alaya f interview© HelloIndia

Actor Alaya F On How The Pandemic Shaped Her Career & More

HELLO India Logo
Nayare Ali

HELLO! steps into the glamorous world of the pretty and petite actor, Alaya F, as she shares what she has up her sleeve next..

She’s currently shooting in Scotland for a film with an ensemble cast that’s been kept under wraps for a while. That’s where we found the chirpy, confident actor move to ‘It’s the Time to Disco’ from Kal Ho Na Ho, in a reel that was viewed over 630,000 times, unsurprisingly earning instant love from Karan Johar and Preity Zinta. And to think it all took shape spontaneously…

“I was scrolling through reels and noticed this choreography that seemed simple enough. Initially, only my hair and makeup team was going to dance with me. But soon enough, the costume team and Manushi Chhillar, who was around at the time, joined in,” she shares, recalling the experience with a smile.

Validation from a superstar

Today, Alaya has good reason to dance and celebrate. She was recently ‘validated’ for her talent by global icon and superstar Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who identified her as an actor in India with tremendous potential.

“I haven’t met her in person, but when Priyanka was promoting my nana’s (Kabir Bedi’s) book Stories I Must Tell, she told him over a Zoom interview that I had promise and potential. I was on such a high that day! This time, I woke up in Scotland to a message from my mother. She had sent me a clip of Priyanka making this statement… I was shaking!”

“I’ve looked up to Priyanka since before I became an actor. To have someone you’ve admired and loved for so long see the potential in you is an incredible feeling.”

In Alaya, we observe a sense of calm confidence, besides a drive to prove herself and all the talent brimming over. Does she feel a sense of responsibility and pressure, given her following and expectations of her? We wonder out loud…

“I have strong faith in my ability to be persistent with my goals. I always knew I had a place I wanted to reach, and no matter what, I wasn’t going to stop until I got there. And that’s been my rule for life. You can’t fail if you don’t give up. You must persist till you achieve your goals. It can get hard to keep up that faith, but such moments should strengthen that very faith in yourself.”

Bold moves

Although relatively new in the industry, Alaya has seemingly been choosy about the roles she’s signed. Only two films old, she made a fabulous debut with Jawaani Jaaneman in 2020, and followed it up with a mature performance as Kainaaz Irani in Freddy in 2022.

“Honestly, it’s more about the project and a gut feeling. If I feel like I resonate with a project, I go for it. During the pandemic, a lot of offers came my way, but they weren’t exciting. I held my ground for two years and went with the belief that I didn’t want to rush or make wrong choices. And thank god for that because that’s how Freddy became my second film. I don’t know how things would have played out if it wasn’t for that…”

While this may come across as a bold and brave decision for a newbie actor, one could argue that it’s her family background in films that gave her such a strong sense of self-assurance and faith that being picky isn’t a risky move so early on in her career.

“A 100 percent,” she agrees, but quickly adds, “I haven’t taken any money from my parents in the past five years, since I turned 20. I’ve been financially independent thanks to social media and brands. This independence helps, otherwise I’d have to go about things very differently.”

The best of a bad time

A sharp thinker, Alaya built her relationship with the world of brands during the pandemic, when everything else had come to a standstill.

“I had to keep myself occupied. So I decided to become a brand baby. If you find brands you resonate with, those that are genuinely cool, it’s great to endorse them. It’s visibility and great commercials,” says Alaya, unveiling the business-oriented side of her mind.

While she made the best of what was a terrible time for the entire world, Alaya confesses that career wise, the pandemic months — which arrived soon after her big-screen debut and all the positive feedback for her performance — were the lowest phase of her life.

“It was the scariest and most unpredictable time. Suddenly, all that I had worked for was taken away from me, though it taught me the importance of consistency. There’s no magic formula. You have to plant your feet on the ground, head in the sky and keep at it. Persistence really does work. This phase taught me how to go with my gut. But the most important lesson I learnt was to not get carried away by momentary success.”

Destined for cinema

But the journey of life never stops at one phase. The wheel turned and so did her luck. Besides Freddy, Alaya also worked in Anurag Kashyap’s Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat, which she describes as an amazing experience.

“We shot this film over four years. It was actually supposed to be my debut. It will be released on Netflix and will hopefully find its audience. This was a very special journey for me as an actor as it taught me so much about performance, craft and trusting a director.”

“Working with Anurag Kashyap is like a masterclass in acting, and once you graduate from his school, nothing really phases you anymore. He was the first person who saw potential in me, and I’ll forever be grateful to him.”

Looking back, it’s astonishing to believe that acting was not part of Alaya’s initial plans for her life. She had dreams of becoming a director till an acting class at the NYU Tisch School of Arts in New York got her hooked. The class required students to learn to act to direct others, and Alaya realised it came to her naturally.

“I got so much joy from it; it made me feel so peaceful. My mind is constantly racing, and I’m always overthinking, except when I am acting. That period between action and cut is the only moment in my life where I’m in the moment.”

This was the turning point in Alaya’s life, after which she mustered up the courage to tell her family she wanted to become an actor. Though it was no easy feat to convince them, given the many strong statements she had earlier made about not wanting any part of it.

“Initially, my parents didn’t take my declaration seriously in the slightest. My mum was, in fact, happy I didn’t want to be an actor because of all the pressure involved. Besides, my Hindi was weak, I couldn’t dance, wasn’t a Bollywood buff and was on the heavier side because I lived off pizzas while studying in NYC. They finally took me seriously after I got accepted to the New York Film Academy for their acting course. Today, they are so proud of me. I remember the joy and relief on their faces after my first release, when they realised that I could, indeed, act!”

Journey to health

It’s hard to believe that Alaya was anything but the slim, exceptionally fit, petite woman she is today, a woman who often shares inspirational posts on her workout regime and healthy lifestyle on social media.

“Earlier, I could eat anything and stay skinny, but I started getting heavier when my PCOS kicked in. That’s when I decided to workout and follow a diet plan to get into shape. Eventually, I found a balance with my body. Today, there are months when I don’t follow a strict regime, while I’m super disciplined the other months. So I know how to balance it out.”

It’s this sense of balance that keeps the 25-year-old grounded and also ensures that she leads a wholesome life. Cinema may be her true passion, but she has other interests, too. And ranking high among them is her love for travel.

“I recently went to Paris for the first time as an adult, and I loved it. Even Maldives is very relaxing. My Instagram following always shoots up after I post my vacation pictures!”

Alaya also enjoys engaging conversations with people — something we can attest to, as well. And while her style is versatile and entirely reliant on her mood, she hopes to “make a lot of movies in 2023” and see more of her around the country. Now this is a revelation her fans will absolutely look forward to.

Interview: Nayare Ali; Photos: Trisha Sarang; Makeup: Divya Shetty; Hair: Hrishikesh Naskar; Senior Stylist: Yukti Sodha; Junior Stylist: Anushree Sardesai; Assisted by: Janhvi Khatwani; Location Courtesy: All Saints, Mumbai

This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the April 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!