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Alia Bhatt opens up about what the future of Bollywood looks like, the legacy she would like to create, and more

The Bazaar cover girl's evolution as an actor has been steady and solid, and here's a sneak peek into it.

Harper's Bazaar India

It’s an afternoon shoot with Alia Bhatt. The set isn’t a usual studio or a makeshift production  set, but a living, breathing art exhibit space. Titled Vichitra, the show by Tejal Patni, is past  its prime viewing week, extended just to give Alia a canvas to paint her many facets something that she has been doing deftly if her filmography is anything to go by.  

Alia started off as the effervescent Shanaya Singhania in Student Of The Year (2012)—who, at first, seemed like an extension of Kareena Kapoor’s character Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)—and then quickly  escalated to deliver award-winning performances in Highway (2014) and Udta Punjab (2016) as Veera Tripathi and Mary Jane, respectively. It made the audience take notice of the versatile actor who was relatable in her role as Kaira in Dear Zindagi (2016) struggling with mental health issues, and transform into a mature and equivocal Gangubai in Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022).

On set, Alia is involved, eager for more takes, check her photos and angles often, and marvel with childlike enthusiasm as we open her up to Tejal’s fantastical world.

Alia Unplugged

 

Here’s more from our interesting conversation: 

Sonal Ved: From your debut in 2012, you have  charted over a decade of diverse roles that have seen  you embody wealth, trauma, poverty, deceit,  romance, patriotism, and much more. How do you  move from one role to the other, and how do you  then bridge the gap between you as an individual,  and the characters that you play? 

Alia Bhatt: It’s not about switching roles. My approach to  each character is by just diving into it, living it out, and  finally unwinding with my friends or family. And then it’s  time to live another character. Some you can easily slip into,  some take time. It’s like changing outfits—some you quickly  zip into, others need more wriggling. The idea is to shake  off one character before slipping into the next.  

SV: Can you explain this with examples? Let us in  on the roles that came easy to Alia, and ones she had  to work hard to embody.  

AB: The girl-next-door roles are relatable and easier to lean  into. However, they come with their own challenges to keep  the character real, and of course there is the music and dance  that can be very demanding. Then there are those intense,  gritty roles like in Udta Punjab or Gangubai which feel like  a real workout—mentally and emotionally. They take a lot  to embody…but that’s what also makes them incredibly  rewarding.  

Alia Unplugged
Power Performer

 

Alia Unplugged
Extra fine wool rib-stitch tank top with web details, Gucci

 

SV: As one of India’s leading women in the Hindi  film industry, you’re in a sweet spot to define the  future of Bollywood. Where does it go from here?  

AB: Without a doubt, it’s super exciting. We’re blending  traditional styles with bold, new narratives. It’s like a great  remix that respects the classic, but surprises you with  something new. As an industry we are pushing boundaries  and reaching new audiences. I truly believe now is the time that only the most authentic storytelling will stick.  

SV: Speaking of roles that aren’t urban, stories that  are emotionally challenging—how do you detach?  Are you someone who brings her work home? 

AB: I feel it’s important to switch off to find those moments  of normalcy. Earlier, after tough roles I would turn off a  heavy drama series for some light-hearted sitcoms. I would  hang out with friends, catch a movie, or just do something  fun to clear my head. Now I feel the added need to limit  bringing my work home because once you are a mom you  are physically, emotionally, and mentally always a mom first. 

Alia Unplugged
Red-blue, all-over GG shadow bouclé vest and short pants; Marina Chain Earrings, all Gucci

 

SV: You’ve also forayed into producing with Eternal Sunshine Productions. And the choices you are making with it have been as unique, beginning with Darlings. How do you decide on what projects  to pick? 

AB: Choosing projects is like curating a playlist—I ask myself what’s going to keep me and the audience engaged.  I love to have chats with everyone about cinema for their  insights, but, at the end of the day, the projects I pick have  to light a spark in me; and love to an extent that I don’t want  to move on without it.  

Alia Unplugged
Alia Unplugged
Camel, long sleeves, wide collar, wool-silk GG double wrap coat with reversible side, detachable belt, pockets and hood; Signor

 

SV: Your first film, Student Of The Year, was different  from the kind of films your father made. You then  moved on to more serious roles. Is this  “homecoming” for you? 

AB: Student of the Year was high-energy, all glitz and glam.  It was a lot of fun, and also taught me a lot. With more  serious roles like in Highway, I started diving deeper into  the craft, and exploring complex emotions and stories. 
 

SV: You always manage to shut down the trolls with more successful performances. How do you cancel out the noise and focus on your craft? 

AB: To deal with the noise, I focus on the positive and let my work do the talking. It’s about building a wall between me and the trolls, focusing on the good stuff, the  constructive feedback, and letting the negativity just bounce off. 

