Bollywood stars today, they are just like us. After wrapping a hectic two-day cover shoot, we are on a wobbly seaplane, flying over the luminous waters of Maldives, when actor Sidharth Malhotra nudges me. On his smartphone is a video of a truant little monk who keeps nodding off while meditating—it’s in the same chuckle-inducing vein of cat and baby clips we routinely see on 9gag.com.
To his right is his Kapoor & Sons co-star, Alia Bhatt, who has taken comfort in her ultimate travel companion—a time-worn pillow—to catch some extra winks. To passengers around, guests from Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru, we could be mistaken for any other bunch of young adults on vacation. But it’s only because I’m with two young stars who are keen on keeping things on the low. Two days ago, we arrived at this castaway paradise that is 99 per cent water.
It was their first time here and, like any curious tourist, Bhatt was elated at the sight the seaplane afforded. At 4,500ft, you can see oval-shaped landforms haloed by lagoons and reefs in the turquoise sea. It’s so spectacular a sight that, like Bhatt, you can’t help but remove your sunglasses to confirm it isn’t an illusion. A day later, the Brothers actor joined us on set, where he too had a first-of-its-kind moment when Anaita Shroff Adajania, Vogue’s fashion director, determined to catch the last of the fading evening light, convinced him to take shield in a human changing room on the beach. “I was butt-naked, changing behind four women holding towels—definitely not something I’ve done before,” he says. Real deal The duo has a shared history.
In 2012 they made their first film together, Karan Johar’s high-school drama, Student Of The Year. And this month, they come together in Kapoor & Sons. In their low-key airport attire—Bhatt, bare of accoutrements in a red checkered shirt, denim shorts and shiny shoes that read ‘Not Basic’, and Malhotra in a pair of jeans and T-shirt—they don’t possess the affected air associated with yesteryear stars. They travel without the glamorous trappings that their preceding generation finds indispensable: there are no beefy guards around us, no encroaching publicists hovering while I interview, and absolutely no world-weary attitude. For now, it seems they are okay playing their roles as rising stars for a little while longer. At regular intervals, Bhatt calls her mom to talk about the same banalities I share with mine—what she ate and how she’s feeling today.
On another day, when it’s time for dinner, she forfeits room service to eat with the crew. “Why would I want to sit alone and eat when there are a bunch of interesting people eating outside?” she asks, delicately spooning her soup. Sometimes they keep it so real, they can fool you into believing they are one of us. But train a camera lens on the telegenic couple and you’ll see them transform. Their chemistry is combustible.
They tease the lens like pros. But as the sweltering equatorial heat makes its presence felt, an exasperated and sunburnt Bhatt, in a pastel Shivan & Narresh swimsuit, reveals that the angelic face comes with a ferocious bite. When photographer Luis Monteiro urges her to stop frowning and give his lens a sexy stare, she retorts, “I’m not going to be sexy for you. I’m sexy and then I’m grumpy. That’s me.”