The Unstoppable Alia Bhatt

Bollywood’s silver-screen darling is both at the top of her game and just getting started. Here, she unpacks a decade’s worth of lessons and teases her plans for the next 10 years—global domination in her sight.

Alia Bhatt
(Image credit: Masha Mel)

Between red-carpet appearances, photo shoots, filming, and flights, it’s a Herculean task to find even a few minutes in Alia Bhatt’s schedule when Alia-the-person is not booked and busy. That tireless drive is both the result of and the reason why Alia-the-actress is also an invincible force. Following a largely critically panned performance in her debut film, 2012’s Student of the Year, Bhatt has done what few can do: Put haters in their place. Since that lukewarm introduction, the 29-year-old has had a stratospheric rise, becoming a box-office juggernaut, earning countless awards (including four Best Actress Filmfare Awards—Hindi film’s Academy Awards counterpart), and achieving megawatt fame, culminating in a dizzying banner year, personally and professionally.

Meghan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Carey Mulligan, and Zoe Kazan

(Image credit: Lauren Dukoff)

Bhatt wed fellow superstar Ranbir Kapoor in April in a hugely buzzed about affair and soon after announced they were expecting a baby; she is now expanding her clothing brand, Ed-a-Mamma, into maternity wear. In August, the first film to emerge from her newly minted production house, Eternal Sunshine, landed on Netflix. A viciously dark comedy starring Bhatt herself, Darlings earned praise for spotlighting domestic abuse, a topic largely ignored in mainstream South Asian media until now. She also wrapped her first Hollywood movie, the action-spy thriller Heart of Stone, co-starring Gal Gadot, set to hit Netflix in 2023. And, as if that weren’t enough, this September, Bhatt appeared in the multi-part, action fantasy blockbuster Brahmāstra, Bollywood’s sweeping answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A film 10 years in the making, it cemented Bhatt’s ability to headline a franchise with her signature empathy and unmatched soulfulness.

On the precipice of motherhood, her Hollywood crossover, and sure-to be household-name status, Bhatt spoke with Marie Claire about the ups and downs of fame, learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and what career moves might be in her future.

Alia Bhat

(Image credit: Masha Mel)

On sharing similarities with her Brahmāstra character, Isha...
[Isha is] the youngest character I’ve played. And I don’t mean in terms of age. I mean in terms of soul, because she’s really just attracted to adventure and wonder. And that’s what makes her go on this journey. I’m very impulsive sometimes and very instinctive. And sometimes that works in my favor and sometimes works against me because many times I suddenly feel like, Maybe I shouldn’t have responded that way. I’m a way more cautious person maybe than my character is, but I think [I tend to]...just surrender to what feels right in that moment and just do it.

On the scrutiny that comes with fame...
There are moments when you feel a bit overwhelmed with the attention and the volume of conversation around your life. But the only thing I’ve had to tell myself is: You knew you wanted to become an actor, and that you wanted to be really good at it, and you wanted to be extremely celebrated. Then you can’t not want—and not pay—the price that comes with it. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. There are in between [times when] I would like to maybe vanish and disappear. There’s a lot of good stuff that happens from this attention, from this limelight, as well.

On learning to be kinder to her body...
I entered the industry at the age of 17. And you hear conversations around you pertaining to the way you should look. You think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And it took a bit of a toll on me in terms of my obsession with my body and my weight. It’s taken me a lot of work, but I’m in the best place that I’ve ever been with regards to that. And now I’m pregnant and, actually, I’ve never felt more comfortable and more happy and more at peace [with my body].

On her advice to young women...
Be healthy internally, not obsessive about the way you look superficially. It’s not about every little splodge of skin on your body. You can’t be squishing it and thinking, This is an issue. That is an issue. And of course, I have my days, I’ve had my days. But I’m saying, if you pick on yourself first, then you’re inviting every other [person’s] negative thoughts towards your body. If you yourself are armed with confidence and a certain level of appreciation for the way you look and the way you are, then nothing in the world will bother you...especially in the world of Instagram and TikTok and all these filters. Feel good from the inside. Stay active, eat good foods. Eat crap as well, if you want. Because if that’s something that you want to do on a particular day, please go ahead and do it. You have one life, so just enjoy it as much as possible. 

