Gauri Shinde: Alia Bhatt has God-given talent but she has not taken it for granted – Exclusive – Times of India

Student Of The Year completed 10 years yesterday and the headlines were dominated by tributes to the stars Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt. ETimes reached out to Alia’s Dear Zindagi director Gauri Shinde to record her views on Alia’s journey and her growth as an actor. Gauri shares many insights into what makes Alia an acclaimed actress. She also shares her views on Shah Rukh Khan and the late Sridevi. Excerpts…

Why did you cast Alia Bhatt for Dear Zindagi?

I saw some bits of Highway in which she was incredible. I thought that this girl has potential. There was something about her screen presence. I wanted to work with her. I was looking for an actor to cast in Dear Zindagi. I thought that Alia might be too young for that part. But then with certain actors none of that matters. It’s about how they can adapt themselves to the role. I narrated the film to her. She was very excited after just the one-liner. She wanted to do it from the first day.

You worked with Sridevi on your first film and Alia Bhatt in your second. What was your takeaway from working with each of them?
Both are superlative actors. After working with Sri, the bar was set quite high for me. I feel it’s necessary for me to work with love and talent both. People may be super talented but if there’s no connection between us then it’s difficult. It doesn’t really help to translate the script to the screen. I think the director-actor relationship is most important. But I have been very lucky in both of my films. Talent is necessary. That’s a given. But the bond that I share with Alia is lovely. Our energies matched and we were on the same page.

You’ve also worked with talented Shah Rukh Khan.

All three stars that I have worked with – Sridevi, Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan, are supremely talented as well as such good people.

I think Alia was only three films old at the time when we signed her for Dear Zindagi. She has such an innate ability or God-given gift, but she has not taken it for granted. She is honing her craft with every role that she takes on and pushing herself more and more.

Shah Rukh is a giving actor. There was give and take between him and Alia which worked for their chemistry. Alia would learn his lines too and would remind him if any word went astray.

Shah Rukh had suggested how we should do the scene where Alia falls from a bicycle. Alia reacted, “You guys just want to make me fall.” But that turned out to be a beautiful scene. We got along like house on fire. We were all, very much in sync with what the film was. It was a beautiful and peaceful way to work.

Can it get overwhelming working with these big stars? Especially when you’re making your first two films?

I think the reason why some people are stars is that the role is bigger than them. There’s also no ego at play. They’re giving actors. By giving, I mean they give their co-stars space. They don’t want to look like the better actor. It was lovely to see that with all these three stars.

I was a new director but the warmth and respect that I got from Sridevi and Shah Rukh was admirable. I am really grateful to have worked with three stunning people. They have three similar qualities – the inherent craft, fun, love, and the connection that is very important for me as a director – with my entire team, especially the actors because they are taking it from paper to screen.


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