Alia Bhatt has been in the film industry for all of six years but already has delivered some of the most brilliant performances. From Highway to Udta Punjab to Dear Zindagi, there is no stopping this girl from taking risks with her roles and break stereotypes. Balancing the life between commercial and unconventional roles, Alia Bhatt has now taken on the role of an Indian spy in Raazi. The Meghna Gulzar directorial narrates the story of a Kashmiri woman who was persuaded to marry into a Pakistani family and go undercover as a spy during the Indo- Pak war in 1971.
With a challenging role like this, Alia Bhatt had to undergo a month of prep for Raazi. She had read the part of the Harinder Sikka novel ‘Calling Sehmat’ from which the movie script has been adapted. She learned proper dialect including Urdu, Morse code, and learned driving a Jonga jeep. “I can join the RAW team, if they need me to right now,” Alia Bhatt quipped at a media interaction on May 4 in Mumbai. “But no amount of prep can actually prepare you for what happens on set. It was emotionally draining. We shot the film within 48 days at a stretch without any breaks through 14-hour days. There was no time to ever not be the character,” she said.
Lieutenant Commander Harinder Sikka wrote the novel which is supposedly based on true events. During the 1999 Kargil War, an army official recounted the story of how his mother, a Kashmiri Muslim, married a Pakistani army officer to get intel on them. She single-handedly got secrets of the army including the Pakistani army’s plot to destroy and sink INS Vikrant. Keeping the woman’s name a secret, he changed her name in the book to Sehmat Khan.
“When you are part of a true story, you automatically feel a sense of responsibility even though you have never really seen the real-life character. Once you crack the way this girl (Sehmat) spoke, everything is done for you. Because the way you speak is a very big part of your personality. I decided to start her off at the most basic level of niceness and then take her graph from there,” Alia Bhatt said.
Sehmat Khan, in the book and the upcoming film, is a selfless woman who sacrificed her life for the country. While Alia could understand the character and her selflessness, she said she could relate to her. “It is too much of a selfless act that she has done for her country – I don’t think any of us have that ability. But I can empathize with her. That is the only way I can understand the characters that I do not relate to. Even with Udta Punjab, I never really related with Mary Jane [her character], but I empathized with what she went through. Every moment that I was shooting for Raazi, I kept telling myself that what I was doing was acting, but this also actually happened. That was a bit scary,” Alia added.
Alia Bhatt further revealed how director Meghna Gulzar, whose film Talvar she loved, helped her understand her character in Raazi. “I had a great experience working with her [Meghna Gulzar] and I am fond of all her films, especially Talvar, which left a big impact on me,” Bhatt said. “She is one of the most detailed directors that I have worked with. Her attention to detail is so specific and because of that, her world feels so real and you are pulled right into it. I am very glad that I have done this film because I have lived this character along with her.”
Alia Bhatt is busy with the promotions of Meghna Gulzar directorial Raazi. The film will narrate the story of an Indian spy named Sehmat, played by Alia Bhatt, who is married off to a Pakistani military officer. This is set in 1971 during the Indo- Pak war. It stars Vicky Kaushal as Alia’s husband and is slated to release on May 11, 2018.