Bollywood fresh-face, Alia Bhatt, 21, considers herself a true Piscean, who is very temperamental and moody. We got a chance to have a long conversation with this dashing actress for over an hour ahead of her upcoming film 2 States, she talks to about her dysfunctional family, the sensitive friend Arjun Kapoor and why she loves Varun Dhawan. Excerpts:
How did you become an actress?
Karan Johar was looking for a newcomer and Niranjan Iyengar, who was very close to my sister Pooja Bhatt at one time, had heard about me and mentioned my name to Karan and he decided to meet me. I was five times my size then, but auditioned for SOTY. He asked me to lose weight to do a photo shoot. I lost 14 kgs. I was studying in Class XII at Jamnabai Narsee School and came after school with my mom to meet Karan and was selected for SOTY. Ever since I remember anything about myself, I wanted to be an actor. In Junior KG, I was singing in a choir and my headmistress said, ‘Alia, come in the front and sing.’ I sang and she said, ‘Everybody has to sing like Alia’ and I remember loving that attention. Probably, the bug bit me and the dream of becoming an actress just kept becoming stronger and stronger.
Let’s talk about your family?
I am most attached to my older sister Shaheen. She is unpretentious and understands me and she doesn’t care what other people think and whether I am right or wrong, she will always be on my side. My father is very honest and blunt, but it is always more about him than about you. He has had a lot of experience in his life and is an intelligent person and he knows everything, but he necessarily doesn’t know everything about me. Now, since I have started working, there are times when I can confide in him. For instance, on my birthday recently, I remember waking up at 5.30 in the morning and just spending two hours doing nothing. He would tell me that when you can have fun in your own company, you are done, so I messaged him about it and he sent me a reply which was very profound, which I didn’t understand. He understands the actor in me. My father tells me and my sister that we are not allowed to get married and go out of his house as recently he had a dream that my sister had to leave the house as she got married. My father would rather lock me up than allow me to date someone. When I was young, I would press his feet as he likes putting cream on his feet. He would give me `500 every time I pressed his feet. He finds me very vain, though, of course, I am much better now. With my mother, I will only be her daughter. My mother is my everything. She holds me together, even though I don’t give her enough credit. I am more attached and protective about my mom. I feel like her older sister and she is too sweet sometimes and feel like shouting at her. I also grew up with her as my father was not really there while I was growing up. He was busy and I don’t have that many memories of him. I have only one memory of me playing Snakes And Ladders with him. The four of us would never go for a holiday together as he hated holidays. All my holidays were with my mother and sister. He once came to Goa with us for just three days. He was very happy after Highway and did not sleep the whole night after that. For him to say, ‘I am proud of you’ is a big thing as he will never say it.
Who do you open up to emotionally?
I don’t open up emotionally to anyone other than my sister and that also, not fully. I am a very private person. I don’t talk to one person about everything as I don’t want anybody to know me fully. I am just guarded as a person even with my friends, as I don’t like being vulnerable as I have been in the past.
There were many nasty comments on you post SOTY. Did that hurt you?
Of course it did. Firstly, being a star kid you are not loved as they feel it is served easily to you. I didn’t expect many accolades as an actor after SOTY, but I didn’t even expect so much bashing and people saying, ‘Why is she here? Tell her to go home and back to school.’ It had been my dream all my life to be an actor and I had had a dream launch and yet there was so much negativity. But I took it in my stride. I was very depressed for a month and lost a lot of my confidence. I was feeling I would be just a one-film wonder. I kept it inside and did not share it even with my family. I wanted to prove to people that I was not here to just be a baby doll, but wanted to make a mark as an actor. I didn’t want anyone to know about what I was going through, except I would talk to Varun and my director Abhishek Varman who became close to me. My father can smell me, but I can’t come to a point of talking to him about it. Varun was there for me. He would be like a shield and would give me confidence. I would tell him, ‘I think I am done. I don’t think things will work out.’ And he would say, ‘Shut up.’ And then, Imtiaz Ali happened and his confidence in me gave me confidence in myself. Highway has changed a lot for me.
