Her firstfilmwas a dream debut – a film with Dharma Productions that managed to score big atthe box office. Her second film is a complete contrast to the glimmer and shineof ‘Student of the Year’. On a nippy Mumbai afternoon, Alia Bhatt looks like a teenager in an over-sized ‘Highway’ jacket. She exudes a rare vulnerability, as she takes on professional and personal questions.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your first film ‘Student of the Year’ belongs to a very different genre. Was it challenging to work in a film like ‘Highway’?
It was definitely challenging for me. Even at that time, doing Shanaya’scharacter (in SOTY) was challenging for me – I didn’t know how to walk inheels, how to look glamorous. Of course, this was a different involvementaltogether, it was very physically and emotionally exhausting and I had to pushmyself a lot. It was a road trip, so a lot of things happened where you had tobe strong and keep going. But it was all in a good way because you get to learna lot whenever you are being challenged.
How was the road film experience?
That was one of the most exciting parts for me. The route that we took wasnot the regular tourist route; we went to very isolated areas, where you wouldn’t usually go to if you were there in that particular city.I didn’t know what to expect in the next turn – the weather conditions kept changing; we were constantly pressed for time because the sun would be setting and things like that. That was really exciting and that madeit more spontaneous and gave it more of a thrill. Creating dialogues on thespot inspired by the locations was something I enjoyed the most.
Did you have to prepare for the role of Veera?
For this film Imtiaz wanted me to be as raw and as untouched as possible.He wanted me to be like a blank sheet of paper that is about to be written on and the blanker it was, the better.
Probably the only thing I did was take diction classes because I am playing a Delhi-based girl and I wanted to improve my Hindi.
What was the most difficult thing during the shooting?
The physical exhaustion was the worst. I had to run…my body was in pain. We were traveling in a truck so my body would be sore but that was okay because I didn’t have to pretend that I was all okay because it was a part of the film for my body language to be battered and bruised. So however, my body was reacting it was showing on the camera.
Is the film based on the Stockholm syndrome?
No, it is not. Stockholm syndrome is when you feel sympathy for the oppressor. Here she finds herself when she is out of her comfort zone,she actually finds comfort.
How instrumental has Karan Johar been in terms of your choice of films post ‘Student of the Year’?
Karan in probably the first person I will call up and say that I have got this offer that is exciting and I want to talk to you about it because he is my mentor. I have a three-film contract with Dharma Productions and I am their talent for the next 5 years. Automatically I feel that he is the person I can fall back on if I need any advice.
You have more of a conversation with Karan than with your father regarding your career?
Do you consider yourself lucky to be working with such established directors right at the beginning of your career?
I definitely consider myself lucky. You know, it’s a dream come true the kind of launch I got, it’s another dream come true to work with Imtiaz Ali in such a different film, so, I am very, very grateful.
Which is your favourite Imtiaz Ali film?
Jab We Met.
Does it bother you when you are compared to Kareena Kapoor?
It doesn’t bother me, it’s not like they are linking me up with her. I just think it’s not true. I don’t think I am like her in anyway and I don’t think there can ever be anyone like her. There is only one Kareena Kapoor and I strongly believe that.
Do the link-ups bother you?
No. If they are true why should it bother me and if it’s not true, again,why should it bother me? Anyway, I will never talk about who I am dating,that’s a given.
What’s the one word of advice that your father has given you?
He has asked me to keep my head on my shoulders. There this constant need to be successful but he told me that nothing fails like success. Once you think you have arrived, that’s when you fail.
Has stardom changed you at all?
No…if this is stardom then I am really disappointed.
Do you discuss your choice of films with your sisters?
Shaheen is somebody who I talk to about everything; she is the only person I talk to. If I have to take advice, I will take it from Shaheen because she doesn’t please easy. She is very particular. Even when my father feels that –if Shaheen likes something, he is satisfied, it’s like his toughest audience is convinced.
Of all the travel that you have done in the film, which place appealed to you the most?
Actually, every location is special to me for different reasons, we travelled across six states, so every state is special to me for a different reason.Delhi is not very special because I got hurt a lot during the shooting. Sambar in Rajasthan is special because I celebrated my birthday there and that was the time during the shoot when I was very content with the place. Punjab was special because I could do things like – climb a tree, run in the khet like Kajol does in DDLJ, I wasn’t looking as beautiful but I was still running in the khet. I love the mountains, so Kaza in Himachal and Shimla were also special.
Overall, the whole experience doesn’t stay as six different states but it stays as one long journey.
‘Highway’ releases on February 21. You can connect with me on Twitter.