‘Alia moments’ have become a trend of sorts. Verbose eruptions, forces of nature – singular all-consuming disintegrations so simultaneously disarming and disturbing that they sweep away everything in their path, including our momentary perceptions of the films she occupies. In these moments, nothing else exists. They are so powerful that either the film is immediately elevated, or the rest of it is devaluated.
There are two breeds of Alia moments: the confession and the explosion.
The confession is a long, hypnotic, unbroken shot of her face, where, with a trembling voice, she pours her heart out to a virtual stranger about a scarring childhood incident.
In Highway, this occurs when she confides in her perplexed kidnapper about sexual abuse.
In Kapoor & Sons, she confides in her new male friend about her parents’ death in a plane crash. Often punctuated by a single heartbreaking tear, these scenes are designed to humanize – and somewhat justify – her manic-pixie whimsicalness.
In Dear Zindagi, she confides, fittingly, to her psychiatrist (Shah Rukh Khan; as Dr. Jehangir Khan) about what causes her to resent her parents so much – an appropriate continuity of adult-like evolution in the Alia-verse. She has moved on to seeking professional help.
The explosion is usually a scene where Ms. Bhatt renders her co-actors speechless with a ranting, emotional monologue of biblical proportions. Her angst is intercut directly with the harrowed faces she targets, making for a nervy escalation of actions and reactions.
In both, Highway (the penultimate Delhi-family scene) and Udta Punjab (her introduction to Shahid Kapoor), she jolts the living daylights out of onlookers with tragic outbursts outlining her horrid past.
In Dear Zindagi, again, she rips into her parents with jittery precision.