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Alia Bhatt: “I feel grateful”



Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi

Alia Bhatt Speaks To Subhash  K Jha  On Life After  Gangubai Kathiawadi 

Alia Bhatt, I’ve never seen such praise for anyone  before.  How  does it make  you feel?

Alia Bhatt : How  does  it make me feel?  I feel grateful.  But I don’t take it to my head. I take it to my heart. Because I  know the compliments are coming  from the heart.

Your godfather Karan Johar was  deeply  moved  by your performance  in Gangubai?

Alia Bhatt : Yes, he  was  deeply moved. I was deeply moved  by his  response. So it was a very emotional moment  for both of us. Karan is like a father to me. I really  value that relationship.

What did your  actual father Mahesh Bhatt think of the  film?

Alia Bhatt: Oh, he loved it! Since he saw it, he has been constantly  monitoring   its progress, speaking to various people  in  the trade. He was saying all along that this would change everything for  me.

From Rekha  and Vidya  Balan  to Anurag Kashyap and  I still don’t get  how someone so you  digests so many lavish compliments?Is there a  magic mantra?

Alia Bhatt: There is  no magic mantra. It just feels wonderful to be loved so much. Gangubai Kathiawadi is  a  film I  invested  a lot of energy and  commitment into. My involvement was very  high in this project . I really really worked  on it, so much so that  it has left me  exhausted, and  I need a break.

I know, This is the first we saw  an actor getting exhausted on camera at the  end  of  a dance  sequence?

Alia Bhatt: (Laughs) Yes that was  me actually exhausted on camera. That was  the intent. More than the physical it was the emotional exhaustion  of   that moment. Gangubai had spoken to her  mother   after  many years just a  few scenes earlier .She  needed  to  let all the pain and anguish out.It was a deflected  rage.

As  you walked talked and lived Gangubai’s role, I often saw director Sanjay Leela Bhansali in your performance, specially  in the laughter?

Alia Bhatt: Oh yes! Like Sanjay Sir I  am very observant.  It may not be  deliberate. But I often end up picking up things from other people’s  mannerisms and speech that I find interesting. I love  the way Sanjay Sir  bursts into laughter. I don’t know whether I consciously used it for Gangu. But it’s something I  may have picked up unconsciously. Sanjay Sir doesn’t over-direct his  actors. He  doesn’t  come and say , ‘Do this  do that’. He gives you intent, layers, subtext, thoughts…But  then he leaves  the final option to the actor.

How  would you  compare him with the other directors  you have worked with?

Alia Bhatt: I  don’t think I know how to compare him to any  other director. He  doesn’t have a  process. He is spontaneous. He improvises a lot on the sets, while  staying within the plot and the thought processes of the character.

Lots of people including me, thought you couldn’t pull off Gangubai because you are so petite and so culturally removed  from her?

At first I  was  scared. I didn’t know if I could pull this off.  But my fear  was  put to rest with the  belief that  Sanjay Sir had in me.He told me, ‘If you want to fly, just jump  off the mountain with me and we’ll do this  together.’. That was the  level of his confidence in me. But nonetheless  it was definitely a  challenge.  It was not as if  I came to anyone’s mind as soon as  Gangubai was mentioned.  But that was the  challenge of  it.

I have to ask you how  you held on to that sad look in your eyes  throughout the film even when your character  is laughing?

 I don’t know.Maybe  I  have sad eyes(laughs). I wish I could give you an  intellectualized  answer. But  I’d be just faking it. I  think  it’s all to do with the conversations I had with Sanjay Sir before facing the camera. I’d transport  my emotional responses to what I  was told  about Gangubai.

This is  your first bio-pic  experience. How  different is  it playing a real character?

Alia Bhatt: I  think because there was very little actual information on the real Gangubai, a lot was left to the  imagination . It wasn’t really an out-and-out impersonation of a real character, like what Ranveer Singh did in ’83. That is a real challenge. To BE  someone else. He  even looked   like Kapil Deoji.  Whereas in Gangubai adding  personality was left to  the creator and the actor. Right now  I don’t have the  ‘Other’ to differentiate  from   what I’ve done.

How hard  did you  work on the voice?

 I had  to lower by bass . That’s  not  very difficult. The hard part was to to keep my voice consistently bass specially while doing the emotional scenes.

You went  to Gaiety-Galaxy to  check out audiences’ reactions. What was that like?

It was amazing. I don’t think any actress earlier had gone to stand right in the middle of the audience in Gaiety.Normally actors sneak in. I went  upfront.I wanted to get their  reaction head-on. It wasn’t easy. I am very shy of crowds. I am not very theatrical  when it comes to  receiving  compliments.

You mean  you are not comfortable  with compliments?

Yes. But  I wanted to take  in  that  raw energy. After  a long time the theatres are going housefull.I simply had to see it  myself.

Weren’t you afraid of the crowds?

Not at all. They love  you. They are there to show  their love. I  came out of  the car. That’s when all the phones came   out. They were  shouting dialogues, cheering…They are the reason I am  here.

But not all the attention is  adulatory. How do you handle the trolling?

It doesn’t  bother me at all. The world  owes me nothing. I don’t get at  all shaken  by criticism.

Is  there a fear that  you won’t be  able to  equal your  performance in Gangubai Kathiawadi  again?Your next release RRR has very little of  you.

I don’t think of  more or  less as far as my performances are concerned. I do know   Gangubai has been an exceptionally enriching experience of my life  and career. And I know this can  only happen again with Sanjay Sir. But at  the same  time I  am very excited about the  films that  are coming out this year.They are  all very different.

Tell me  about them?

Well, there  is  Rajamouli’s RRR next where I have a very limited  part. I did it only for the pleasure of working  with Rajamouli Sir who I really admire.

Are you happy with what  he has given you in RRR?

I haven’t seen the film.All I can say is, I am happy to be part of something he  makes. He is a master storyteller. He is very  clear in his head about what he wants.Then I have my own home production Darling coming  up. I am very proud of it. All the actors Roshan Andrews, Shefali Shah , Vijay Verma  are amazing.  It is the most unconventional  film I’ve  done.I am really looking forward   to that.

Are you happy to be  a  producer?

Yes, I am very  excited to be  a producer.  I really  enjoyed the process of seeing a project  fructify.I am so glad I teamed up with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies  for  my first  production. They handled all the nitty-gritty. It  was  a smooth  ride.Then there is Bramhastra.

Which goes on and on?

 It’s finally going to hit the screens on 9 September. We will speak  more about when  the  time comes.

I  can’t wait.What  are the plans for the coming weeks and months?

Right now the plan is to complete some pending ads and other  shootings.Then  I also have my birthday coming up.

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