As India celebrates its 68th Republic Day in all its glory, HT catches up with two young heartthrobs of Bollywood – Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan – for an exclusive shoot and a quick chat. While Alia feels this day “in a way certifies who we are and what we stand for”, Varun recalls drawing the tricolour in his drawing book in school. Herein, the actors talk about India and their ‘Indianness’.
What does Republic Day signify for you?
Varun: It stands for a lot of pride in every Indian’s heart. We officially became a republic on this day, so it’s an important day for all of us. I am very proud of my country. India has galloped ahead swiftly in today’s world, yet we keep our Indianness intact. It’s a day to celebrate our Indianness.
Alia: The day signifies feeling patriotic and proud of being an Indian, as this is the day when our constitution came into force. Today is all about celebrating our nation’s ethos.
What are your earliest memories of Republic Day?
Alia: For me, it’s about participating in the flag hoisting ceremony in school. It was mandatory for everyone to attend the function at seven in the morning. I hardly ever missed it, because I would sing in the choir. My most personal memory would be watching the tricolor being hoisted up and feeling great about it.
Varun: I remember my dad used to buy a lot of flags, which would be put up on all the cars. I would also proudly carry a flag with me to school, and keep a count of how many flags I could have. But my fondest memory is about drawing the tricolour in the arts classes with crayons.
What’s the best part about being a part of the republic of India?
Varun: India is one of the largest and most successful democracies in the world, and being a part of it means a lot. We have so many people of varied religions and faiths living together in peace and harmony. As an actor, too, I feel that our country has always had a lot of respect for artists and the arts.
Alia: Essentially, being a republic means that we are free. And since we have our constitution, we know that we have our rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of speech. You’re born in this world, but the country gives you an identity. This day should be a reminder of not just our freedom or rights, but also our responsibilities. You have been given these rights, but you have to value them. You can’t take them for granted.
Do you feel we, as a republic, are in a great state?
Varun: Nothing can ever be perfect. But I wouldn’t want to be negative. Looking at the state of the world, we are in a great state. And going ahead, we have to be very positive. We have to keep improving and not grow complacent.
Alia: There’s always scope for improvement. Even our country and governments have looked at India as a progressing (sic) nation that always aims to achieve more and move forward. In the past few years, we have made ourselves visible on the global map. As an Indian, I am proud and happy, but I also feel that it doesn’t stop here. There are many more steps to climb.
What do you think needs to be corrected about our country on an urgent basis?
Varun: Women’s safety and respect towards women. It’s not a part of any law, but people really need to understand that women are equal. We need equal rights, equal wages and a common platform for everyone. There shouldn’t be any discrimination of any sort against anyone. India can set an example by doing that.
Alia: It’s easier said than done when it comes to such things. But on a moral level, and since I am a young girl, one thing that makes me sad is women’s safety and women’s rights in the country. That’s what hurts me. Still, there are many other things to be happy about and celebrate in our country.
What’s the best part about being an Indian?
Alia: We’ve always had diversity in our country, in terms of the people, culture and language. Every state is like a new country. But despite all our differences, we are still united. I believe in the phrase, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. And I feel we have always lived with that ethos.
Varun: It’s difficult to explain (laughs). I feel, there are right and wrong things to do, and then there is an ‘Indian thing’ to do. At times, we can show kindness to even our enemies. And that’s how big-hearted Indians have always been. That quality is ingrained in us, and we have proved that throughout our history. But it shouldn’t be looked at as our weakness. That’s our pleasantness, humanity and our Indianness.