Alia Bhatt has had a stratospheric year. If the resounding love for Bollywood in Singapore is anything to go by, the 30-year-old British-Indian actress has quickly joined the ranks of some of the industry’s biggest names. Armed with an undeniable charm, Bhatt is now on a journey that can only be described as a global takeover. Under her belt? A recent repertoire that boasts some of the biggest hits of her career, from the leading role in director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi to being named Italian luxury label Gucci’s first and only South Asian brand ambassador.
Still, Bhatt is quick to note that international resonance is far removed from validation. “Representation has to come from the authenticity of work. You shouldn’t try to make a global impact because you want to be accepted. You make an impact because your work does.” And the impact isn’t lost on onlookers. Hot off the heels of director Karan Johar’s blockbuster hit Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, a lauded Met Gala appearance and motherhood, the actress delves into the pivotal pillars of Alia Bhatt today: passion, tenacity and wonder.
Congratulations on the success of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. What has this past month looked like for you?
The response to Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani has been overwhelming. No matter how much belief you have in your film, you’re always waiting for the day when the audience sees it. What’s amazing is bumping into people and them saying that they’ve watched the film multiple times. That doesn’t happen often and is something to cherish and feel grateful for. It is the highest benchmark of regard. The film has put a smile on people’s faces and we’re happy to see that. I’m quick to move on, though. I take it in but I move on to the next thing. (laughs) You shouldn’t swim too much within a success or a failure. You learn from it. You accept it. You absorb it. And you move on.
“I’m just like how I was when I was a kid: curious, in my head and dream-like. The most fun I had was when I was by myself with my imagination.”
How would you describe young Alia?
I’m just like how I was when I was a kid: curious, in my head and dream-like. The most fun I had was when I was by myself with my imagination. I have a lot of fun with my family and friends but everyone knows this about me. They’ll say: “Okay, Alia’s taken a flight” or “Oh yeah, she’s in her own head; she’s taken off.” It’s why I enjoy acting so much. Staying in the moment, being there performing and giving it your all is therapeutic. I spend the rest of the time imagining the film, sequences and character. It fits my personality. I actually come across as outgoing but I’ve always been a bit of a loner.
Tell us about what first sparked your interest in acting.
When I was a young girl watching movies and listening to songs, it brought out that creative spark and curiosity within me. It fell into place when I realised, “Oh! That’s actually a profession.”(laughs). It seemed like fun. It started as something that a child wanted to do and honestly, it’s not. When I say it’s a dream come true, I mean it.
“My career started with Karan. I learnt all about decorum, behaviour, respect and understanding. And from Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I learnt the freedom of knowing that anything is possible in front of a camera.”
As you’ve progressed from films with lighter themes like Dear Zindagi to more emotionally charged projects such as Gangubai Kathiawadi, what changes did you observe within yourself and your craft?
Each directorial experience has taught me something. With Dear Zindagi, I learnt so much from Shah Rukh Khan. He made such an impact on the way I am and how I behave on set. His behaviour, respect, inclination towards everything in a scene—I learnt a lot from that. For Gangubai Kathiawadi I felt like I went back to school all over again but this time it was acting school. Once you walk out of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali set, you’re no longer the same person. Like Ranveer [Singh] says, you’ve been “Bhansali-fied” (laughs). It’s working with the people who make you more prepared for the next journey, but it’s not like you’ll ever have the answers. You’ll learn with each film as long as you’re open and you’ve walked onto the set deciding that you don’t have all the answers.
Having collaborated with renowned directors such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Karan Johar, what have you learnt?
My career started with Karan. I learnt all about decorum, behaviour, respect and understanding. I’ve adopted certain nurturing qualities from him as well. And from Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I learnt imagination. I learnt guts. I learnt the freedom of knowing that anything is possible in front of a camera and nothing is permanent. They are two very different people but two very strong personalities and influences in my life. Both, I would say, are my mentors.
“I believe the beauty of being a woman is that you can wear all these different clothes all the time. I can wear a pantsuit. I can wear a gown. One of the strongest aspects of this is that our wardrobe is so dynamic.”
You’ve never been one to shy away from traditional wear. As you make the shift into Hollywood, how do you hope to integrate this into your looks, if at all?
I love a saree. It’s the most comfortable garment in the world, which is why I wore one for my wedding and not a lehenga. You should celebrate the side of you that you feel is leading in that moment—whether that’s a saree, a super easy street-style vibe or an over-the-top gown. I believe the beauty of being a woman is that you can wear all these different clothes all the time. I can wear a pantsuit. I can wear a gown. One of the strongest aspects of this is that our wardrobe is so dynamic. I think that’s a great thing and one should celebrate it.
As Gucci’s newest and only Indian brand ambassador, what do you love most about the brand and how would you describe it in your own words?
I love Gucci for its authenticity, range and for the impact it’s made in luxury fashion and through Gucci Chime. They’re a very powerful, warm and strong house that has unwavering values. And they are the benchmark for luxury and lifestyle.
You are a beacon of South Asian representation on a global stage. What does this mean to you?
I take that compliment seriously because I know how much of a struggle it’s been for many people all over the world. And I think we’ll always feel like, ‘Okay, are we the last people at the table?’ But that is slowly changing. My friends such as Priyanka [Chopra], Deepika [Padukone], even Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have done big things. The power we share is unique. It’s a cultural hot mine.
Why do you feel South Asian representation is important and how do you hope to keep on with it?
It’s one world that we share. I also feel that local content can find a place on the map if it has widespread storytelling. It’s happened with various pieces before, from Money Heist to Squid Game. Whether it’s content from India like Made in Heaven, there’s so much stuff that’s there for people to consume that it’s going to be harder to pick. When it comes to putting together the big pieces, I think it’s on the makers and the people creating to try and put them together with as much sensitivity to people from all walks of life and cultural representations. And it’s on us too to take that narrative forward.
Editor-in-chief Desmond Lim
Photography Ashish Shah
Styling Nikhil Mansata
Fashion features editor and writer Maya Menon
Fashion coordinator Jasmine Ashvinkumar
Producer Imran Khatri/Imran Khatri Productions
Associate Producer Keyur Lakhani
Art Director Sandesh Kambli
Make-up Puneet Saini
Hair Mike Desir/Anima Creatives
Artist’s PR agency Hype PR
Photographer’s assistant Anish Oommen
Stylist’s assistant Roshni Sukhlecha
Fashion Intern Vrahishta Daruwala
Retouching Proof Retouch