Bollywood A-lister Alia Bhatt is enjoying a roaring 2022.
“Gangubai Kathiawadi,” in which she played the central, title role, had its world premiere as a Berlinale gala screening, was a box office success and was the #1 non-English film and the #1 film in 25 countries on Netflix globally. “RRR,” in which she’s one of the leads, is one of the biggest Indian hits of the year.
And now, “Darlings,” Bhatt’s debut as producer, via her Eternal Sunshine Productions, is set for a worldwide debut on Netflix on Aug. 5. The film, where Bhatt also stars as a victim of domestic abuse who decides to take matters into her own hands, manages the feat of treating a serious subject with a dark comedy filter, without it being insensitive. It is directed by feature debutant Jasmeet K. Reen and written by Reen, Parveez Sheikh (“Queen”) and Vijay Maurya (“Gully Boy”).
“The minute you’re aware that you’re walking a very thin line, it’s a very tight rope into being insensitive. We’re not ever making fun of the subject — and anything around the subject of domestic violence, or domestic abuse, is not taken lightly,” Bhatt told Variety. “It’s the characters that are very light and quirky who think that they have everything in control, but actually have nothing in control. So that is where the humor really comes in. It’s more like a comedy of errors.”
The cast also includes Shefali Shah (Netflix series “Delhi Crime”), Vijay Varma (BBC/Netflix series “A Suitable Boy”) and Roshan Mathew (Netflix film “Choked”).
The script came to Bhatt via Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment and she “totally loved it,” she says. “Very rarely do you come across a script or a story that is so intimate, but at the same time, so that has so many layers and has so much flavor. That’s what made me feel extremely excited to be a part of the world, but then also felt that I could take it to the next step and I could also be a producer on the film, because it just felt like the right time to start that journey,” Bhatt added.
Red Chillies co-produced the film with Eternal Sunshine and Bhatt describes the experience as “fabulous” and that she found the vastly experienced company putting together the logistics of the shoot comforting. “They did it so seamlessly, and they would just let me know and keep me updated so that I could focus on the acting, because I was on set and I had to be creatively flowing,” says Bhatt. “I’m extremely grateful and I think that it’s been such a simple, beautiful partnership.”
Bhatt has also wrapped her Hollywood debut “Heart of Stone,” a Skydance/Netflix production directed by Tom Harper (“The Aeronauts”), where she stars alongside Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan. Plot details are under wraps, but she describes the experience as “amazing.”
“It was my first Hollywood big English picture experience and I had quite a task at hand because I was shooting for the first time an action movie,” says Bhatt. “But I’m also pregnant so there were so many layers for me to deal with. But they made it so seamless and so easy and so comfortable for me. It’s something that I will never forget because of how beautifully and how well I was treated.” Bhatt says that she was impressed with the safety precautions on set and that the team took good care of her, especially when she felt homesick while shooting in London.
“I had such a lovely time shooting with Gal [Gadot], with Jamie Dornan and with my director Tom Harper. I think we’re onto something pretty cool with ‘Heart of Stone’ and I can’t wait for the world to see it,” says Bhatt.
Next up for Bhatt is Disney magnum opus “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva,” alongside her husband Ranbir Kapoor, which is due a Sept. 9 release.
“We have set out to do something that’s not been done before. It is India’s biggest film so far in terms of its vision, scale, the world we’re trying to tap into — we’re really trying to open a universe. The germ and idea and the creation and everything — all credit for it goes to the director Ayan Mukerji and we are just living up to his massive vision,” says Bhatt.
“Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani,” which will release next year, reunites Bhatt with Karan Johar who produced and directed her debut as leading lady “Student of the Year” (2012), and is complete bar a song sequence. Bhatt describes the film, which also stars Ranveer Singh, Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and Preity Zinta, as “a light hearted family film full of song dance and everything wonderful and fabulous and all the family emotions — all packed into one sweet package.”
Farhan Akhtar’s “Jee Le Zara,” alongside fellow Bollywood A-listers Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Katrina Kaif, will commence next year, Bhatt says. There is a film due with “RRR” star NTR Jr. but Bhatt says nothing is confirmed for now.
Meanwhile, as a producer, Bhatt hopes to continue her relationship with Netflix, which she describes as “a partnership for life.” Content being developed at Eternal Sunshine include “an exciting show” and a “really lovely movie.”
“Right now, just sending out the message to directors, young writers, if they want their content to be put together, they should come to me and we will make it happen,” says Bhatt.