How Is Alia Bhatt As A Producer? Vijay Varma And Shefali Shah Spill The Beans (Exclusive)

Alia Bhatt’s latest release Darlings, is the talk of the town. The Netflix release opened up positive response from the internet on August 5, 2022. We got a chance to interview the Darlings team about the film, its genre and discussed their characters Badru, Shamshu and Hamza. Here is an excerpt from the interview,

SEE ALSO: Another Day, Another Ban! #BoycottAliaBhatt Trend Claims ‘Darlings’ Is Promoting Domestic Violence Against Men

There are also a lot of firsts in the house Alia, this is your debut as a producer. Jasmeet, this is your directorial debut. I want to know if there was ever a moment where you ladies maybe felt unsure about something during the shoot or before because God knows women left to second guess themselves.

JR: No, you feel unsure about so many things and then you correct it and you deal with it. It’s not like, oh, it’s, I’m unsure about this. And I don’t know how this will happen. You have to try and deal with it and find a solution and move on. And every day there is a surprise and at least while shooting the film, it is something that will go wrong and that’s something that you do have to deal with. That’s how it is.

You have no time to think over it because there is no time. You’re so busy. So that’s the fun of it also, I think because with that uncertainty magic happens. You have to be open to spontaneity and open to uncertainties was fun. You embrace it basically that’s the best way to do it.

Alia Bhatt (AB): Strangely I’ve been most calm. I don’t know why. I mean there are jitters but it’s more like you are keeping your fingers crossed and hoping it all works out. When you work on a movie you have also have expectations, and anticipations. The audience connects with that as well, but that’s the case for every movie. But I think somehow I’m just a little bit more relaxed. I really believe in the story. I believe in the film that we’ve made. I feel very happy with it. The fact that, you know it’s like you said, it’s a fresh take. It’s a new arena that we’re exploring that itself. I feel people give you credit for effort, for trying something different, doing something different. But of course, you always wait until the film is out there in the world to speak too soon. And hopefully we’ve like, we’ve given it our best. We’ve done our best. We’ve really love the story. And now the rest is up to the audience. What can you Do?

Shefali Shah and Alia Bhatt, both of you are familiar with the world that these characters inhabit. There is Ruksana in Jalsa, she was a fierce mother and Safina in Gully Boy was so hilarious. Did similarities ever creep in, or were you conscious about keeping Shamshu and Badru separate from all these influences?

Shefali Shah (SH): In fact, Jalsa came to me after Darlings. Suresh and me had really long conversations about it. So even physically, I didn’t want either of them to be anywhere close to each other. Of course they belong to different places, like for example, Shamshu comes from Byculla and Ruksana doesn’t. They have very different personalities and the story is completely different. You know, but on the face of it, when you put out she is a Muslim, she is a cook. We had already worked out a look for Shamshu which I really loved.

So whenever I had a meeting I kept emphasizing, listen, we can’t do this. I’m doing this there. This is what, these are the colors she’s wearing. We can’t do this. Oh, she’s wearing, please don’t do it. Because it would take away from both the films. And otherwise they are very different characters. There isn’t another Shamshu like there isn’t another Ruksana. Everyone is so individual. But it was a very conscious thought that went into right.

AB: Well, luckily Gully Boy had already released. Like Shefali just said, they’re very different characters. Their perspectives and worlds are different. In fact, Badru and Safina are total opposite. I mean, they are alter egos of each other. But because we had that as a reference, like maybe things like, you know, the way she wears the hijab, we didn’t wear it exactly like that. But anyway, we didn’t want that, you know, she wanted it very casually on the head and like totally different clothes. Totally different vibe also the personality is very different. Safina is way more assured, Badru is way more unsure, maybe a little bit more innocent. You may say she is more dependent on everyone else. Safina was not totally independent to do whatever the hell she wanted to do. So totally different people. One is a victim of violence; one is inflicting violence (laughs).

