Flying high

Deccan Chronicle.  | Mehul S Thakkar

Sunday Chronicle, screenario

Udta punjab actress Alia Bhatt gets chatty about playing a drug addict in the film, her upcoming US tour, life outside the movies and more.

Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt, who has been barely able to take a breather in a long time now, will be going on a short holiday before she begins work on her next. We manage to catch up with the Udta Punjab actress during her lunch break, where in between nibbles, she gets chatty about her US concert, playing a drug addict Udta Punjab, being a star talent in Dharma Productions and more.

Why promote a film like Udta Punjab? Isn’t it already making headlines?
(Laughs) Well, this is the least time I have ever given to promoting a film. The plan is to just cover the key cities — we are not chasing the idea of going all out. We will just be reaching out to important centres. Shahid and I will not be overdoing it for this film.
Are you excited about your first overseas tour taking off in the US?
Yes! We just got done with a photo shoot for the tour, and also recorded some videos for digital media. From July we will start full-fledged preparations. It is quite interesting to be part of something like this, which involves so many actors. We all are comfortable with each other and I am excited about the venture. I think it’s nice to take a break from movies and do something different like this.
Coming back to Udta Punjab, how did you go about understanding the character and then preparing for it?

It was very difficult for me to make a mental sketch of the character. It is so away from what I am and what I have seen, that I cannot immediately relate to it. Of course you hear of people who have indulged in substance abuse. I did have an outline for the character — she is a fighter and a victim. But eventually I had to structure the persona and for that I needed to bring in my own imagination. I wouldn’t naturally react to some of the things in the film, which is where the director helped me a lot.
Tell us more about your director. What did you like the most about Abhishek Chaubey?
I think his vibe — he is very calm and composed as a person. On the sets, he knows what he wants. Even on days when things are not working in his favour, he doesn’t panic and doesn’t let things pull him down.
Changing the tone of your skin must have been a big challenge…
Yes it was. The role needed me to go through a physical transformation. I had to lose weight and look like someone who is not very healthy. I had to spend a lot of time outdoors to achieve a certain tan. And then there was this dialect I had to speak in for which I needed some training.
As an actress, what is it like when you are not shooting but still have to be on the sets? Do you spend a lot of time locked in your vanity?

During this film, yes. I would be so exhausted that even if I had a break for 45 minutes, I would go back to my vanity and go to sleep. I used to put salt in the tub and sleep in it because they say it helps you relax and get better sleep. But otherwise I am not the one to go back to my vanity van after every shot. I stay on the set, hang out with the crew, make friends and chill with them.
Any work rule that you have made for yourself? Like no matter what, you’ll allot a day for family?
I have not made any rule like that but I do try and take some time out for them. In the mornings, before leaving for shoots, I spend some time with them. Once in a while, if there is an off day, randomly I will make some plan with them. It is always very last-minute.
Have you moved in to your new place yet?
Not yet. The shifting is in process and for me it’s a big deal. It will happen with time.
You have teamed up with Varun Dhawan again for Badrinath Ki Dulhania…
Yes and it’s the same crew so everyone is really happy. It’s a very interesting part and it’s a very commercial kind of a character.
What is more worrying — to work with an actor again with whom you have had a hit or to take a successful franchise ahead?
Both. What if the pair is not liked or what if the second film doesn’t do well?
Okay. But do you think Bollywood is ready for the superhero genre?

I think as kids we have all dreamt of having magical powers. Be it fantasy or science fiction — some of those films have done very well. I think it’s just a matter of time and it should happen slow and steady. Look at Bahubali — it has set a great standard, the scale at which it was shot and the
quality it achieved.
How is it like being an in-house talent of Dharma Productions? Does it give actors the liberty to pitch for other scripts, which other studios don’t provide?
Yes, most certainly and I did that for Udta Punjab. I pitched myself for the role and I put myself out there as I really wanted to do it. I didn’t think about the director not coming to me first or anything.