I very well remember the moment when I fell head over heels for Pooja Bhatt in Gaiety Galaxy theatre. The year was 1991. The film was Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi. I was in school. But being Raghu Jaitley (the character Aamir Khan played in the film) wasn't on my mind because I would never wear those maroon pants, yellow t-shirt and that green jacket to woo my Pooja. It's 2012. I was called to Dharma Productions office to meet Alia Bhatt, the younger sibling. As I ponder in the waiting area to be called for the interview, thought bubbles like - 'Will she be as attractive as her sis?' - 'No! I can't fall head over heels for her, no way!' - 'She must be so cute', and just then dressed in a black knee length designer, Alia shocks me. She pauses. I pause to think any further. Nilufer the PR of the film introduces us. A quick handshake and she briskly walked past me like a warm breeze on a winter afternoon. That 'freeze frame' moment appears. I turn to look at her but she's gone. In a couple of minutes Alia arrives and the PR escorts us to a small room situated in one corner of the office. What's funny is that the debutant seemed quite guarded, (she must've thought I'm some gossip columnist) not the kind of girl you'd imagine wanting to go out on a limb, but one look at her face and I can see the skin as white as milk devoid of makeup, her cheeks glowing with the hint of pink, her black hair being caressed by the slight blow of cold air coming from the air condition behind, her eyes black enough to see my own reflection and her beautiful lips heavenly to kiss. With the slightest dip of her eyelid or the momentary quiver of the cleft in her chin, this beautiful Bhatt manages to reveal emotional dimensions beyond the depth of many actresses twice her 19 years of age. And I still haven't seen her act. 'Lo kar lo baat!' I shut my eyes for two seconds and question - Just what is it about Alia Bhatt that makes me want to be a student again? Quick clichÃ© montages appear - Those flirty afternoons in the college canteen, candid confessions over coffee, that late night drive as she gazes at the full moon and that sweet planting of the glossy lipstick on my cheek as I drop her outside her apartment. I open my eyes. Alia Bhatt isn't just a fairy tale you'll want to fall in love with. She does exist. I'm in love again....Ishq Wala Love?
In this Part 1 no-holds-barred exclusive, Alia Bhatt allows me to enter her world filled with love for movies and men.
INT. DHARMA PRODUCTIONS OFFICE - EVENING
Devansh Patel: Being born and brought up in a family surrounded by films, what was that one movie that made you go - 'Wow'?
Alia Bhatt: (Thinks for a few seconds) Yes, I was born in a film family but it wasn't a film family for me. I didn't even care. I was into my school life and my friends, that's it. Now that I am doing my debut film, I proudly say that I come from a filmy family. To answer your question, I went - Wow! seeing Devil Wears Prada. I think this movie has a very strong link to the character I'm playing in Student Of The Year because being a former chubby child, I had nothing to do with brands and dressing up. So when I saw Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway had to make an impression by looking all hip-hep and beautiful, I recalled my days from the film where I had to make a similar impression.
DP: Ok, I have to confess this. I got the same cap that Aamir was wearing in Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin. I'm sure such kind of fan following doesn't exist anymore but do you sit with your sister Pooja anytime and exchange the days gone by and the days to come?
AB: Not really! I didn't take any advice from any of my parents or from Pooja. But yes, Pooja did tell me not to lose more weight and develop an eating disorder or else she'd beat me up (laughs).
One day, I would love to sit and discuss her movie days and I'm sure this is something that'll come naturally to me.
DP: There's one thing that comes pretty naturally to you and that's the way you talk. Fast and ditto like Pooja.
AB: I do? Aaaah! (Smiles) But that's the problem I have. I talk fast and sometimes people don't understand me.
DP: No, that's ok! As far as my dictaphone understands (laughs). Now tell me something about Karan Johar. He is a seasoned director. You are the new kid on the block. Bring out the child in Karan Johar...
AB: (Laughs) He may be 40 but he is 20 by heart. Academically, Karan was a brilliant student. Probably he'd have played a role in Student Of The Year. He was a front bencher. He was a book worm and he loved doing different courses, completely contrary to what I was in school. I wasn't a good student. I could never mug-up the answers. I couldn't understand how people remembered the dates from history and geography. I find it strange!
DP: But were you good at cheating? Writing on wooden ruler or an eraser or that folded paper lying in your socks?
AB: (laughs out loud) I would cheat during exams but I won't tell you how because if my teachers read it then they'll be very upset. I have been caught cheating also but I haven't got minus marks for it.
DP: Ok, back to KJo.
AB: Yea! (Smiles) Karan as a person is great. I have learnt a lot from him. I have never had any training in acting and I have to say this - Karan was my teacher who taught me how to act. He is superb!
