5 Movies That Showcase Alia Bhatt's Versatility

A look at some of the most challenging and diverse roles the actor has tackled over her decade-long career
5 Movies That Showcase Alia Bhatt's Versatility

When she debuted as poor-little-rich-girl Shanaya Singhania in 2012’s Student of The Year, few people could have predicted the trajectory of Alia Bhatt’s career. While her breakout role did not necessarily give her the space to flex her acting chops, it cannot be denied that Bhatt has since made a point of taking on films and characters that showcase her range as an actor. With her upcoming release Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani making the news recently, here is a list of movies that best capture Alia Bhatt’s versatility.

Highway (2014)

Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

Alia Bhatt’s second role could not have been further from her first. In Highway, she plays Veera, a young woman with a traumatic past who finds a sense of true freedom and healing in the unlikely company of her abductor (Randeep Hooda). Bhatt masterfully navigates the character’s childlike innocence and profound rage, culminating in the powerful scene in the climax in which Veera finally confronts her abusive uncle. The actor said in an interview that the film is exceptionally special for her. “Every film lets you live a different experience. They all have something to give you or teach you. But some films also change you along the way, as a person. Highway was the beginning of that process for me.”

Dear Zindagi (2016)

Streaming on Netflix

Of all the characters Alia Bhatt has played, Kaira from Dear Zindagi is perhaps the most relatable. She is ambitious and outspoken, but she is also lost and vulnerable. The film focuses on her struggles with mental health and her effort to seek help by going to a therapist (Shahrukh Khan). “What I really liked about the script was the fact that I could relate to it,” revealed Bhatt. “And it's a story that’s not been told before. It’s Gauri’s [Shinde] fresh way of looking at life, its issues and the problems that we all go through.” The actor’s performance in the film was suitably angsty while still being nuanced and sympathetic.

Raazi (2018)

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

An adaptation of Calling Sehmat — Harinder Sikka’s 2008 novel based on real-life events — Raazi is the story of a bright-eyed agent who must infiltrate a family of Pakistani military officers and extract sensitive information for her country. Bhatt shines as the capable and determined Sehmat, an ordinary young woman who rises to the occasion and proves her strength of character. She expresses Sehmat’s conflicting emotions of love and guilt with poignant sensitivity. Additionally, there were a lot of other skills Bhatt had to pick up in order to get under the skin of the character, such as learning Morse Code and driving a military jeep, along with other spying activities. “I can join the RAW team if they need me to right now,” she joked. 

Gully Boy (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Alia Bhatt’s Safeena may not be the protagonist in Gully Boy but she definitely steals the show. Safeena strays from the conventionally one-dimensional love interest trope. Yes, she is endlessly supportive of her boyfriend’s (Ranveer Singh) dreams, but there is so much more to her. She is confident, fiery and does exactly what she wants. She is also brash and loud-mouthed with a propensity for violence if anyone gets too close to her man. Safeena feels complex, real and empowered, and it’s clear that Bhatt just gets the character. Indeed, the actor admitted in an interview, “I knew there was only one person who could have done this part and that was me.”

Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)

Streaming on Netflix

As brothel madam and mafia queen Gangubai Kathiawadi, Alia Bhatt wields power like never before. This film alone can be considered representative of the actor’s impressive versatility. Her character starts as a naive, lovesick young girl and transforms into the influential political figure who advocates for the rights of sex workers.

Bhatt speaks of this juxtaposition in an interview with Film Companion: “I remember all those adjectives that [Sanjay Leela Bhansali] would use when he was describing [my character], they would never be without the opposites: 'strong but vulnerable, humorous but has anger and tension in her eyes: this but that.' There was always a 'but' to everything. And that's how life is; it's not a straight line. Even in the performance, he wanted two layers to come out. She's saying something, her eyes are saying something else … It was extremely challenging but also what I enjoyed the most.”

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