Kiara Advani doesn’t believe in ghosts. But she also won’t watch a horror movie for fear of sleeping alone in her room. This comes in the wake of her recent release, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, a comedy-horror that is laden with tropes like that of the witch with twisted feet. And that’s just one of the big projects for her this season. As the third movie is set to launch at the end of 2022, Kiara’s year is looking busier than ever. Not that Kiara minds a bustling schedule. This is exactly where she wants to be...it was at the tender age of four that Kiara decided she would grow up to become a Bollywood star. “I was too shy to tell anybody because it’s not like it happens for everyone. It was a dream I held onto in my heart, but I never had the guts to tell my friends...” Kiara reveals. Today, the 29-year-old has won a legion of 23 million admirers on Instagram, and she is happy to share her life with all... And in the process, break some stereotypes with her steadfast commitment to the sisterhood [“I am a girl’s girl!”], and reclaim her sexuality and the female gaze [in 2020, she posed for lensman Daboo Ratnani in all but a leaf covering her]. Point being? Kiara isn’t backing down. Read on to soak in the covergirl’s views on happiness, women’s rights, romance, and more...
Cosmo: What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?
Kiara Advani: “When I was in college, my batchmates and I went to McLeod Ganj in Dharamshala, where we got stuck in the hotel for four days without any water or electricity. The region had received heavy snowfall, and the temperature was in minus degrees; even our bonfire was about to be extinguished soon. On the last night, the chair in my room caught fire...it was a near-death experience! Luckily, one of my friends woke up in time and screamed...we all jumped out of the bed, and managed to call the teachers, who broke open the door. It was quite traumatising. But I think that was the day we all decided to just be grateful. I think such experiences make you look at life in a different light and appreciate it.” C: And how do you deal with fear? KA: “My brain goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. But I think I am good in a crisis... I always find a way around things.”
C: What is your favourite film genre?
KA: “I love a good, romantic film. My favourites are chick flicks—I love The Devil Wears Prada, both the Sex and The City movies, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, P.S. I Love You, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...the list goes on and on.”
C: Do you enjoy reading as well?
KA: “Not much. I am trying to inculcate that habit, but I am reading more scripts than books at the moment.”
C: And what about music?
KA: “Oh, I absolutely love music. My favourite song keeps changing, depending on my mood. These days, since I am promoting my movie, I’ve been listening to high-energy songs, as well as the tracks from the movie. It just gets me in the zone. I recently discovered a song called Joy of Little Things [by When Chai Met Toast], which is really happy and uplifting. I love songs that I can just sit back to and enjoy, because I live in Town [in Mumbai] and my drive to work is at least an hour long.”
C: What were you like as a little girl?
KA: “Not very different from how I am now. I have always loved dancing and singing. I decided I wanted to be an actor when I was all of four-years-old. But I never had the guts to tell my friends, because I went to school in South Bombay [Mumbai], where not many people watched Hindi films... So, I was the odd one out who loved watching Bollywood films. In my last year at school, I said to myself, ‘You know what? I can’t graduate without having participated in the school play!’. When I finally did it, I saw myself in a different light. I felt like that was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life, and I realised that I was capable of it. By the time I graduated, everyone knew that I wanted to be an actor!”
C: And then you changed your name as well...
KA: “I felt it was necessary at the time because I wanted my own identity. I did not want a name that would confuse the audience. At that point, I thought it was the right thing to do and now I am just so used to it. My friends and family call me Alia, but it can be funny when we are out, so sometimes they just end up calling me Kiara.”
C: Along your journey, who has inspired you the most?
KA: “My family, all the directors that I have worked with, my co-actors... I don’t think I would be where I am without all these wonderful people. The one person who has really stood by my side is my mum. I think mothers believe in you the most. She is always honest with me and has been there through my highs and lows in a way that I am just so grateful for. Today, when I hear people say good things about me, I remember how my mother would say the same words to me many, many years ago, much before I became an actor. And I am like, okay, maybe she saw it coming.”
C: Can female actors be friends?