 

Alia Unplugged
Ivory, long sleeves, V-neck, wool bouclè stitch cardigan with GG buttons details; ivory, short sleeves, polo-neck, wool bouclè

 

Alia Unplugged
Dark blue, long sleeves, cotton washed denim shirt with snap buttons opening; white, extra fine wool rib-stitch tank top with we

 

SV: Industry insiders say that you light up in front  of the camera. Where do you get this spark from,  and what do you do to keep it alive? 

AB: It comes from a genuine and deep-rooted love for  storytelling. I keep that spark alive by continuously challenging myself, taking on new roles, and embracing  each opportunity with enthusiasm. It’s about staying  curious and excited about the magic of cinema. 
 

SV: Who are some Indian and international cultural icons that inspire your work, be it with their career graph, choices of films, or simply with the way they carry themselves? 

AB: I admire Kate Winslet for her incredible range and resilience, and Taylor Swift, who turns every experience into heartfelt music. I feel inspired by Aishwarya Rai  Bachchan who chartered her own course and took her journey global when no one was even thinking about it. And, of course, Kareena Kapoor Khan who is iconic in every way, and Shreya Ghoshal whose voice just elevates every word and rhythm given to her. These women embrace their journeys with such élan and ease—that authenticity is what I aim to bring to my roles.  

Alia Unplugged

 

SV: Whether it was growing up or what you were embroiled in during your formative years, you have been surrounded by Bollywood insiders, both  within the family and outside. What are the biggest, most pivotal lessons you have learnt from them that  have aided you in your journey so far? 

AB: From family and friends in the industry the lesson  has always been to stay grounded and keep evolving. Whether it’s advice over dinner or shared experiences on set, every interaction has something to teach about life, not  just acting. Also, the most important aspect is to know that  change is the only constant, so you have to keep going and  never get too comfortable.  

Alia Unplugged
Root vegetables with zucchini purée, basil vinaigrette, caramelised pumpkin seeds, Circle Sixty Nine, Chef Akshat Agarwal


SV: You’re married to one of India’s biggest male  movie stars. What are some of the things you’ve  learnt from Ranbir Kapoor over the course of your relationship? How differently do Ranbir and you  deal with failure and success? 

AB: Ranbir and I handle things differently. I am more  contemplative, a bit of an overthinker, while he prefers to  shake off the dust and move on quickly. It’s this difference  that helps us support each other, providing balance when  it’s needed the most. But both of us choose to focus on  work with a lot of love and immense respect. We work like  it is a part of our life—a very important one—but not the  whole of our life.  

SV: With hard work and, of course, your  manifestation, in the past decade in Bollywood there has been an exponential growth in your craft. What legacy do you see yourself creating in the next 10 years? 

AB: In 2024, I see myself continuing to push into new  creative territories, aiming to engage with the audience  on deeper levels. The goal has always been to challenge myself, to not be comfortable where I am, to dig deep within myself, to be able to contribute more to my  characters. The legacy I hope to build is one of meaningful, memorable roles which not only entertain but also provoke thought and inspire change.

Cover image credits:

Editor: Rasna Bhasin (@rasnabhasin)

Digital Editor and Interview: Sonal Ved (@sonalved)

Stylist: Anaita Shroff Adajania (@anaitashroffadajania)

Photographer: Akula Madhu (madetart)

Cover Design: Mandeep Khokhar (@mandy_khokhar19)

Hair Stylist: Amit Thakur (@aamitthakur_hair)

Make-up Artist: Puneet B Saini (@puneetbsaini)

Editorial Coordinator: Shalini Kanojia (@shalinikanojia)

Hair Assistant: Janvi Mathuria 

Make-up Assistant: Prem Lohat (@premlohat)

Styling Assistants: Neona Bahri (@neonasanjaybahri), Anaheeta Appoo (@anaheeta_a)

Photographer Assistants: Pradeep Chand (@pradeep_mummaneni), Anil Jaiswal (@aniljaiswal_)

Props: Janhavi Patwardhan (@theartnut_j/)

Location Courtesy:

Artist: Tejal Patni (@tejalpatni); Show: Vichitra; Gallery: Snowball Studios (@snowball.studios); Gallery Director: Raman Chauhan (@raman1977); Show Producer: Shams Lalji (@shams5155); Production Designer: Preetesh Kushwaha / The Makers (@themakers_pd/); Lighting Director: Rubb Bhungdawala / ALL Film Equipment (@allfilmequipment); Lights & LEDS: Arjun at Light Craft & Sound Pvt Ltd (@lightcraftandsound)

Alia is wearing Ivory, long sleeves, V-neck, wool bouclè stitch cardigan with GG buttons details; ivory, short sleeves, polo-neck, wool bouclè stitch mini dress with GG buttons details; rib-cotton socks with web detail, Signoria slingback pumps; and Marina Chain earrings; all Gucci (@GUCCI)

This article originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar India, April-May 2024 print issue. 

Also Read: "There's nothing more timeless than a saree"—Alia Bhatt at the Met Gala 2024

Also Read: Sabyasachi becomes the first Indian designer to walk the red carpet at the Met Gala

 

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