For someone who never had dreams of becoming an actor in her formative years despite an illustrious lineage, 25-year-old Alaya F, dubbed ‘Bollywood’s next superstar’ by none other than global icon Priyanka Chopra, seems destined to make a mark in the industry.
“I wanted to be anything but an actor,” Alaya, daughter of Pooja Bedi and granddaughter of Kabir Bedi, admitted in a chat with City Times about her new film, U-Turn.
After a sparkling debut in 2020’s Jawaani Jaaneman and taking on the lockdown lull with a positive attitude, Alaya showcased her acting chops in two post-pandemic releases, psychological thriller Freddy (with Kartik Aaryan) and Anurag Kashyap’s romantic drama, Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat.
She’s back on screen once more with supernatural thriller U-Turn, the latest in a series of remakes of the blockbuster 2018 Kannada film that featured Shraddha Srinath in the lead role. Despite it being based on an oft-told tale that runs the risk of getting jaded over time, Alaya insisted that audiences had plenty of thrills and surprises to look forward to in U-Turn, streaming April 28 on ZEE5 Global. Also, she prefers not to refer to it as a remake, saying, “People can expcct a totally fresh perspective on a basic plot that has obviously been known and loved so many times that it’s been made so many times!”
U-Turn (that also stars Priyanshu Painyuli as a police inspector) sees Alaya play Radhika, a newspaper intern who begins investigating multiple accidents at a flyover that are seemingly caused by motorists taking an illegal turn. Her leg work is hampered when she becomes the prime suspect in a series of mysterious deaths, as well as by multiple supernatural occurrences.
Excerpts from our chat with Alaya.
U-Turn is a remake of a popular South film but director Arif Khan has said this is going to be something completely different. So, what can audiences expect from the movie?
We’re really not happy with the word remake; it’s more of an adaptation! Because, everything that’s similar is there already in the trailer. The crux of the story is pretty much the same, whereas a lot of the twists and turns, all the moments that are going to surprise you and make you think more, that are going to make you wonder how this is happening or who is doing it (is it a supernatural force, is it a person?) are very different.
Our ending is different as well! So, I think no matter which version of U-Turn you might have watched, ours is different! It’s something you will enjoy; it’s something that will grip you, keep your attention and surprise you, and I think at the end everyone is going to be very satisfied because it culminates really well.
Tell us what drew you to this role of a young journalist investigating a mystery.
I play an intern at a newspaper, and actually what drew me to the film was the script. I remember getting the narration and just being gripped, start to finish. I absolutely loved it, and I really believed that if something was so good on the script level, it has to turn out to be a good film.
People are saying lovely things about the trailer and complimenting it, but actually the real joy is when you see the film. Because it’s a thriller, and you can only say so much without spoiling it for everyone! So I’m looking forward to that.
How much of a fan are you of supernatural thrillers, and do you have any favourites?
I’m very scared when it comes to horror or supernatural things in any capacity, if I’m being honest! But, I’m a big fan of thrillers; I love and always enjoy them. I think it’s one of those genres – once you start, you just can’t stop watching. Especially if it’s fast-paced, has an energy and as long as all the plot points tie up in the end! I hate loopholes!
So, I love the genre and I’m also very specific about how I like the genre. And I’m very happy to be able to say that I think even if I wasn’t in U-Turn and if it was a film I saw just otherwise, I would love it!
You hail from a family of actors, so what was your view on the industry when you were younger and when did you decide to become a part of it? Were you greatly inspired by your grandfather and your mother?
Of course, I’ve always been inspired by them because they are my family and they give very good nuggets of wisdom; they’re just lovely, happy, positive and worldly people!
But when it comes to the industry, I think having a family that was in films, made me not want to be in films! I did not want to be an actor at all, growing up. And, all through my life everyone sort of assumed I would become an actor. When I say everyone, I mean people that were not my family, because everyone in my family knew how serious I was about not wanting to do this.
I don’t know how life had different plans… in fact, when I went off to university, I went to study direction, and halfway through that course is when I realised I wanted to be an actor, and that I’ve been running from it for far too long! I just sucked it up and said, okay, this is what we’re doing. Now, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it well. And that’s when my training began.
You had a bright start to your career with Jawaani Jaaneman in 2020, but then the pandemic hit the industry hard and you didn’t have another release for quite some time. How did you inspire yourself during this period and how do you feel about your journey since then?
During that time I went through many emotions and many ways of handling it. In the start my ways were – okay, this probably won’t last too long; when it opens up we’ll figure it out. Then when you realize you don’t know when this entire pandemic is going to open up, when you’re even going to be able to be back on a set… the opportunities that I had got right after Jawaani Jaaneman all started disappearing, because no one knew when they were going to finish their existing films… they weren’t even thinking about starting new films.
That’s when the worry really set in, and I remember thinking very anxiously about how my future was going to play out. And, yes, I went through not handling it very well for a bit in the middle, and then there just came a point when I said, okay, there are some things I can’t control. And I’m stressing about only those things and it’s driving me mad. We’re already in a time where pressures are high – everyone is scared, frustrated, angry; how do I change the way I feel? Because now I’m stuck with just me, for so long. And I remember just saying, well, let’s make the most of it. Let’s change the things that I can change.
And at that point my social media was really dead – it had nothing really going on, I had never really made an effort with it; I said, how can I stay relevant and visible? Let’s make social media my new best friend! It really helped me stay relevant during that period. I just focused on the things I could control and I kept myself visible, as much as I could.
Once the pandemic opened up I immediately went in to shoot; in fact, U-Turn was the first film I shot post-pandemic. And, I was basically shooting three films in three months. So, I knew it was going to be okay. Then came the waiting… for the films that I had shot to come out. Between my first and second release there was actually a gap of two years and eleven months, so when Freddy finally came out I felt like I was having my debut all over again. Luckily my second debut also went well, and after that it’s all been smooth sailing.
You’re obviously doing a great job because Priyanka Chopra at a recent film festival called you ‘Bollywood’s next superstar.’ Tell us your thoughts about that.
I feel so happy because over the time I’ve been promoting U-Turn, I’ve been asked this question so much! It makes me so happy… every time it happens I feel like I’m re-living the moment. It’s incredible.
It’s just one of those feelings you don’t anticipate so you have no real words to explain how you feel. It’s a mixture of happiness, excitement, gratitude, motivation, fear, nervousness; everything is all there in that one feeling! And yes, it’s just so special when someone you’ve looked up to and admired for as long as you can remember, gives you such a high compliment, you know? That you came into that person’s mind when she was asked that question… it’s amazing! I don’t even know what to say.
How do you spend your time when you’re not working? What’s your favourite pastime?
It depends on how tired I am or how energised I am! Sometimes it’s just sitting in bed and watching movies or TV shows, or going out and travelling. Sometimes it’s sitting at home and reading a book or painting, or going out and meeting my friends or family. Sometimes it’s going back to classes and training!