KA: “I believe so. And I say that because I am a girl’s girl. I am most comfortable around my girlfriends, and around other women. Most of my friends in the industry are people I have worked with—my directors and co-actors— because I end up spending so much time with them. The only other female actor I have worked with, though, is Akanksha [Ranjan] in Guilty ; we are very much in touch and have nurtured our friendship. But apart from that, whether it is Alia [Bhatt] or Ananya [Panday] or Janhvi [Kapoor] or any of my contemporaries, whenever we meet each other, we share great camaraderie. It is always fun. We catch up, go for dinners, and things like that. I think girls’ nights are more entertaining than anything else.”
C: How, according to you, can women uplift each other?
KA: “Whenever I watch the film of a contemporary, and if I really like it, I’ll get her number to tell her how good she was, even if I do not know her. That’s happened with me as well, when other actresses have reached out to me, even those I do not know, to tell me how much they enjoyed my work. It is so motivating to receive this kind of support. All of us inspire each other. When I watch someone performing incredibly, it only makes me want to up my game...to do better, take risks, try new genres. There is nothing better than women suporting women. It uplifts one’s morale. We understand each other because we go through or have gone through similar experiences. And if we don’t root for each other, who will?”
C: What makes for a healthy relationship, according to you?
KA: “Communication is very important. Understanding and respect are a must. Loyalty should be a given and there should be no egos. I feel the worst thing you can do in a relationship is to allow your ego to come in the way. For me, a healthy relationship is one where there is clear, respectful communication. You need to accept each other for who you are and nurture that.” C: And what do you look for in a partner? KA: “Understanding, respect, loyalty, and trust are so important. And a great sense of humour is always welcome. I’d want someone who just makes me feel loved, seen and heard, and does not take me for granted.” C: Has your definition of beauty evolved over the years?
KA: “When I think of beauty, it’s always on the inside. I mean, the most perfectlooking person could really not have much within... Beauty is in being kind, respectful, loving, encouraging, happy, and peaceful.”
C: What are your views on the ‘perfect’ body? Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and said, ‘I wish I could fix this’?
KA: “No, I have never said to myself that ‘I am ugly’ or ‘I wish I could fix this’. For me, being healthy is perfection. And that comes with one’s lifestyle—what you eat, when you sleep, hydrating yourself, working out. That reflects on your body and skin.”
C: What is your secret to being happy?
KA: “My mum once told me that happiness is in the mind—simply smile, and your brain will get the signal that you are meant to be happy. This one trick has really worked for me. I think we stress too much about being happy. And sometimes, we end up seeking it from the people around us, but happiness lies in your point of view. You can decide if you want to be happy, or if you want to let something upset you. I suggest you try what my mum said...it works!”
C: Are you a sensitive person?
KA: “I am extremely sensitive. Earlier, if someone said something to me, I’d think about it for a long time. Of course, my profession has taught me to grow a thicker skin, but things can still hurt me until I remind myself that when someone does not know you or what you are going through, their opinions shouldn’t matter.”
C: Do you think there is a change in the representation of women in Indian cinema?
KA: “Definitely. Today, there are many films with strong female protagonists that are witnessing both critical and commercial success. And that is because the audience wants to watch them as well.”
C: What about fair pay?
KA: “This is a global issue, not just in the Indian film industry. I think speaking up about it is helping draw more attention to it. Luckily, I have never faced a situation where I’ve felt underpaid or under-valued. I know my value and if it works for the other person, then great. If it doesn’t, I am okay to let it go.”
C: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever read about yourself?
KA: “After I worked in Kabir Singh , whenever a new film of mine would release, someone would create a meme with a photograph of my current co-star and one of Shahid Kapoor [as Kabir Singh] saying, ‘Preeti, tu meri bandi hai’ [Preeti, you are my person], or ‘I am coming to get you’. They just wouldn’t let that go, and we’d keep laughing about it!”
C: What are your hopes for yourself for the coming year?
KA: “Well, I am getting to know myself as I’m growing older, and I’m just seeking to be a better version of myself, the best version I can be, every day. I want to evolve into a better person, a better actor, a better daughter, a better friend...just a better me.”