Are you in a relationship with anyone at the moment?
No. I guess you can see the sadness on my face, right? My first boyfriend was in Class IX, but my only serious affair was when I was 19, post SOTY. I was in love with someone, but I won’t confess with who. I have not had a boyfriend for the past year now.
You have been linked to both Varun and Arjun Kapoor. Who do you care for more between the two?
I love Varun. And he is much closer to me than Arjun, even though Arjun too is very close to me.
Let’s talk about Varun?
I have known him past three years since SOTY and we became close during promotions. I have a feeling that I know him for a long time. He is very honest with me and I know he won’t lie to me. What I love the most about him is that he will always be there for me. He is a very dedicated person and his priorities are correct. He is also always there for his friends and will not change at all and that credit goes to his upbringing. What I don’t like about him is that he sometimes disappears on me. You disappear on the world, but not for me. It’s not that I expect him to call me five times a day, but I am a very particular friend and am possessive about him.
Arjun is much older to me, so earlier I thought he is this pseudo- intellectual quiet type, till I realised that he is actually fun. I met him the first time at Karan’s 40th birthday bash. Initially, during 2 States we would not talk, but then we got on really well. Also, while I had started shooting for 2 States, I went away to shoot Highway and then came back. It was a very weird time for me as I went through a lot emotionally while doing Highway and I would talk to Arjun about it, as he is an intense person and that’s when he opened up to me. I found a friend in him. He is a very silent person, but he speaks a lot with his gestures. For instance, when my cat Smokey died, it was weird for me and I know it’s not a big thing, but I was in a sad space. He heard about it and called me up. And even though he did not say anything, he heard me crying and just said, ‘Don’t cry.’ He too is a very stubborn person and I feel he needs to take a break.
What is the role of marriage in your life?
Firstly, I am not one of those girls who can get married and sit at home. If I get married, it will only be to have kids as I want to have two babies that I have decided.
Was it tough for you emotionally to accept that your father had two families?
Yes, initially, while growing up, I was never insecure but it has impacted me in a way that I don’t want to get married until I want to have babies. When I was growing up, people would make fun of me in school that my father had two wives. For some reason, I was not embarrassed as he was staying in my house. Probably had he not been living with me, it would have affected me in a different way. But I do have this fear of my father and mother not being together. Recently just a few days back, when I was in Chandigarh, I had this dream at night that they have got divorced and it led to me having a bad night. I wasn’t happy and got up, uneasy. We are not a normal family. After a very long time we have got close as a family. We don’t sit and eat together. We used to never talk to each other and only talk now. I created this family BBM group which has my sister, my mom, my father and me only and my father says, ‘I love this group.’ We would earlier always be doing our own thing where he would not even know which class I was in. Of course now he wants to know everything about which shoot I am going for the next day and how much money I am getting. We are finally talking to each other. He is not a conventional father. He was always very busy and then he would come back home and watch his news. He would say, ‘You should fail and you must get 35%.’ He hates teachers and feels they give us bullshit. He never told me how to do it and I just figured it on my own. I am loving being closer to all of them, but I like it only on messages and not face-to-face. Last year when I was shooting in Ahmedabad, my father was there to promote Aashiqui2 and had visited me on the set of 2 States. He recently asks me, ‘Are you dating Arjun or what?’ Six months later, he is telling me, ‘I sensed something in the van when I came to Ahmedabad’ even though there is nothing. He likes Arjun. My dad calls me in Chandigarh and tells me, ‘Alia, with great difficulty, I say this that suddenly I am being referred to as your father.’ He was happy, but also depressed. I started laughing and he laughed as well. And I don’t think it is true. I need to push the envelope very much. I am still known as Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter. But my objective is for him to be universally known as Alia Bhatt’s father.