Alia Bhatt. (Image: DC)
Alia has changed the parameters of the archetypal Indian heroine. She wants to embrace all that makes her who she is – from a full family life to an inspired work life. "There are days when I say ‘That went well!’ but my father (Mahesh Bhatt) says, ‘Don’t be the first and loudest member of your fan club!’," she says flashing her dimpled smile.
She is undeniably one of the biggest crowd-pullers of her generation of actors, with a 90 per cent box office success rate. Besides winning her first National Award, Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) made Rs 300 crore, a first for a female-led film, while Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani’s collection stands at Rs 500 crore. Her stardom has gone beyond home shores — she made her Hollywood debut in Heart Of Stone, opposite Gal Godot and was also appointed the Indian ambassador for the global luxury brand House Of Gucci.
Acting is what Alia always wanted to do. She made her debut as a child artiste in Sangharsh in 1999, and as leading lady in 2012 in Student Of the Year. Her searing performances in Highway, Dear Zindagi and Raazi proved that her talent is off the charts. Gauri Shinde, who directed her in Dear Zindagi, says, "What I felt when working with Sridevi (English Vinglish) who was such an instinctive actor, getting every nuance of the script right, was the same as what I felt when I saw Alia on the sets. They both possess a native intelligence when it comes to their craft. Also, the fact that she was not even aware of the talent she possessed made it even more endearing. Today she has grown to headlining films and is sheer magic on screen."
"She is a very talented actor, who has worked in such varied narratives," says Zoya Akhtar. "She does hardcore mainstream commercial cinema, and then she does an ensemble like Udta Punjab and stands out in that too. She had no qualms about playing a supporting part in Gully Boy. She is very confident and bites every role she gets. She realises the importance of stories — the film is always bigger than her." Director Jasmeet Reen calls her "a sponge, who gives in to the filmmakers’ vision."
Ask Alia if there’s a method in her approach, and she says, "I have an overactive and imaginative mind.
I can be very pragmatic one moment and detached from reality and dreamy the next, so I’m never in the same zone; maybe that’s the reason I choose different characters — it keeps me more entertained."
She co-produced Darlings with Red Chillies Entertainment — the movie clocked in 30 million hours on Netflix. Alia has also launched her own production company, Eternal Sunshine. "I am more of a creative producer, I am not into logistics. I choose content as part of the audience and want to tell stories that touch your heart. From films and TV shows to podcasts, I am going to explore everything," she says.
Turning producer is just one part of her many entrepreneurial endeavours. She launched a line of sustainable children’s and maternity wear, called Ed-a-mama in 2020. Reliance soon acquired a 51 per cent stake in it for nearly Rs 350 crore. She is also an investor in beauty, personal care and wellness start-ups.
Brand-strategy expert Harish Bijoor says Alia’s aptitude for reinvention is a sign of her acting prowess and business acumen. "In the business sense, she is as good as Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni. In terms of investment, when you are a star, you invest your sweat equity and money equity. This is the era of start-ups and start-ups attract a lot of stars. Alia is very savvy in that aspect," he feels.
When you ask her about her plans for the future, Alia says "I will continue going ahead with the same enthusiasm, wonder and sparkle in my eyes."
Meanwhile, as she wraps up another year on a high note, the actor will soon be seen in Dinesh Vijan’s Jigra.
What I felt when working with Sridevi (English Vinglish) who was such an instinctive actor, getting every nuance of the script right, was the same as what I felt when I saw Alia on the sets. They both possess a native intelligence when it comes to their craft. Today she has grown to headlining films and is sheer magic on screen." — Gauri Shinde, filmmaker
In the business sense, Alia is as good as Virat Kohli or MS Dhoni. In terms of investment, when you are a star, you invest your sweat equity and money equity. This is the era of start-ups and start-ups attract a lot of stars. Alia is very savvy in that aspect." — Harish Bijoor, Brand-strategy expert