Alia Bhatt Set as First Female Lead in Yash Raj Films’ Spy Universe

Bollywood A-lister Alia Bhatt will become the first woman to headline a film in leading Indian studio Yash Raj Films’ spy universe, Variety has learned.

The film, where Bhatt is due to play a “super agent,” will commence production in 2024, Variety understands.

Bhatt is one of India’s top actors who had a stellar 2022. “Gangubai Kathiawadi,” in which she played the central, title role, had its world premiere as a Berlinale gala screening, was a box office success and was the #1 non-English film and the #1 film in 25 countries on Netflix globally. “RRR,” in which she was one of the leads, was one of the biggest Indian hits of the year and went on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

“Darlings,” Bhatt’s debut as producer, via her Eternal Sunshine Productions, was a hit for Netflix. And Disney magnum opus “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” was a success too.

Next up for Bhatt are Karan Johar’s “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” and her Hollywood debut “Heart of Stone,” a Skydance/Netflix production directed by Tom Harper (“The Aeronauts”), where she stars alongside Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan.

Created by producer Aditya Chopra, the spy universe kicked off with the Tiger franchise, starring Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, beginning with “Ek Tha Tiger” (2012) and “Tiger Zinda Hai” (2017), and continued with “War” (2019), starring Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff. The latest instalment in the universe, “Pathaan,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and John Abraham, is the biggest Indian hit of the year so far, grossing $130 million. The four films have together grossed some $300 million.

The next film in the spy universe, “Tiger 3,” is due a release in November, over the Diwali festival holiday frame. Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan will headline “Tiger vs Pathaan,” which is due to commence production in January 2024. “Brahmastra” filmmaker Ayan Mukerji will direct “War 2.”

A trade source told Variety: “Alia is one of the biggest superstars of our country today and she will play a super agent in the YRF spy universe like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan. This will be another epic action spectacle that will leave people at the edge of their seats. Alia will take on a mission that will push her to the edge and this gritty action film will expand the YRF spy universe further.”

“Alia will be presented in a whole new, never-seen-before manner in this yet untitled film. Her inclusion in the YRF spy universe indicates that Aditya Chopra is leaving no audience segment out of the equation for this franchise. Alia is the biggest superstar amongst youth and Gen Z of India and she is also one of the most adored actresses of our generation. She playing a spy in an all-out adrenaline pumping entertainer is a big novelty for all audience skews that she appeals to,” the source added.

“Alia is as big as the biggest heroes of our time and she headlining a YRF spy universe film pretty much cements this perception. Aditya Chopra is very bullish about Alia as an actress who can helm and start a franchise within the spy universe on her own and he will pull all stops to mount this project at a scale that will be jaw-dropping,” the source said.

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