They are hilarious in the MakeMyTrip ads on TV but Zoya Akhtar figured it would be more entertaining to cast Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh together in a mainstream commercial Bollywood film and that’s how this Friday’s release, the musical drama Gully Boy, came about. So far it’s been all about the really extraordinary, chart-busting rap track of the film and Ranveer’s debut on the hip-hop scene. But Alia can sing, too. She’s got six songs to her credit as a vocalist and cut her teeth as early as 2014 with the soulful lullaby Sooha Saha from Imtiaz Ali’s Highway which A. R. Rahman composed. At the time, Alia had shyly said, “I am a bathroom singer but to have the opportunity to sing a song composed by Rahman Sir was unbelievable.”
Since then, she has gone on to sing Samjhawan from Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), Ikk Kudi from Udta Punjab (2016), Love You Zindagi and Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le from Dear Zindagi (2016) and Humsafar from Badrinath Ki Dulhania. So what happened this time? Why hasn’t Alia lent her lovely voice to Gully Boy? Is it that rap music is not her genre? The actress spoke to PeepingMoon.com about this and other things from Gully Boy.
Excerpts from the interview:
So, why hasn’t Alia Bhatt lent her voice to Gully Boy?
The stand that Zoya and I took was that there’s more to my character Safeena Ali (than singing or not singing). It’s a full movie. There’s a character and there are her scenes and there’s a story. Just because the songs don’t reflect this, there’s no need to get insecure. What mattered to me was the strong character. I didn’t find it necessary to‘ghusofy’ in the middle and add a rap. That would seem a little unauthentic. And the film is authentic about the truth. We wanted to stick to that.
I am the Meme Queen!
You’re saying Gully Boy required you to be yourself?
Every role requires you to be a part of yourself for which you have to dig deep inside. I’m choosing roles that are a step away from me. The only role that was close to the real me was probably Kaira in Dear Zindagi. That came a little close to home. In Gully Boy, apart from the sequence where Safeena angrily and possessively talks about her boyfriend, I can’t relate to her. But I can understand her and feel jealous in my mind, but I wouldn’t behave that way.
From the serious character Sehmat Khan in Raazi to Safeena who is, well, a little less than crazy in Gully Boy, was the ride easy?
Three days into shooting Gully Boy, I was like this is so much fun, I’m not carrying this film on my shoulders. In Raazi, I was in every frame, I was a spy and portraying this character in a sensitive way stressed me out. But here there was no tension. Ranveer has to do everything. I had to come, be myself and leave. There was early pack-up and I slept nicely, so I had a blast working on Gully Boy. It’s my most chilled out film.
I might seem doe-eyed and dainty but there’s a strong Mumbaikar in my heart and DNA and I felt pretty comfortable being Safeena
The trailer and music got phenomenal response. You expected this?
Not at all. When I saw the trailer, I knew it was communicating the film correctly, because it’s tricky – this is the journey of a boy but then you also have me in it and you have to introduce me correctly. It’s not a love story but there is a track inGully Boywhich is important to the journey of the film and the characters. So how do you balance that and not confuse people? But the response we got to the trailer was overwhelming. It’s the most positive response I got from a trailer ever. We were surprised. So much love we didn’t expect. Then we started getting nervous. Now the expectations are high. You always feel safer as an actor when people don’t expect anything from the film. When there are expectations you feel more responsible. But after seeing the film, I have to say that I am pretty happy.
You are playing a bold and rowdy character. Was it fun?
I had a lot of fun. I’m not like that in person. But I do have thistaporiside. When playing Safeena, I could feel it coming out. I could speak like her. I might seem doe-eyed and dainty but there’s a strong Mumbaikar in my heart and DNA and I felt pretty comfortable being Safeena. She doesn’t have time for nonsense. She will say what she has to and will get things done the way she wants to get them done. That attitude is amazing. Otherwise as an actor I tend to be correct all the time and say things even when I don’t want to be correct. It was fun to be incorrect.
You’re saying Alia Bhatt is not like Safeena Ali? Why not?
No, I’m not. And it’s irritating. I wish I could be like Safeena – bad, not good. What’s stopping me is the guilt. I want to be liked and not be somebody who said anything wrong even though I don’t want to be wrong. I have always been like that. But maybe there’s a side to me that is like Safeena. I’m very short-tempered. And whenever I lose my temper, I just say things. That’s something I have in common with Safeena.
Your Gully Boy dialogues have turned into memes. Seen any?
Of course! I am happy with the memes. I mean, I am the Meme Queen. They have impacted people and the Twitterati. They show how creative people really are. They use their creativity against negativity. The memes give my dialogues a little more push. They are genuinely very interesting dialogues. I felt that when I read the script and heard them for the first time. I’m happy that the dialogues are being recognised.
Ranveer’s character is unlike him. How was it working with him?
It was lovely. As a performer, he’s just so amazing. He’s fantastic. People are going to go crazy (watching him in Gully Boy). When I interacted with him on the set, I realised he’s simple and sensitive. He uses his energy to entertain people and make them happy. He wants to give out positive energy even though he may not necessarily be feeling that all the time. It’s an art to give that vibe constantly. People can’t do that all the time.
How did you keep up with Ranveer’s energy?
I didn’t need to keep up. I enjoyed his energy.
Rap is a metro city music genre but the response to Gully Boy from small cities and towns has also been good.
I think that’s happening because the story of the underdog is very true. Everybody, no matter how small or big, will always have a dream they want to fulfil. So when you make a film about passion, achieving, real struggle and the truth, everyone will connect with it.
Were you aware of hip-hop before Gully Boy?
Not really, but I had heard about Divine and Naezy from my sister who is into the underground music scene. She told me that Zoya was making a film on these artistes and I was, like, okay – that’s great. Then a year later when Gully Boy came to me, I was very excited to be part of it. Now I know how alive the Indian hip-hop culture is. It’s not been given a commercial platform and the right and obvious attention. The rappers are popular on the digital platform but not as mainstream artistes. But the scenario is changing. Apna Time Aayega is topping the charts!