Alia Bhatt (/ˈɑːliːə ˈbɑːt/; born 15 March 1993) is an actress and singer of Indian origin and British citizenship, who works in Hindi films. The recipient of several accolades, including three Filmfare Awards, Bhatt is one of the highest-paid actresses in India. She has appeared in Forbes India’s Celebrity 100 list since 2014 and was featured by Forbes Asia in their 30 Under 30 list of 2017.
Born into the Bhatt family, she is the daughter of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and actress Soni Razdan. After making her acting debut as a child in the 1999 thriller Sangharsh, Bhatt played her first leading role in Karan Johar’s teen drama Student of the Year (2012). She went on to establish herself with starring roles in several films produced by Johar’s studio Dharma Productions, including the romances 2 States (2014), Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), and Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017); and the coming-of-age drama Dear Zindagi (2016). Bhatt won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress for playing a kidnapping victim in the road drama Highway (2014), and two Best Actress awards at the ceremony for playing a Bihari migrant in the crime drama Udta Punjab (2016) and a spy in the thriller Raazi (2018). The latter emerged as one of Hindi cinema’s biggest-earning female-led films, and her highest-grossing release came with the musical drama Gully Boy (2019).
In addition to acting in films, Bhatt has launched her own line of clothing and handbags and is the founder of the ecological initiative CoExist. She has sung six of her film songs, including the single “Samjhawan Unplugged” in 2014, and she participates in stage shows and concert tours.
Established actress (2016–present)
In her first of three releases in 2016, Bhatt played the supporting part of a lively young girl with a buried past in Kapoor & Sons, a drama about a dysfunctional family starring Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. The film proved to be a critical and commercial success. She then took on the part of a poverty-stricken Bihari migrant in the Indian state of Punjab in Udta Punjab (2016), a crime drama about substance abuse from the director Abhishek Chaubey. The intense role marked a significant departure from the mostly light-hearted parts she had previously played, and in preparation, she watched documentaries on drug abuse and learned to speak a Bihari dialect. The film, co-starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, and Diljit Dosanjh, generated controversy when the Central Board of Film Certification deemed that the film represented Punjab in a negative light and demanded extensive censorship before its theatrical release. The Bombay High Court later cleared the film for exhibition with one scene cut. Bhatt’s performance was critically acclaimed, with several commentators believing that it was her best performance to that point. Raja Sen of Rediff.com wrote that Bhatt “commits to her accent and deals with the film’s most unsavoury section, and is stunning during an incendiary speech that elevates the entire film to a whole other level.”
Bhatt continued to gain critical praise as she took on the role of an aspiring cinematographer whose life undergoes a series of changes after she consults a free-spirited psychologist (played by Shah Rukh Khan) in the coming-of-age film Dear Zindagi (2016). Writing for IndieWire, Anisha Jhaveri noted that Bhatt provides her character with “a three-dimensionality in which the somewhat annoying nature of millennial angst is balanced with an innocence that’s impossible not to recognize”. The film proved to be a box office success as well, earning a total of ₹1.39 billion (US$20 million) worldwide. Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi earned Bhatt several awards and nominations; for the former, she won the Screen Award and the Filmfare Award for Best Actress, and for the latter, she received an additional Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.
The series of successful films continued with Bhatt’s next project—the romantic comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017)—which reunited her with Khaitan and Dhawan. The film tells the story of an independent young woman (Bhatt) from rural India who refuses to conform to patriarchal expectations from her chauvinistic fiancée (Dhawan). Rachel Saltz of The New York Times took note of the film’s statement on gender equality and wrote, “Without ever falling into the clichés of spunky Bollywood heroine, [Bhatt] effortlessly embodies that admirable thing: a modern woman.” She received another Filmfare nomination for Best Actress. Meghna Gulzar’s espionage thriller Raazi (2018), featured Bhatt in the lead role of Sehmat, a Kashmiri spy married to a Pakistani army officer (played by Vicky Kaushal). Set during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the film is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat. Anna M. M. Vetticad of Firstpost found Bhatt to be “stupendous” in the role, adding that “the young star once again displaying the maturity and confidence of a veteran on camera”. Raazi proved to be one of the highest-grossing female-led Hindi films, and its success led Box Office India to credit Bhatt as the most successful contemporary actress of Hindi cinema. Bhatt won another Best Actress award at Filmfare.
In 2019, Bhatt launched her own production company named Eternal Sunshine Productions. Her first film appearance that year was opposite Ranveer Singh in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, a musical inspired by the life of the street rappers Divine and Naezy. She attended acting workshops to learn a ghetto dialect to enable her to improvise on set. The film premiered at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. Writing for Screen International, Lee Marshall opined that “it’s Bhatt’s sharp performance that carries most successfully the mix of wry humour, romance and social comment that Gully Boy essays”. With global earnings of over ₹2.37 billion (US$34 million), Gully Boy emerged as Bhatt’s highest-grossing release. Her next release, the ensemble period drama Kalank, marked her biggest-budget film to that point. Set in the 1940s prior to the partition of India, it featured Dhawan and her as star-crossed lovers, and in preparation, she watched the films Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Umrao Jaan (1981) to learn the body language of women from the era, and to better her Urdu-speaking skills, she watched the Pakistani television series Zindagi Gulzar Hai. Namrata Joshi of The Hindu bemoaned that the film favoured visual grandeur over plot but took note of how much Bhatt stood out among the ensemble cast. It did not perform well at the box office.
As of April 2019, Bhatt has five upcoming projects. She will star alongside Ranbir Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in Ayan Mukerji’s fantasy film trilogy, the first of which is named Brahmastra. She has also committed to star alongside N. T. Rama Rao Jr and Ram Charan in the Telugu-language period film RRR, and opposite Salman Khan in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s romance Inshallah. In addition, Bhatt will feature in Takht, a historical drama directed by Johar which has an ensemble cast including Vicky Kaushal, Ranveer Singh and Kareena Kapoor; and will team with Roy Kapur, Dutt, and Pooja Bhatt for a sequel to her father’s crime film Sadak (1991).