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Subhash K Jha Selects Alia Bhatt’s Finest 5

She started her career  as a leading lady in her mentor  Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year—prior  to that she played  young Preity  Zinta  in Tanuja  Chandra’s  Sungharsh because  they both had  the dimples in common. Karan cast Alia  as Poo spinoff  .It   gave us   no clue of  the powerhouse performer to come.

1.     Highway(2014): I have  no clue why Alia Bhatt’s Stockholm Syndrome was so  easily diagnosable and why she  fell in love with her kidnapper. Or why she suddenly became  a victim  of  child abuse  at the  end. Perhaps  Imtiaz Ali could answer , though I suspect even he  doesn’t know.  But the role gave Alia  a  chance  to  swerve  swiftly away from the ‘Poo’  image to deliver a  raw  hurt  seething  performance that made me  wonder where  all this angst came  from.

2.     Going  Home(2014):  The most  important film  that Alia has done so far is  this  short film with  long legs  about a girl , stranded in her broken-down car in the middle of the road,  who gives a bunch  of boys  a  lift. Alia’s character  remains  supremely oblivious  of her  co-passengers’  dishonourable intention. This  not-knowing is what  gives her performances an edge. Ironically  this  topical short film was  directed by Vikas Bahlhimself  an  accused in  the MeToo  campaign. 

3.     Udta Punjab(2016):Alia played the  hauntingly persecuted Bihari migrant Pinky, the reluctant drug addict pumping her veins with dubious drugs to numb herself against constant sexual  violation.Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt are born again as they play the two traumatized  characters journeying from the opposite directions of the moral scale .And yet their pained lives converge at one point in a strange unexpected and life-changing encounter.Alia  bleeds brilliancy into her  role, bringing to the screen an electrifying authenticity with her understanding of the complexities that define the drug politics of Punjab.I asked her where on  earth she had met  a character like Pinky…maybe at  the traffic signal while returning home  from a party at Karan  Johar’s  place?  Jokes aside, Satyajit Ray had never seen a village when he made Pather Panchali. If you know what I mean. 

4.     Raazi(2018): In hindsight,  everything except Alia’s performance in this film  seems askew.  Why was  the original  title  Sehmat,  which is Alia’ s name  in the film and very  apt for  what ensues  in the plot,  changed  to  a bland Raazi? What was the politics  of the film? What was  the  politics  behind the making  of the  film?The original story of  a female spy’s  unfathomable  personal sacrifices  for  the nation,was  conferred with a dismaying moral ambiguity. The Pakistani home  where Sehmat   infiltrated as a Bahu was  filled with genteel  cultured softspoken people who didn’t deserve  to be spied upon. Alia  rode across all the contradictions  in the plot to deliver a surprisingly consistent  performance in an exasperatingly  inconsistent  film.

5.     Gully Boy(2019): As  Ranveer Singh’s Murad’s possessive  firebrand  girlfriend Saifina,  Alia  has little playing-time.  Every time she is on  screen  something happens.  Tightly squeezing into the kerchief-sized rooms of the slum, Murad simply wants to fly. His face lights up each time he meets the love of his life . Alia  with her head veiled and smile unveiled, plays Saifina with an impish charm that brings sunshine into not just Murad’s heart. We too wonder what life would be like without her kindered presence.

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