Alia Bhatt: Giving a good name to nepotism

Alia Bhatt poses at the ‘Gully Boy’ photocall during the 69th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin

When Alia Bhatt made her debut in Karan Johar’s stylized trash Student Of The Year in 2012, the popular verdict on her was mostly unflattering.

Alia, a wisp of a girl in the movie, never really impressed anyone with her performance in a character that never provided any space for leaving an impression. The movie was generally seen as a labour of Bollywoodian nepotism.

The movie, of course, was a hit, but the critics and industry did not give Alia much chance, as they generally expected her to have run on the fringes, a kind of also-ran, and then disappear into the mists of obscurity.

Her second movie Highway took two more years to arrive, but when it did, people’s opinion about Alia began to sound a different tone. “This kid can act a bit,” some said. “She has spunk,” a few said.  

From a star director’s kid to an actress with potential, Alia managed to change people’s perception with a performance that was both powerful and poignant.

The same year saw her in two more movies —- Two States and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. They were mainstream commercial films, but they did have scope for the heroine to show her mettle, and Alia was up to it.

She was now not just a star kid. In the fullness of time, she could be a star in her own right.

After this, Shaandaar arrived, but did not not seem to work, both as a movie as well as a vehicle for her to exhibit her talent. But the next year, 2016, was all Alia’s. The actress in her well and truly arrived with Kapoor & Sons, Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi. Three different movies, three different characters, but Alia aced them with both style and substance. Her elfin charm added an agreeable je ne sais quoi to her power-packed performances.

Alia, the critics opined, has an uncomplicated style of acting. She pitches them right, and brings a visceral believability to her characters, was the universal opinion on her.

After this came Badrinath Ki Dulhania, which was a romp. But Raazi was anything but that. Playing the role of  Sehmat to whom life is not all that kind, Alia uncorked a performance that convinced all and sundry that she is the actress to track in the coming years. Raazi was all hers, its success doubtless belonged to her acting chops as well her increasing box-office clout.

Alia does not have the smouldering sex appeal of Priyanka Chopra, neither the long-legged lissomness of Deepika, nor the blithe spirit of Anushka Sharma. But she brings to her characters a compelling conviction and her physical appeal lies in her gamine freshness and an impish intrigue in her smile.

The year 2019 can be all Alia’s if all the cards fall as predicted. After Gully Boy, she has Kalank and Brahmastra. Both different from each other. And that is the challenge for Alia. And as we have seen in her 10-films-7-years-career, she relishes challenges.

For someone who was written off as an actress who arrived on the scene solely because she was Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter, Alia is now at a stage where people will feel obliged to refer to him as Alia’s dad.

As they say, role reversals always make for good cinema.  

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