Vijay you are no stranger to the world either. I mean we’ve seen you do it all, but what was your preparation for Hamza? You’ve also mentioned that you wanted to play it at a heightened pitch. What do you mean by that?

Vijay Varma (VV): The prep was pretty extensive. As much as we think that I’ve been living in Bombay for like 14 years now, I picked up a little bit of Bombay. But I think Gully Boy was significantly important for me to understand the dialect and, and the lingo. What we consciously decided for this one is to not keep that and keep it very specific to Byculla. Hamza Is also educated man, working in a government job, you know like more refined in his own thoughts. He’s like, he’s the one who’s kind of doing better in life. Therefore there are certain things he enjoys like alcohol. So we wanted to understand what are the effects and how much can we play because for things like that it’s easy to catch the bad acting on screen. We wanted to avoid that. And then there are other effects that you will see in the film. There are other intoxicants that are introduced through the process of the film. So we wanted to kind of make every drug feel different, feel different, and look different.

JR: We wanted Hamza’s reaction to be different to those things. We researched it a lot, spoke to a lot of people. We acted it out in office like we picked up a scene and he acted it out in different degrees of alcohol. So we did those exercises, it was a lot of fun. Then we decided on one approach.

The genre of the film switches from comedy, dramedy at the same time talking about issues like domestic abuse. I wanted to know what was your process in navigating these things in the film because you’ve co-written it as well. Did you have a check list like, okay we are not gonna go there?

JR: The idea was to talk about violence, but say it in an entertaining way. So one had to balance out the dark and the comedy. Of course, there are other genres in this film like there’s thriller, there is also drama and, you know, some romance and, but you can’t go too dark. So because it’s a dark comedy, so overall it is fun. So that balance we had to maintain. At the writing stage itself, we tried to do it for sure. But visually you have to be careful as to what is more impactful, to show it all or just draw the line somewhere.

AB: Also, I think in terms of speaking about the subject of violence and abuse, I don’t think that was ever treated in an insensitive or a light tone. Of course. In fact, we were very, very careful of that because that’s not the point of the story. And the lightness actually just comes from the comedy of errors, in my opinion. And the way these characters are responding in high-stress situations. It’s just something like when you say there’s comedy in tragedy and tragedy in comedy. In retrospect, when you look back it’s humorous. It’s the way we planned our campaign, if you see the first teaser, it was a bit more intense. And a little bit more on the dark side and the trailer has more comedy. So we’re showing you that this is a film that has both these sides and at the end of the day, it’s not just a dark comedy. It’s you just discovering these people and their dynamics and their relationships. You see them evolve as people.

JR: To them, it is a serious problem. Of course. They’re not trying to crack jokes. The situation is such that will make you laugh.

Would it be fair to categorize it or even call it a product of the diverse umbrella that is Hindi pulp fiction?

VV: I was thinking about this last night, this amazing Urdu writer called Ismat Chughtai, there’s a lot of effect of Ismat Aapa in the way Jasmeet was telling the story, is what I personally thought. She wrote about a great deal of things that happen in a household. Especially for women and the atrocities are happening while she treats it with social panache. It is poignant, at the same time there is tadka because it’s a woman who wants to say these stories in a certain way.

Shefali your character from Dil Dhadak Ne Do, Neelam hit a raw nerve with a lot of women, especially mothers and the silent struggle that they go through. Especially the scene where she stuffs her face with cake. Now of course the setting is completely polar opposite in Darlings but can we expect some of the same vulnerabilities here as well?

VV: And more.

SH: You know, she has vulnerability where you progress through the film and you realize where she comes from. Also, the fact that she is vulnerable when it comes to her child. She’s very vulnerable and the difference between Neelam and Shamshu is that they are drastically different people. For one there is no façade. There is no cover up for Shamshu, she is who she is. And she is unabashedly, and unapologetically herself. She will go to any length for her child. Also, she’s very progressive. Neelam wasn’t exactly progressive. She had a lot of confine. She had a lot of constraints in her mind.