Alia Bhat

(Image credit: Masha Mel)

The intention is to continuously push myself so that I’m not bored and I am not stagnating.

On learning to embrace change and feel more comfortable with the unknown...
I’m an information enthusiast, you could say. I really get that from my mother. I just feel more secure if I have all the information, which is why a big turning point in my life, so far—I think in many people’s lives—was the pandemic. Because there we were in the middle of no information. And everything was changing. I was not very comfortable with change. But slowly and steadily I’m letting go of the rigidness with regard to information and being prepared. But I still like to do my homework. It just makes me feel more self-assured.

On paving a path to Hollywood...
I’m trying to explore as many arenas as possible. It’s not just ticking Hollywood off my list. It’s not just doing any old Hollywood movie, or just doing any sort of content that comes from anywhere. The idea is to constantly challenge myself and put myself in rooms that are challenging and roles that are uncomfortable. I think working in a new industry always does that. I would also do my first Japanese movie tomorrow if I knew how to speak the language. The intention is to continuously push myself so that I’m not bored and I am not stagnating.

On the ethos of her production company, Eternal Sunshine...
Cinema has the ability to really make a life-changing impact on you, so I would love to be a part of storytelling that does that. [And], for me, what’s important is to give people an opportunity...someone who’s trying to make their first film—their first film as a director, as a writer, as a technician, whatever it is. On if directing is in her future... I have spent 10 years getting comfortable with acting, and now I’ve started to get a little bit more interested in what goes on behind the camera. But I have seen the amount of hard work that goes into making a film, and I know that, Okay, maybe I could put the film together, maybe I will be able to manage directing the film as well. But what happens post-production? That I still don’t know. So I still have a lot of learning to do.

Alia Bhat

(Image credit: Masha Mel)

On working with her now-husband, Ranbir Kapoor, on Brahmāstra...
[Ranbir] is one of the most accommodating, easy actors to work with. Always on time, always so giving to other actors. Extremely, extremely disciplined. And these are all attributes that I deeply admire, and I also believe I have the same. So, for us, this was a very comfortable working atmosphere. Something that I don’t even feel took a matter of five or seven minutes for us to start getting used to.

On therapy...
Sometimes I need to vent. Sometimes I need to, sort of, have a moment of distress, and I want to have that with no judgment. And, maybe, the only way to do that is through therapy, and I’m totally for it.

On raising a child in the spotlight...
I am a little concerned about bringing up a child in the public eye. I talk about it with my friends, with my family, and my husband a lot. I don’t want there to be a, sort of, intrusion into my child’s life. Because at the end of the day, I have chosen this path, but maybe my child may not want to choose this path when he or she grows that’s something that I feel very protective about.

On if her child wants to pursue acting...
I don’t think that’s something that I can really prepare and plan for. I don’t want to have any fixed ideas of how I want that to be. Because why should I have any expectations and then be met with any disappointment or elation or anything of that sort? So they need the slate blank, a bit.

This story appears in Marie Claire's 2022 Power Issue, on newsstands November 22.

Stylist: Farrah O’Connor | Makeup: Hila Karmand | Hair: Christos Kallaniotis

Entertainment Director

Neha Prakash is Marie Claire's Entertainment Director, where she edits, writes, and ideates culture and current event features with a focus on elevating diverse voices and stories in film and television. She steers and books the brand's print and digital covers as well as oversees the talent and production on MC's video franchises like "How Well Do You Know Your Co-Star?" and flagship events, including the Power Play summit. Since joining the team in early 2020, she's produced entertainment packages about buzzy television shows and films, helped oversee culture SEO content, commissioned op-eds from notable writers, and penned widely-shared celebrity profiles and interviews. She also assists with social coverage around major red carpet events, having conducted celebrity interviews at the Met Gala, Oscars, and Golden Globes. Prior to Marie Claire, she held editor roles at Brides, Glamour, Mashable, and Condé Nast, where she launched the Social News Desk. Her pop culture, breaking news, and fashion coverage has appeared on Vanity Fair, GQ, Allure, Teen Vogue, and Architectural Digest. She earned a masters degree from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2012 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Pennsylvania State University in 2010. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and dog, Ghost; she loves matcha lattes, Bollywood movies, and has many hot takes about TV reboots. Follow her on Instagram @nehapk.