Alia is the greatest actress working in Hindi films today, and she doesnt even know it. She might even be among the greatest contemporary actors in Hindi cinema, period, regardless of gender, but imagine telling her that.
The thing about Alia, who turns 26 on March 15, is that she’s perhaps the most naturally gifted performer we have right now. Unlike the scores of her contemporaries, who cant help but remind everyone of that three-month residency they did at the Lee Strasberg institute, Alia needs neither education nor pretentious anecdotes to prove her credentials. Her powers are formidable, and luckily for both her and her audience, unlikely to ever diminish.
Lessons can be forgotten, but you see, what Alia accomplishes on screen cannot be taught – its instinctive. She was designed to be something else entirely, created in Karan Johars secret laboratory to become just another pretty face to peddle, another young starlet forced to forever defend her nepotistic origins. But she had the one thing no one, least of all Karan, could have anticipated: talent.
After her lukewarm debut in Student of the Year, she has made a series of excellent career choices, aligning herself with promising filmmakers and routinely delivering exceptional performances, even if the films themselves are rather ordinary.
On the heels of yet another nuanced turn in Zoya Akhtars Gully Boy, heres a look at her five best roles.
Highway is a great example of Alias talent. Its almost as if she, from the first frame, is in an active disagreement with the tone that director Imtiaz Ali strikes with his ambitious, but messy drama about a kidnapped girl experiencing the Stockholm Syndrome. Her dreamy performance is not at all like the on-the-nose melodrama that Imtiaz routinely revels in.
I have it on good authority that Alias Bihari accent in Udta Punjab is above reproach. How uncommon is that, in an industry that to this day treats accents like comedy relief - the Goans all say man and the Marathis are all named Tawde and the Dilliwalas cant help but pepper their language with colourful expletives. But Alia was not just heartbreakingly magnetic in director Abhishek Chaubeys drug drama, she was authentic. It was an internalised performance in a film that was all about the externalities.
Dear Zndagi is another film that simply cant keep up with Alias charms. In Gauri Shinde millennial film about millennial problems, Alia finally played a character who seems to be the closest to what she might be in real life - an urban girl experiencing the perils of big city loneliness, and struggling with the pressures of surviving in a concrete jungle, alone despite being perpetually surrounded by people. Also, its no small feat to go toe-to-toe with Shah Rukh Khan and manage to not embarrass yourself.
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