The 25-year-old actor is not another star kid. Despite her enviable film lineage, she pursued her own goals and built a filmography that draws envious looks from many co-stars. With close to 50 million followers on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, her star power is firmly established. Besides, she has an unflappable temperament to match that success. In a candid interview with Fortune India, the actor talks about her upcoming movies, film choices, and her views on success. Edited excerpts.
This year, you have a lineup of big movies. How do you feel about the films?
Gully Boy, Kalank and Brahmastra—that’s the film lineup in this year, in that order. It’s hard yeah (smiles), and I probably shouldn’t say it, but the Gully Boy trailer has been really well received so I am confident about the film. But the other two films, barring being very big projects, they are also important to me because of the directors—who are like my best friends. So shooting with them is an emotional journey, and so overwhelming almost.
I just wrapped up shooting for Kalank (slated for release in April), and my thought was, “Oh my God.” How can I not be shooting for this film anymore? Because, it’s been so long and such a journey, you know, it was crazy and there was a time when I felt like I was not going to be able to act, or even get up from my bed—I was just so tired. But everything passes. Like they say—this too shall pass. The journey of Brahmastra (to release in December) will pass similarly and then the films will be out there. And I will have to move on. That’s the circle of life, and that’s the circle of filmmaking as well, and while I try not to get too attached, for the first time, I am a little nervous about my attachments.
In over six years, you have built an impressive filmography. How do you approach your onscreen characters?
I don’t have any fixed method of approaching things. I would find that very boring and I get bored or tired very easily. I need to keep changing, and have never stuck to one thing. Call me crazy, but I like it that way. So the way I do it, is to believe in the director, and the story, of course. And every director is very different—some want to do a lot of work, some don’t, so I follow their lead. It is a different experience. And to be honest, even before I am giving a shot, I think about other things and not the shot. I feel like if I think about it too much, the final shot will be laboured or forced, through the expression or a feeling. I may be nervous, but when I’m there I try not to think about it.
A lot of success is about being at the right time at the right place, sometimes even unwittingly. What do you feel?
I also absolutely agree that one needs to be in the right place at the right time. And I say this with complete modesty and don’t wanna sound pompous at all, but as a kid I always thought I was a little special, not in a privileged manner—but more like, I always felt like I was always meant to do a lot in life. And I was meant to follow my dreams, and that my dreams would come true. I strongly believe that in life and movies. While I may not have had a blockbuster yet, but to me that’s a blockbuster—when my films connect that deeply with audiences. And that’s the writing of course, I take no credit for it. I just believe that when I do anything, I will give my all and I will only do it because my gut is telling me to do it.
How do you see the brand ‘Alia’?
To be honest the focus was always towards the creative side of things. I was not looking at so much into the other peripherals that come [from] being an actor. That is how I have gone about my journey as an actor. What happens by default is when you are an actor and your films do well there is a certain perception that the audience believes in you. And with that trust your value goes up. You have a certain influence in the society. It is not something that I set out to do. But I am not delusional about my standing and I am also not overestimating or underestimating it. I was recently having a conversation with one of my directors and he asked me a question: 'Do you think you are in a very good place right now?' I said, I think I am in a decent place. If I say that I am in a very good place then I am not pushing myself to the fullest. Today I am in a decent place to feel that there’s some relevance to my voice. Building a brand in my eyes should be counter effective to making a difference.
Do you believe in planning your career?
I don’t like to compartmentalise things. I just go with the feeling. I may wake up one day wanting to do a comedy film, a drama. And hopefully and fortunately I am getting those opportunities and I am getting the right kind of films. I take each day as it comes. And I prefer to do it that way. If I compartmentalise things, something is going to fall short and I don’t want to be disappointed by a plan. The only thing that I plan is my diet. That I have lots of fun while planning. I am obsessed with my diet and I keep changing it. I am constantly trying new things. I like setting a goal and then achieving it. Of late a bit more. I set a target and try and achieve it. And I usually always do achieve my target.
The interview was done before the release of Gully Boy.
Photography: Dabboo Ratnani. Assisted By: Manisha D Ratnani. Makeup: Puneet B Saini. Hair: Priyanka Borkar. Styling: Ami Patel. Assisted by Sanjay Kumar. Outfit: Gauri & Nainika. Location: Novotel Hotel
For a detailed story on Alia Bhatt, read Fortune India’s biannual special issue, now on stands, and Amazon: https://amzn.to/2SXob5I