Looking for great stories

Aalya Singh is a Delhi girl on the way to becoming a top-notch actress. She already has a few Bollywood films to her credit. In this interview, she tells us about her experience of being a budding star in the Hindi film industry:

Can you tell us a little about your background and what inspired you to act?
I belong to a family that has nothing to do with the film industry. My father wanted me to become an IPS officer, like many other fathers would, but as a kid I didn’t know much about who is an IPS officer. Watching actors on screen was a big inspiration for me in my childhood. There was this fascination and I wanted to become someone like that. I think it started from there. But obviously, as you grow, you learn about how difficult it is to get into the industry, specially when there is no one to guide you. In my third year at Delhi University, I gathered some courage to do something about these silent dreams. While I was also doing some modelling assignments in Delhi, I dropped out of college and shifted my base to Mumbai to try my hand at acting.

What do you think is it about acting as a profession that inspired you to pursue it?
Bollywood does drive the country in a way. People get influenced by it. Then there are those who worship cinema in our country. It is such a powerful medium to tell stories and I totally believe in its power. Something that started as an innocent fascination has become passion for me. There is so much I can explore as an actor. Like talk about important issues.

Can you share about the films you have done in the past?
My first film Four Pillars of Basement was a psychological thriller where I play a character that gets stuck in an office space that is in a basement. I come across a security guard who, my character thinks would help me get out but has very different intentions. I also did a supporting role in Haseena — The Queen of Hearts, which was a comedy drama. My latest film Kanha Rahenge Baapu, where I play a lead role, is under post production and will be out very soon. The film is about the changing contrast between hard money and plastic money in India. It was very fulfilling to have worked on this film for its relevance to the current times. We are very excited about its release.

How do you go about choosing the films that you will sign?
There are times when I participate in film narration. Even during audition calls, I always look for stories the way an audience would. My first question when I hear a script is: Would I want to go and watch this film? If it’s a yes, then I go ahead with it. It’s really that simple. An intriguing storyline is what brings a film together. I prefer a great story more than a great character.

We would like you to share challenges of working in the industry.
It has been four-and-a-half years for me in Mumbai now. There is much more understanding of how the system works. Both the good and bad ways. Yes, talent is very important but there are other things that can land you a film. One can pay a price and get a film. Then there are people from film families with all the support they can ask for. Nepotism. Casting couch. But audience is a big equaliser. Once the film is out, only talent remains. There are times I feel not so great about how things develop in the industry, but it is there and one has to deal with it. One must have endless amount of hard work, patience and sometimes luck to make it.

Are there any specific filmmakers you wish to work with?
Well, I admire so many of them. Sanjay Leela Bhansali tops my list. I am a big fan of the grandeur in his films. Then there are Raju Hirani and Vishal Bharadwaj. I would love to work with them.

What is your opinion of the idea of putting Suhana Khan on the cover of Vogue India?
No disrespect for Suhana but Vogue should really look into the credibility of people they put on their cover. There are films with star kids and one can not do much about it as the same families back the film studios. Magazines and media add to the publicity of these star kids and they become famous without doing any work. They are bombarding the audiences with these faces all the time. It is a great way to ensure audiences for a film they might do in future. What about people like us?

How do you deal with ups and downs in your profession? Is there anyone who is guiding you through it?
No one in particular, but I do listen to Kangana Ranaut’s interviews when I am low. She was also an outsider and she has made it big in the industry, that too on her own terms. I connect with her. It gives me a lot of hope.

What do you think helped Ranaut do well for herself?
I think she is charming, good-looking and of course, talented. She has the dedication to make her own way. Right from her first film, she has done wonders for herself.

How do you view Netflix as a medium for people to view films?
I love how easy it has made for many of us to watch films — in the place, device and time of our preference. Content is king.

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