When Alia Bhatt made her debut at 19 as Shanaya in Student of the Year (if we discount her role as a child actor in Mahesh Bhatt's Sangharsh), audiences were quick to dismiss not just the role but also her performance. Some even compared her to Kareena Kapoor's iconic Pooja – but not in the way one would hope!
The beginning of Alia’s career was marred by massive trolling, with many writing her off as a one-hit wonder or worse.
But that teen artiste is now one of Bollywood’s most bankable stars. She may even be the closest thing to a female superstar in 2023.
In other words, Alia Bhatt has come a long way.
Despite facing heightened scrutiny and criticism throughout her career – as most female stars do – she continued to take one step after another… of her own choosing. In fact, there is ample evidence of Alia's near meteoric rise in cinema, be it in terms of major brand endorsements or being cast in high-budget multi-starrers.
She, soon, got dragged into the nepotism debate by virtue of belonging to the Bhatt family. While the intricacies of the nepotism debate are beyond the scope of this article, there's no denying that Alia continued to surprise audiences as an actor.
From Trolling To Being Written Off Too Early, Alia Bhatt Had an Answer To Everything
In 2014, the 'Prithviraj Chauhan' fiasco happened during her Koffee With Karan episode. A GK faux pas opened her up to extensive trolling, with jokes about her IQ populating Twitter and WhatsApp.
Instead of letting it die down like most people would, she starred in a spoof by AIB (All India Bak***d). The video humorously titled 'Genius of the Year' follows Alia's life after the KWK episode and is currently at 29 million views.
The video endeared her to audiences, and the same year, she took this achievement a step further.
After negative reviews for Student of the Year and herself admitting that she had little clue about what to do in front of the camera despite knowing it was where she was meant to be, Highway happened.
As Veera Tripathi, a young bride-to-be kidnapped before her wedding, she impressed viewers and critics alike. In the Imtiaz Ali directorial, Alia surprised people by playing a deeply layered role with maturity and a firmness of purpose.
Those who wanted to write her off as the adorable, bubbly girl too naive to command a screen found it difficult to do so after Highway, which was only her second release. Since that career-defining role, Alia has chosen to play tenacious and emotionally charged roles time and again.
She followed the film with 2 States and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. Both films were massive commercial successes – and the actor's performance was appreciated by many.
Alia Bhatt had proved her mettle as a romantic actor, and as one who would wear her characters like a second skin. From a Tamil college student (2 States) to a migrant worker (in Udta Punjab), the actor kept churning out performances that elevated the films' fabric.
Despite constantly being labelled as just 'cute' or 'silly', Alia played female roles with agency and strength, even in commercial films like Badrinath Ki Dulhania.
Rachel Saltz of The New York Times wrote that Alia "perfectly embodied the modern woman."
It was in Meghna Gulzar's Raazi, though, that Alia Bhatt began her journey to becoming one of India's most bankable stars – especially in an industry that undervalues women.
Often considered too young to stand on her own in the big screen, Alia now became the face of the highest-grossing Hindi film with a female lead.
Alia Bhatt's Rise to Becoming a Blockbuster Lead
The actor had earlier told Forbes India, "There are days when I think I might lose out on roles because I am too young."
"But then, I have these years to do what I want to do, to improve and grow as an actor. However, there are times when people don't take me seriously because I am so young."Alia Bhatt to Forbes India
All of this is not to say that the actor hasn't tasted failure. Films like Shaandaar, Kalank (with a huge budget), and Sadak 2 failed to make any impact. But despite that, 2022 became Alia's year. Besides being the face of several big brands, Alia launched her own production company Eternal Sunshine Productions.
2022 also catapulted Alia to international fame with her role in and as Gangubai Kathiawadi, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Her ability to portray seething rage, righteous fury, and grief as the matriarch of Kamathipura in one act left everyone impressed.
Before the film released, many people had expressed their doubts about such a young actor being cast in such a demanding role, but Alia was clearly up to the challenge, playing Gangubai through the ages with finesse.
Directors who have worked with her applaud her commitment to her art. Meghna Gulzar, the director of Raazi, had told The Quint, "Alia gets the layers of the character."
"Particularly in a film where the tone is what it is, to keep it at that subliminal level and not overplay and not even underplay ki kisi ko pata bhi na chalega ki aapne ek look diya tha udhar, that tightrope walk is amazing. She does her prep and she does her hard work but she acts from instinct."Meghna Gulzar on Alia Bhatt
Her performance in her debut production Darlings wasn't far behind when it came to critical acclaim. As Badrunissa, playing off an incredible Shefali Shah, Alia proved that she could also excel in a proper dark comedy, a notoriously difficult genre.
Even a cursory glance over Alia's career, especially on the roles she chooses, will reveal that the actor has always picked female characters that would be deemed unconventional for someone who started out with an extremely commercial film.
As a producer too, Alia Bhatt has strived to highlight stories that go beyond the male machismo we've seen in Bollywood for ages now.
This Somehow Is Also Connected to Her Personal Life
Many production houses, including hers, have been focusing on greenlighting women-led, powerful stories and yet, some people can't move on from the outdated notion of a woman "growing out of her prime."
This is in spite of the fact that in the past few years, roles for women have increased with age or time out of the public eye being no bar for a show or film's success.
This is crucial to note especially because an actor who has often been overlooked for being too young was suddenly positioned as someone standing on the brink of vanishing out of the public eye.
Why? Because she decided to get married.
As a whole, being an actor meant that her personal life hasn't been out of the public sphere either. While she obviously has her boundaries in place, she was often vocal about her crush on fellow actor Ranbir Kapoor, to the point where people hailed her as the 'queen of manifestation' when the duo got together.
When she and her husband, Ranbir Kapoor, announced their pregnancy though, reactions were mixed.
'If You Are Making a Commentary on a Woman in General, That's What Pissed Me Off': Alia Bhatt
Several fans rejoiced and congratulated the couple. Others criticised her for having a baby "so soon" after marriage and others wondered if the actor made the smart choice by getting married "in her prime."
Amid speculation that she would stop working just because she got married, the actor was shooting her first Hollywood film, an action film at that, while pregnant.
A conversation that could've centred on how Bollywood treats its women versus its men with a lens on ageism instead became about one woman's personal choice, in many cases.
While the actors refused to engage with trolls, Alia often called out sexist media headlines surrounding her marriage and her pregnancy. She would criticise news outlets for implying that she had to be 'picked up' or that she's quitting work after pregnancy.
Talking about why she reacted to sexism in media, Alia had told GOODTimes, "It's not about me personally, you can say whatever the hell you want about me, I dont give shi*."
"But if you are making a commentary on a woman in general, who is actually working since the beginning of (her) pregnancy. That's what pissed me off."Alia Bhatt
Alia, through public appearances and interviews, still remains the cheerful, endearing actor that appealed to her audience. And outside of movies, she is an active philanthropist and investor.
It is perhaps these qualities that has led to her appearing in the Forbes India's Celebrity 100 list consistently since 2014, often rising in rank.
Alia Bhatt, a Star With Impact & a Hollywood Release on the Way
Alia isn't just a versatile and skilled actor; she is a public personality who has actually managed to create a tangible impact through her work, evidenced by her receiving the TIME100 Impact Award in 2022.
Currently one of the highest paid actors in Bollywood, she has a Hollywood project set for release – Heart of Stone, co-starring Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan.
If that's not enough, the actor had also appeared as Sita in SS Rajamouli's RRR, a film that can now boast of a historic Oscar win.
At the end of the day, one thing is clear: Alia Bhatt does what she does and gets what she wants. And she might just be the 'Genius of the Year'.