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 Sangharsh 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 Bahl himself, 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 soft spoken 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 kindred presence.
Image source: SpotboyE archives
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