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Alia Speaks To Subhash K Jha About The Genesis Of Another Superlative performance

Subhash K . Jha

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Alia Bhatt is again riding the crest  of  success with her rousing performance as  the  sunshine girl  in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy. Dazzling in her simplicity and quite comfortable in  her superstardom .

Another dazzling  performance  from the one  and  only Alia Bhatt?

Thank you,  but what did  you think  of the  film?

I loved it. Zoya Akhtar is doing  exemplary work.I want Zoya to  re-christen  it Gully Girl?

That’s sweet. But honestly I  don’t have to be at the centre  of  every film I do.

But that’s what  we expect  when you are there?

That would be vain and boring.I’d rather be in films that are exciting and challenging  to me as an actor than  just think about my own role. In Raazi I was  the central  character. But in Gully Boy it was always Ranveer Singh as the central character.And I’m quite okay  with that. I am very happy with my role.

So  are your fans. They  love  your character  Safina.She is  a quite a firebrand.And  very possessive about her  boyfriend. Are  you  a possessive girlfriend in  real life?

NOT AT ALL. I  give  a lot of space  in all my relationship.

Would you break a bottle on a girl’s head  like Safina does,  if she hits on your man?

No never. I am not into public displays of anger at all.  Given the situation I’d handle it  more calmly and certainly not in public.

Safeena is all heart and impulse?

I am all heart too. But I’d not want to create a  public  scene ever.Safeena is unlike any other character I’ve played. What can I say? I am fortunate  this role came  my way. Not too many  female  characters are written  so  well in  films about male protagonists. Safeena  comes across as  a real individual character with her own needs and  dreams .

Yes , in fact my favourite scene  of yours in Gully Boy is the one  where you tell  your screen mother(Sheeba Chadha) that  you  long to do all the  normal things like wearing  lipstick and going out to clubs .What did you discover about the life of workingclass girls from conservative families  while playing Safeena?

I had interacted with girls from such a  background in  the past. I know about the lives of girls who are not allowed to go out or not allowed  even wear lipstick , whose  lives are restrained by conservative  parents .And  it’s not about the hijaabthat Safeena wears. I don’t think the hijaab  is a sign of her lack of freedom. It is a beautiful apparel and has nothing to do with restraining the  freedom . But there’s a conservative mindset out there which needs  to be changed.

This  over-conservatism  is  attached  to a value system that  families cultivate and nurture from  one generation  to another?

A value-system  is  important.  But it should not be taken too far.One has  to keep up with the times. I’d like  to believe Safina enjoys wearing the  hijaab. But she does not  enjoy lying to parents about whrereabouts  .That’s what she  would like to stop doing. And when she realizes that her boyfriend  lies to her because Safeena doesn’t give him space to be honest , she  also  realizes she too has been lying  to her parents for the  same reason.In any relationship, the freedom  to be yourself  is very  important. Once that freedom  is denied there is bound to deception.

Safeena  is quite a  character?

It’s not as though Safeena is perfect. She  is as flawed as we all are. The trick in life is to  work your way around these flaws.

What  is your takeaway  from  the character  you play in Gully Boy?

I do take away some thing intangible from all my characters  .What I took away  from Safeena was  her clearheaded  attitude to life. Even if she  is lying she knows  why she’s  doing it. In real life I don’t lie.I don’t have to. But  I try to remain positive  about  situations even if they don’t make  me happy.

How much of a preparation  did you  undertake to play Safeena in  Gully boy?

My director Zoya Akhtar  guided me through the role. For  the  first time in  my career  I did an acting workshop. I  had  never done  a workshop before. Not even for  Raazi. It was too much fun. It was like going to school.Within three days I was talking, walking behaving like  Safeena. I was  like, ‘Wow this is a load  off my shoulder!’ I now realize that if  I’ve a grip on my character beforehand  , going on the set  and  playing  the role becomes so much easier. I am  definitely going to recommend  doing workshops with  my other  directors.Of course every director has his or her own process. But I will definitely explore  character-finding methods with other  directors.

Ranveer Singh says, when there is Alia Bhatt on  the poster audiences expect  something special.Does that put  a sense of responsibility on you?

It does. People  spend their hard-earned money to see films.I’d want them to go back  happy . But I wouldn’t let my decisions as an actor be influenced  by the audience.When I choose  a role I choose  it for myself.I select  scripts if I like them and if I like  my  character.

Besides Shaandaar, all  your  films have been hits. Does the prospect  of a  flop  scare you?

Of course  it would bother  me. I get emotionally attached to all my films. But  after  you are done with all  you can  do for a film you have  to  move  on. You can’t be  bogged down by failure. If a film fails you  move on and hope the next one  would be  a hit.Every film can’t go your way. It doesn’t mean you sulk  about a failure.  You take  it in your  stride and move on.

Do you feel after doing such powerful  characters as  Udta Punjab, Raazi and Dear Zindagi the audience won’t accept you as a typical heroine?

I’ve never  been attracted to roles where I just gave to sing and dance.I would love play the typical heroine, as  long as she has something to say, something to do .And I’m  playing the typical heroine in  Karan  Johar’s Bramhastra and Kalank. But these are very well-written characters. As long as the singing and dancing are  accompanied by substantial characterization,  why  not? As long as she’s not around just for the song break,I am not really into  hogging footage. Even if I’ve two scenes I’d be happy provided they speak to the audience. I’d love to  sing and dance. But these have to appended  to  a character. I don’t need to be in every frame.

But audiences may be  disappointed  if  there’s less of you in a film?

Were  you disappointed with  my role in Gully Boy? No?  In that case, watch me  play  the quintessential  heroine in  my forthcoming films  Kalank and Bhamhastra. To be  honest, these  are the  kind  of films I  grew up watching.I feel we’ve  reached  a stage  in  the  growth of  mainstream cinema where  a heroine can  do the singing and dancing and  have a substantial part. We’ve had  a glorious history  of  great heroines  like Madhubala, Nutan, Kajol. Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi  doing character-driven roles  in mainstream cinema.

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