Alia Bhatt had been weighing her Hollywood options for a few years. A popular star of Hindi films for over a decade with nearly 79 million Instagram followers, she’d been interested in making an English-language film, but nothing had been working out. Then Bhatt got word of a new action franchise led and produced by Gal Gadot and within a week of reading the script, the deal had closed. It was, she concluded, fate.
“Your first film chooses you,” Bhatt said in an interview with The Associated Press in June. “Technically, this is my first English-language movie. It chose me and I’m so happy it did.”
“Heart of Stone,” a globe-trotting spy thriller co-starring Gadot and Jamie Dornan, debuts globally Friday on Netflix. Bhatt’s role as a tech prodigy named Keya is one that’s hard to describe without spoiling the twisty plot, but it’s an important one. In India, the actor had grown accustomed to being a lead, but here she was happy to delve into a more supporting part — as long as it had substance to it.
In reading the script, she wanted to make sure that her character wasn’t just there to fill a “South Asian” slot, and that she was involved in — and impacting — the storyline.
“The way I judge it is if you take the character out of the story and you still have a film, then that character’s not important,” Bhatt said.
But most of all, she was excited to be second to a woman who was also producing. Director Tom Harper called Bhatt a “formidable talent” and said that it was the dynamic between Keya and Gadot’s character, Rachel Stone, that most excited him about the film.
“The two bounce off each other brilliantly and you get real electricity,” Harper said. “Some of my favorite parts of the movie are when they riff off each other and the banter that they have.”
Bhatt was struck by how similar Hollywood sets are to than the ones she’s spent a decade on in India — with the main difference being the hours. The days were shorter on “Heart of Stone,” but so were the breaks. In India, she said, there would be an hour for lunch, 30 minutes for snacks and a later finish time.
She was also pregnant during the shoot and was tickled to see some the things she “did” in the finished film (with the help of stunt doubles and digital effects).
“I’m like, ‘Wow, I did that?’” she laughed. “I don’t think so, but it looks like I did.”
The release of “Heart of Stone” caps off what has been a banner year for the 30-year-old, in which she also welcomed her first child, attended her first Met Gala and was named the first Indian house ambassador for the luxury label Gucci. She had a small part in the Telugu-language action epic “RRR,” which became an international sensation, and also has been making a name for herself as a producer.
The first film she produced, “Darlings,” was a Netflix production as well, and the experience has been “challenging and scary and fruitful all at the same time.”
Bhatt hails from a Bollywood family. Her father, Mahesh Bhatt, is a well-known filmmaker, and her mother, Soni Razdan, is a former actress. She made her debut in Karan Johar’s teen drama “Student of the Year” in 2012, garnered accolades for playing a kidnapping victim in the drama “Highway,” from 2014, and last year she married fellow Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor.
“My parents from the very beginning have been very careful with the words of encouragement that they give me. … It helps when you grow up in a family that’s seen the highs and the lows and seen everything in between,” she said. “At the end of the day, my dad always says, you most definitely going cannot be the first member of your own fan club. So, try to have a 10-foot distance from it all.”
She doesn’t have a grand plan for her future in Hollywood and does not see herself moving to the U.S., like her friend Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
“I think what Priyanka did was extremely brave and very different from what anyone has ever done. She’s such an inspiration to every young girl from India that has that big dream to be a global icon and a global star,” Bhatt said. “I don’t think I could do that. I want to continue to do movies in India. And I want to be able to get these one-off, amazing international opportunities.”
“I still don’t know what I’m doing,” she added. “It’s just this one film and we’ll see how it goes from here.”