud mama points out. Taking it as a cue, I ask the multi-hyphenate if she’s planning to pen down a storybook or two under Ed-A-Mamma. “I plan on launching storybooks soon. I do have a couple of ideas, but I’m not very good with language—so I may or may not write them, but my sister will undoubtedly be a part of this. The idea is to release a series of nine books—each will take up a particular subject or emotion like hope, joy and kindness. I realise the importance now of reading to your child early on; it helps them grasp a language and the emotions behind it. You’ll be surprised how much they can pick up.”
With a vision to make Ed-A-Mama a one-stop shop for everything related to mothers and babies, Bhatt is a woman on a mission. “Right from conception, you should be able to rely on Ed-A-Mamma. I want to create categories for everything, not just from the fashion perspective. From story books and animation series to personal care items like diapers, toys or even car seats—you name it, and we must have it. Another thing that I want to do is have exclusive offline stores where you’ll be able to experience the world of Ed-A-Mamma. In my opinion, the greatest luxury in life is to be able to spend time in nature and do so very often. We cannot do that, so I want to create that world through these stores.”
After a decade in the film business and reaching the pinnacle of success that most actors can only dream of, one may assume that she takes at least a minute to rest on those laurels. But that’s not the case with the Brahmāstra actor. To her, once you’ve reached the milestone, you must forget about it and pace ahead. “When I am on a film set, the more raw, unassuming, childlike and nervous I am, the better it is. The more complacent and self-assured you become, you lose some of your wonder and magic. To maintain that wonder, I treat every day like it’s day one of the shoot.”
With no specific goalpost in mind, the world is her oyster—and Hollywood may be the next big step, but it isn’t the ultimate destination. “The way I would do a film like RRR, where the first language was Telugu, is the same reason I did the Heart Of Stone. Both these films took me outside my comfort zone. Next, I’d like to learn a new language; even if I do a film in Hindi, I’d like to push myself in that world. I would love to do an out-and-out comedy or play a negative character,”
As we were about to end this reflective and deep conversation, I pleasantly surprised her with a moment of nostalgia, where she subconsciously manifested her reality today. The last time she was on the ELLE India cover, in October 2021, she jokingly willed that twenty-five years later, her daughter would be on the cover too. While still grinning about the innocence of that moment, I ask her to file away a message for the said daughter to discover twenty-five years later. “I hope wherever you are in life right now, you’re happy and living your life as your true self. Most importantly, before loving anyone else, you must first love yourself. Lastly, I hope you still want to spend as much time with me now as you did back then” (laughs). On that full-circle moment, we call it a day—with a last off-the-record discussion about how life works in mysterious ways and, in the larger schemes of things, the parts we play.
ELLE India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino; Photographs: Vaishnav Praveen (House Of Pixels); Art Direction and Cover Design: Sanjana Suvarna; Styling: Lakshmi Lehr; Hair: Mike Desir (Anima Creative Management); Makeup: Punit Saini; Production: Imran Khatri Productions, Editorial Assistant: Hala Dawre; Assisted By: Charulata (styling); Brand Coordinator: Aangi Nahta; Artist Reputation Management: Alphabet Media