DP: As a teenager in school, were you actively involved in dramas and social events?
AB: I used to do plays, inter-school competition and events, yes! I was very active in such things as a kid. I was fascinated by dramas.
DP: And what's the drama that you remember?
AB: I remember the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof'. I played the younger sister Chava. I loved it. Sometimes I wasn't even playing the main or a supporting character (laughs). I once played a tree or an extra that made a passing on stage. This was my training, that's it!
DP: Did the shoot of Student Of The Year take you back to your 'stage days'?
AB: Yea! It was quite fun actually. Karan would too start dancing behind the camera. It was amazing. There was quite an energy on the sets just like on stage. Karan is very entertaining too.
DP: Ok, this is random - Are you Anne Hathaway fan?
DP: Ok, let me try something different - Any actor from the West you look up to?
AB: I love Meryl Streep. Have you seen The Iron Lady? (With utter conviction) I want to do that. I love her! I love Leonardo Di Caprio too. I'm a big fan. I recently saw The Basketball Diaries. How young he was! Wow!
There is a knock on the door. Alia Bhatt diverts her attention. A man brings a few bags that seem heavy or loaded with gifts
DP: Ok, I never knew you get gifts in the middle of the interview.
AB: (Laughs) These are not gifts. I wish! These are my clothes.
DP: I recall Aamir Khan in QSQT. That was the first film I saw in a theatre. He was such a 'lanky' fellow.
AB: Yea! He was. Now when you see the film, doesn't he remind you of Leonardo Di Caprio from The Basketball Diaries?
DP: Hell yea! And then you guys come in today - young, techno savvy...
(Alia Bhatt interrupts)
AB: Let me correct you. I am a geek when it comes to technology. I just got my I-Pad now.
DP: (Laughs) Ok, copy that! So coming back to my question - What motivates you when you look at the today's gen - especially, Varun and Sid.
AB: Ok, let me tell you that both have a very different approach towards acting. Varun is so dedicated. I actually have a lot to learn from him. If there is a scene the next day where he is supposed to wear a sleeveless t-shirt then he'll say - 'Accha listen, I will go and do arms in the gym today'. When we are dubbing, he wants to say a few words his way, his style. He is anal but he is so driven because he wants everything to be perfect. He doesn't forget that he is playing a character and doesn't like giving his own personality into his character.
AB: Sidharth is older to me and he didn't treat me like a child. He would discuss these technical things with me. His detailing is very good. He will adjust the positioning of the person standing behind him sometimes. He has a knack for such detailing. He will add a word or two and the punch line will change completely. For the good, of course. His looks are defining. He has great eyes. He expresses a lot from his eyes than his facial expressions. The film on the whole is about friendship and both of them have become the best of friends off screen too.
DP: I was reading Yash Chopra's article the other day where he mentioned that he has portrayed his women in a very bold and traditional yet strong roles. When you are a part of the male driven film industry and a part of Student Of The Year, do you feel the urge to stand out from the men?
AB: Of course I do. But Student Of The Year is an ensemble cast. I am not insecure as an actress. I will play the smallest of the roles with utmost passion. Yes, in the time to come I would love to play strong women characters like Kahaani or The Dirty Picture. I would give it my hundred percent.
DP: You are a go-getter, aren't you?
AB: I am but you need to be now-a-days. Everything is happening so fast. Let's face it - It's not easy. I walk out of the school and get into films. My friends tell me - 'Why don't you go to Lonavala'. I say - 'Do you think I have the time?' All these promotions, etc. The price one pays to be a celebrity but I know one thing that I won't let that bring me down. I will go get it!
DP: Your father is a very well read man. What learning do you take from your father?
AB: I think a lot of my father's behaviour, thinking and ideology comes from his late guru UG Krishnamurti, whom he wrote a book on - A Taste of Life. My father has influenced me a lot in terms of life and not films. Just generally on who I am, etc. He was a very bad student in school and a loner. Today the same school calls him to give lectures. He has pushed me to read more and I am trying to incorporate that bit. But it's because of UG Krishnamurti that he is how he is today. I thank him a lot.
DP: Wow! That's nostalgic. Anyway, was it difficult to pass out from St Teresa's?
AB: You know, let me make this very clear...
Alia Bhatt gets a bit uncomfortable. It wasn't the question. It was the air-condition that wasn't on. She continues
AB: Aren't you feeling hot in here?
Alia Bhatt gets up from her chair, turns and switches on the air-condition. I keep looking at her. I ask myself - "Was it Ishq Wala Love? "
Part 2 of our dialogues continue....Watch this space!
Watch Song Promo: Radha (Student Of The Year)