Kangana Ranaut continues to clickbait Alia Bhatt, but she has sworn not to retaliate.
Besides their incredible stardom, what do Alia Bhatt and Kartik Aryan have in common? Success has not changed them at all. After Gangubai Kathiawadi which has firmly ensconced her among the all-time greats of Hindi cinema, I thought Alia would finally change. She didn’t. As unprecedented praise is showered on her, Alia remains…Alia. Grounded and gracious. Attached to cats, loyal to her friends, indifferent to enemies and impervious to criticism.
Kangana Ranaut continues to clickbait Alia. But Alia has sworn not to retaliate. Once during an interview with me, Alia did speak out against Kangana but then asked me to kill the killing quotes. “What is the point? She wants a reaction from me. I won’t give her that pleasure,” she told me. 11 hits in eight years. Rarely does the success of this magnitude hit its right target. This time, it’s bang on target. So, thank you, Karan Johar, for giving us Alia Bhatt. We forgive you all your other trespasses including the weird Kalank that will remain a kalank in Alia’s career. Being her godfather, you should have been more careful with her talent. There again, what to say when her own biological father directed Alia in the worst film of her career.
Alia didn’t chance on Gangubai by a freak of fate. She has consistently surprised us. In Highway (2014) I have no clue why Alia Bhatt’s Stockholm Syndrome was so easily diagnosable and why she fell in love with her kidnapper. Or why she suddenly became a victim of child abuse in the end. Perhaps Imtiaz Ali could answer, though I suspect even he doesn’t know. But the role gave Alia a chance to swerve swiftly away from the ‘Poo’ image in her debut film Student of The Year to deliver a raw performance that made me wonder where all this angst came from.
But before Gangubai Kathiawadi the most important film that Alia did was Going Home. This is a short film with long legs about a girl, stranded in her broken-down car in the middle of the road, who gives a bunch of boys a lift. Alia’s character remains supremely oblivious of her co-passengers dishonourable intention. This not-knowing is what gives her performances an edge. Ironically this topical short film was directed by Vikas Bahl himself an accused in the #MeToo campaign.
In Udta Punjab (2016) Alia played the hauntingly persecuted Bihari migrant Pinky, the reluctant drug addict pumping her veins with dubious drugs to numb herself against constant sexual violation. Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt are born again as they play the two traumatized characters journeying from the opposite directions of the moral scale. And yet their pained lives converge at one point in a strange unexpected and life-changing encounter. Alia bleeds brilliancy into her role, bringing to the screen an electrifying authenticity with her understanding of the complexities that define the drug politics of Punjab.
Coming to Razi (2018), in hindsight, everything except Alia’s performance in this film seems askew. Why was the original title Sehmat, which is Alia’ s name in the film and very apt for what ensues in the plot, changed to a bland Raazi? What was the politics of the film? What was the politics behind the making of the film? The original story of a female spy’s unfathomable personal sacrifices for the nation was conferred with a dismaying moral ambiguity. The Pakistani home where Sehmat infiltrated as a Bahu was filled with genteel cultured soft-spoken people who didn’t deserve to be spied upon. Alia rode across all the contradictions in the plot to deliver a surprisingly consistent performance in an exasperatingly inconsistent film.
In Gully Boy (2019), playing Ranveer Singh’s Murad’s possessive firebrand girlfriend Saifina, Alia has little playing time. Every time she is on screen something happens. Tightly squeezing into the kerchief-sized rooms of the slum, Murad simply wants to fly. His face lights up each time he meets the love of his life. Alia with her head veiled and smile unveiled plays Saifina with an impish charm that brings sunshine into not just Murad’s heart.
With Gangubai Kathiawadi Alia has reached the pinnacle of excellence that none of her contemporaries could hope for. What next for this astonishing bundle of talent, who is not only the most gifted Bhatt on the block but also on a par with the all-time greats. But I am afraid Alia won’t be able to equal the glory of Gangubai again. I hope I am wrong. Alia has a way of surprising everyone, including herself!
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