Alia Bhatt's home in Juhu, Mumbai — designed by Richa Bahl — reflects the side of her that the camera doesn’t see.
Alia Bhatt is one of the top actors of Bollywood and has proven her talent time and again. The 25-year-old who will next be seen in Gully Boy, is also on a personal high thanks to her recent purchase. Bhatt recently bought a house in Mumbai’s Juhu area, making it her third home purchase so far. The previous two homes are also in Juhu, and have been done up to suit the actor’s decor style. Alia’s new apartment is on the first floor of a posh residential building, and is spread across 23,000 square foot. But she paid a whopping INR 13.11 crore for the prime property, which is almost double the original price. While we can’t wait to see how Alia plans to do up this new place, here’s what her current Juhu pad looks like.
Alia Bhatt’s Home
Alia Bhatt has star power that is all out of proportion to her size. She is petite—fine-boned and sylphlike in that annoying way that makes everyone around her (yours truly, included) seem large and clumsy in comparison. It’s very dispiriting. She enters her living room wearing shorts and flip-flops, and even then, her entourage seems to fade into the background like so much dusty wallpaper. It’s like an invisible Moses-with-staff has gone before her, parting the seas of mere mortals so she can breeze past.
Before the lights come on, she is professional, centred, almost cold. A stylist adjusts a floppy sleeve, an attendant hands her a glass of water (with a straw, so it doesn’t smudge her lipstick)—she barely registers either. But in the seconds it takes between flipping the switch and the lights reaching complete brightness, she has gone full supernova. The impact of her twinkly-eyed, dimpled charm hits the camera head-on and I’m surprised our photographer hasn’t fallen over with his hand on his heart. I know I almost did; and I wasn’t even in the line of fire.
Happy Birthday, Alia
That Alia has learnt to compartmentalize her life is clear. There is the effervescent on-screen Alia; the polite but distant Alia for strangers; and a third Alia, for family and friends. We are firmly in the second category, and while smiled at prettily, are also told, with mild petulance, how we are the very first to see her new house: “Before my friends, before my family, even before my father!” We catch a fleeting glimpse of the affectionate, unaffected third as she calls out to her sister Shaheen (with whom she will be sharing this house), sweetly acknowledging her for sharing some of her tchotchkes that now sit on a ledge behind the sofa in the living room.
It’s hard to believe that Alia is just 25 (she celebrates her birthday today), and harder still to reconcile her bubbly public persona with the sensible, contained young woman she seems to be off-screen. The daughter of film-maker Mahesh Bhatt and actress Soni Razdan, her first film role as an adult was in 2012’s Student of the Year, where she played a poor little rich girl in an improbable all-American-high-school-esque setting. It was the kind of launch vehicle actors dream of, and the film was a hit, but showed Alia as little more than a pretty face who knew when to pout. It was tempting to brand her then as one of Bollywood’s endless stream of ‘star kids’, born with the right surnames, and silver-screen space handed to them on platters, but with her subsequent films—among them, 2014’s Highway, 2015’s Shaandaar and 2016’s Udta Punjab—Alia showed critics that she could hold her own against the best of them.
Meet Interior Designer Richa Bahl
It was during the shooting of the Vikas Bahl-directed Shaandaar that she met Richa (Vikas’s wife), whom she would end up asking to design her new house. “I just liked her vibe, to be very honest. I saw the Phantom Films office, which she had done, and I really liked that. And I liked how easy-going, how cool she was,” says Alia. Although there was no real brief, she was very clear about what she didn’t want. “I told Richa I didn’t want it to be too modern. I wanted it to feel a little old, with a New York loft kind of feel. And I didn’t want anything overtly glamorous, like chandeliers, or marble floors.” She purchased the house two years ago, choosing it over two others she had seen, because of its closeness to her parents’ house. “It was really a no-brainer for me,” she says, with much more confidence than you would expect from a 23-year-old speaking of her first home. It helped, perhaps, that Alia’s grandfather is an architect, and her mother, a self-taught interior designer—obviously she’s inherited more than just her mother’s cheekbones.
Once she purchased the house, she showed it to Richa, who, after her initial shock—“The place had termites! All the pipes were rotting!”—came up with a plan to design the space around the needs of the two young, first-time homeowners, who could then add and subtract things as they went along. “In fact, their mother and I used to laugh saying, ‘There’s nothing in the kitchen! They’ve no idea how to run a house!’” says Richa, like an amused, indulgent elder sister.
A Mix of New York Loft and Swiss Chalet
The renovation took around a year and a half, and the space’s four bedrooms were reconfigured to three. Richa fashioned Alia’s dressing room into a separate space to ensure the rest of the house would be private, even if the actress was in the midst of fittings. “You know, when she’s getting ready it’s not just her. There’s the stylist, the make-up artists, the spot boys, the ironing guys… it’s like a mela in there,” says Richa, in mild horror. A lobby now separates that space from the large living room, which has turned out to be a cosy mix of New York loft and Swiss chalet, with white walls, comfortable sofas, concrete-tiled floors and expansive windows that incongruously — though not unpleasantly — look out to Mumbai’s very tropical trees.
The palette here is surprisingly…well, mature. Alia wanted the space to be as completely removed from the glamour associated with Bollywood as possible, and even the lighting is muted, in deliberate contrast to the harsh spotlight—literal and figurative—in which the actress usually finds herself. The one thing the sisters insisted on in the house was a “tea bar”, because apparently, they’re both “really into tea. Just totally obsessed,” says Alia, sounding like a sprightly octogenarian, and I can’t help but wonder: “What next, girls? Knitting? Bingo? God help us, rocking chairs?” It’s hard to imagine anyone (young or old) comfortably drink tea while perched up on a bar stool, but the hip flask on the bar counter that reads, “I didn’t text you, vodka texted you,” indicates that other beverages might be served as well.
Alia Bhatt is interested in design, and one of the things she enjoys about going on sets is getting to see the way spaces are done up. When I ask if she’s ever been tempted to filch a prop, she sheepishly admits to once taking “a pillow, from a set I was shooting at. But I knew the decorator so he gave it to me”. In one corner of the hall stands a shelf that holds her 2015 Filmfare award for Highway, a quirky lamp, a small terrarium, and some weighty books on history. “They’re my mum’s!” she clarifies quickly, perhaps sensing my incredulous assessment of her mental age. She does read though, and the books by JK Rowling, Douglas Adams and Stieg Larsson are proof that there’s more to Alia Bhatt than meets the eye. But it’s easy to forget that when you see her lighting up a screen.