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Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar (Left) and Alaya F and Tiger Shroff (Right), on the sets of 'Bade Miyan Chote Miyan' in Jordan

It was deceptively sunny in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, even with the temperature dropping to -1 degree Celsius back in January when portions of the song ‘Wallah Habibi’ from ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’ were being shot.

But dozens of scantily clad dancers surrounding Bollywood stars Alaya F, Manushi Chhillar, Akshay Kumar, and Tiger Shroff were spotted shimmying to the Arabic beats, seemingly oblivious to the biting cold.

If the leading men, Kumar and Shroff, had bronzed torsos on display, then the leading women — Alaya F and Chhillar — wore glittering bustiers that didn’t provide much protection against the elements. All went about it with admirable swagger and steely resolve. But when the director shouted cut, these stars were given swathes of warm shawls to cover themselves before they were called for their next scene by their director and choreographer. None of it looked particularly easy and made you grudgingly admit that film stars being given a hefty paycheck isn’t wholly unfair. Think about it: Dancing atop a boulder in freezing cold, matching steps with each other, and mouthing your lines isn't easy. 

So when we sat down with Alaya F after the trailer launch of the movie in Mumbai, we couldn’t help but look back on that song shoot that looked incredibly tough to pull off.

More than 200 dancers were flown in from India for this song’s shoot and around 400 crew were brought in from India to Jordan to pull of these glossy song sequences. 

“Braving extreme hot or cold weather conditions adds character to any shoot and makes it even more memorable,” said Alaya F with a laugh, reminiscing about her filming experience in Jordan.

But the 26-year-old star is quick to put things in perspective.

“Shooting glamorous songs is actually not easy. But it’s great fun and rewarding when you get to see it on the big screen … Today at the trailer launch, I was just in awe to be a part of a project that’s so big and grand. We were shooting in extreme heat in Abu Dhabi and extreme cold in Jordan, but it was all so exciting,” said Alaya in an interview with Gulf News.

In her upcoming Eid release, ‘Bade Miya Chote Miyan’, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, Alaya F — daughter of actress Pooja Bedi — plays Pam, a data specialist.

After a string of feel-good films like ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ in 2020 and thrillers like ‘U-turn’ and ‘Freddy’, Alaya F is ready to roll out her career’s first action entertainer. While her character is on call to be good with cracking data (“Pam is the brain and that IT specialist who’s incredibly smart”), she gets to do very little stunts — something that she feels a bit bad about.

“It’s a whole different world, this hyper-commercial action film zone. I didn’t realise how difficult it was to be a part of an action film … I got to learn so much.”

While her action was limited to holding her iPad and running, her co-stars Kumar, Shroff, and Chhillar are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to stunts.

Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff in Jordan's Wadi Rum as they film their song from 'Bade Miyan Chote Miyan'
Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff in Jordan's Wadi Rum as they film their song from 'Bade Miyan Chote Miyan' Image Credit: Supplied

“I am that cool nerd in this film … I have lots of scenes with Tiger where he’s running and I have to run behind them. But filming those scenes in those climactic conditions with cars blowing up and thick smoke enveloping us as we ducked over it all wasn’t easy. But Tiger made it look so easy and effortless,” said Alaya F. While she thought she was remarkably fit with great core strength, this movie which demanded a lot of physical dexterity from its actors reminded her that she has a long way to go before she can pull off those adrenalin-charged sequences.

“Tiger is so well-trained that I feel he’s set a different benchmark for what it is to be an action hero in Bollywood. It’s tough work,” said Alaya F.

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Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff in 'Bade Miyan Chote Miyan'

The glossy action-adventure, mounted like a star-fuelled spectacle high on stunts, car chases, and explosions, might be the perfect festive release, but reviews are unlikely to be kind towards such commercial enterprises. But Alaya F isn’t particularly worried.

“I have been really, really lucky when it comes to reviews. Touch wood … I read all the reviews that come in and I have no problem with reviews. I read every comment and posts even below that trailer,” said Alaya F. She also believes that she hasn’t been subjected to vitriolic reviews slating her performances, therefore making her far more benevolent towards her critics.

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A look at the cast of 'Bade Miya Chote Miyan' including Prithviraj Sukumaran, Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Manushi Chhillar, and Alaya F. They are in Mumbai for their trailer launch of their Eid release.

“I don’t know why I get more love, but I am grateful and I do think that I have been very lucky from my first film onwards. Lots of love have poured in and most people have loved the work I have done … But I have never done a film like ‘Bade Miya Chote Miyan’ and I really hope they enjoy this performance.”

She remembers when she had auditioned for the role of Pam, the data specialist.

“I was very upfront with Ali sir that I wanted to be a part of this big scale commercial film … While I am awkward about reaching out, I know that as an actress you always have to put yourself out there. You should be willing to face rejection too and that’s the only way to grow.”

Bollywood is notorious for being clannish and nepotistic towards star-kids with famous actor parents, but Alaya F is pragmatic about it.

“It’s scary and there are times when you don’t want to put yourself out there … But learning to deal with rejections a lot of the time is a part of our job.”

So who does she turn to when the going is bad?

“On the bad days, I talk to people who love me. Whether it’s my mom, my friends, or my teachers, learn to just talk to people. Get their advice, opinions and remember bad days shall pass too.”

Speaking of bad days, Alaya F’s Instagram account is filled with videos of her doing gravity-defying exercises and stretches on Bosu ball. So does she ever have a bad day when it comes to her fitness?

“That’s the funny part about social media … you get carried away by the nice videos I post. But there have been days when I have slept till 2pm and not worked out and eaten whatever I could get hands on. All of last week, I have been the most unhealthy but that’s never shown on social media.” She also suffers from PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), a hormonal condition that affects women of reproductive age. Alaya F has always spoken about her condition openly.

“I tend to put on weight fast, so life is all about balance. But I get bored and I like to switch it up a little … I have always believed that it’s important to listen to your body. If your body craves pizza, give it that pizza … Don’t deny it.”

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Alaya F, who takes pride in being fit, believes that you shouldn't deprive yourself of any cravings

Her philosophy of mixing things up extends not just to her food choices, but also to her career. Being a part of an Ali Abbas Zafar film, that’s high on action and stunts, was always on her list. Produced by Jackky Bhagnani, this high-octane adventure also features South Indian icon Prithviraj as its villain. Even the women roles aren't shabby, observes Alaya F.

“The women in his films are fierce and have a lot of agency. I love that they are strong — physically and mentally — even if it’s a testosterone-charged film … So I can’t wait to roll out my career’s first proper commercial film … Braving that extreme cold in Jordan and heat in Abu Dhabi was worth every minute.”

Don’t Miss It!

‘Bade Miya Chote Miyan’ is out in UAE cinemas during Eid on April 10