AB: Actually. To think of it, Shamshu is super progressive. Like the things she says and suggest to her daughter are quite shocking. Finally, it is only because of her voice and how unabashed she is, they end up in funny situations. There are there’s nobody who speaks this way. It’s true. We need more people like Shamshu and be like totally honest and like show you the mirror.

SH: So it’s definitely I mean the Shamshu is much more, I’m not undermining Neelam but Shamshu much more than her.

I’m gonna go ahead and call Eternal sunshine productions your first baby, Alia. What is your plan with it? Do you have a strategy in place? Have you already locked your scripts or are you more instinctual as a filmmaker?

AB: Yes, It is. I am very instinctive and it’s something that I’ve always been throughout my career. But I’ve been building Eternal for some time now. So now over the past two-three years, I have found like a script that I really like, not for me to necessarily to act in, but just produce. So I am developing that, I have two-three show ideas as well that I’m developing. But I’m not going at some crazy pace because it’s a boutique production house and I don’t want to turn it into a factory because it’s not. It’s really just a really tiny team. We literally work from a house. We don’t have an office or anything

The intention is to kind of communicate to the world that our endeavor is to give new talent an opportunity. And that will be my main focus. Of course, I will work with other talents as well, but I really want to make that one of the main things that we do, which is give new talent, new writing, directing whatever, anybody, an opportunity.

Vijay, you have worked with Alia earlier as a co-star and now, as a producer. What was that dynamic like? And did she ever pull you up for slacking?

VV: No. I mean, sadly, she never once behaved like a produce. I was sad. She came in with all her creative juices flowing and she brought in her A game as an actor. And that’s the only question we shared. But she sent me a very big gift hamper after the shoot. I don’t know if she sent as a co-actor or as a producer.

SH: When I got it, I was so touched.

AB: That I do as actor not as a producer.

VV: So we have a producer hamper pending. Since, nobody is going to call me for koffee.

AB: I’ll come to you with movies.

SH: What I want to say is that I think one of the biggest strengths of a producer is to step back and let the creative flow happen beautifully. That is where grace and respect comes from. Absolutely not once. Have I seen Alia as a producer over there and I think that is commendable. I really mean absolutely.

Alia, the mainstream media is somehow convinced that you are either hiding your baby bump, flaunting your baby bump. So on a scale of one to 10, how annoyed are you? and would you like to put a stop to it because it’s 2022 clearly and people have completely missed the memo.

AB: Well, it’s such an entertaining question. I’m not annoyed at all. Doesn’t even make my eyelids bat. I think they’ve run out of new things to write about me. So when I got married, I was newly-wed Alia. Now I’m pregnant Alia, pregnancy glow Alia, or mom to be Alia, baby bump hiding Alia and, baby bump flaunting Alia. Well I don’t even want to give it attention. It’s such a personal choice, like any clothes are clothes. Like I don’t get it. What do you mean by flaunt? It’s a deep appeal. Please stop.

Where did the film’s title Darlings come from, how does it link to the movie?

JR: It’s from a dialogue because somebody calls someone darling. You have to watch the film for that. And so we, that’d be a nice title for the film.

Our in-house critic also praised Darlings, the review read, “Alia completely breaks down, is beautiful and you can see the raw emotion in her performance. Vijay as usual gives his 100% for the character and really makes you hate him and even scared in some scenes. Shefali Shah’s acting prowess in undeniable and she does an excellent job portraying the worried mother but also someone who takes a stand and is quite badass herself.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Darlings’ Review: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Cook Up The Perfect Meal With Suspense, Violence And A Dash Of Humour

Cover Image: Instagram


John Colin

I am a technology journalist with over two decades of press experience. I have spent much of the last ten years, focusing on open source, tech gadgets, data analytics and intelligence, Internet of things, cloud computing, mobile devices, and data management. I'm a senior editor at Mashable's covering data analytics, venture capital, (SaaS) applications, cloud and enterprise software out of New York.

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