Bhatt established herself in Bollywood by starring as the female lead in several commercially successful films, including the romantic drama 2 States (2014), the romantic comedy Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014), the drama Kapoor & Sons (2016), the coming-of-age film Dear Zindagi (2016), and the romantic comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017). She received critical acclaim for portraying emotionally intense characters in the road drama Highway (2014), which won her the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress, and the crime drama Udta Punjab (2016), which won her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
In addition to acting in films, Bhatt has launched her own line of clothing for women. She has sung six of her film songs and participates in stage shows and concert tours.
Bhatt was born on 15 March 1993, to Indian film director Mahesh Bhatt and actress Soni Razdan. Her father is of Gujarati descent and her mother is of Kashmiri and German ancestry. Director Nanabhai Bhatt is her paternal grandfather. She has an elder sister, Shaheen (born 1988) and two half-siblings, Pooja Bhatt and Rahul Bhatt. Actor Emraan Hashmi and director Mohit Suri are her maternal cousins, while producer Mukesh Bhatt is her uncle. Bhatt was educated at the Jamnabai Narsee School in Mumbai.
Bhatt's first acting role was as a child artist in Sangharsh (1999), starring Akshay Kumar and Preity Zinta where she played the younger version of Zinta's character. She had her first leading role in 2012 with Karan Johar's Student of the Year, alongside Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan. She portrayed the role of Shanaya Singhania, a sophisticated teenage girl who is in a relationship with Dhawan's character but is attracted to the character played by Malhotra. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama wrote of her performance, "Alia's role is reminiscent of Kareena Kapoor in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Stylish, classy, born with a silver spoon, she's someone who loves to flaunt not just her clothes and bags, but also her riches. Extremely photogenic, Alia makes a super-confident debut." Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times also mentioned the similarities with Kapoor's character, but noted that her performance was "without the killer attitude." Student of the Year grossed ₹960 million (US$15 million) at the box office.
Bhatt established herself in Bollywood with her three film releases of 2014. She played the protagonist of Imtiaz Ali's road film Highway opposite Randeep Hooda. Her portrayal of a lonely teenage girl who develops stockholm syndrome after being abducted was acclaimed by the critics. Rachit Gupta of Filmfare mentioned that "[a]t 20, it’s surprising how Alia has got so many deft nuances right. It’s as if the actor has grown with the character. She is truly one of the most promising new actors in Hindi films." Sonia Chopra of Sify added that Bhatt is "completely immersed" in her role, and that "Alia’s uninhibited and raw performance will have you emotionally invested in her character all through." Though the film underperformed at the box office, Bhatt won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress and also garnered a Best Actress nomination at the ceremony.
In Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiadwala's joint production 2 States, Bhatt starred opposite Arjun Kapoor. An adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's novel of the same name, it narrates the story of two IIM Ahmedabad students who encounter trouble in convincing their parents to approve of their relationship. For her role as Ananya Swaminatham, a headstrong Tamil girl, she learnt the language. Critics were appreciative of her performance with Rediff.com publishing that Bhatt "really grows into the character and makes you believe that she's a career-oriented IIM-A grad." Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express added that Bhatt was a "surprise" and was "easy and fresh and natural." The film emerged as a top-grossing production, earning over ₹1.7 billion (US$27 million) worldwide.
Bhatt's final film role in 2014 was as Kavya Pratap Singh, a Punjabi girl who engages in a romantic affair with a stranger a few days prior to her wedding, in Shashank Khaitan's romantic comedy Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. Co-starring Varun Dhawan and Siddharth Shukla, the film was described as a tribute to Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) by Johar, who served as producer. Writing for India Today, Rohit Khilnani thought that Bhatt had pitched in "one of her best performances so far", though Nandini Ramnath of Mint found her performance to be lacking in subtlety, writing that she was "more comfortable acting out her feelings through dialogue and actions". Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania proved to be her second consecutive release to earn over ₹1 billion (US$16 million). Her accomplishments in 2014 led Box Office India to label her as the top Bollywood actress of the year.
Also in 2014, Bhatt appeared in a short film on women's safety, entitled Going Home, from director Vikas Bahl. She next reunited with Bahl to film the romantic comedy Shaandaar. Released in 2015, the film featured Shahid Kapoor and Bhatt as two insomniacs who fall in love during a destination wedding. Kunal Guha of Mumbai Mirror criticised the film and wrote that Bhatt "socks life into her character but fails to pump any into this film". Shaandaar earned little at the box office.
In 2016, Bhatt played the supporting role of a lively young girl with a buried past in Kapoor & Sons, a drama about a dysfunctional family starring Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. The film proved to be a critical and commercial success. Bhatt then took on the part of a poverty-stricken Bihari migrant in the Indian state of Punjab in Udta Punjab (2016), a crime drama about substance abuse from the director Abhishek Chaubey. The intense role marked a significant departure from the mostly light-hearted parts she had previously played, and in preparation, she watched documentaries on drug abuse and learned to speak a Bihari dialect. The film, co-starring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, and Diljit Dosanjh, generated controversy when the Central Board of Film Certification deemed that the film represented Punjab in a negative light and demanded extensive censorship before its theatrical release. The Bombay High Court later cleared the film for exhibition with one scene cut. Bhatt's performance in the film was critically acclaimed, with several commentators believing that it was her best performance to that point. Raja Sen of Rediff.com wrote that Bhatt "commits to her accent and deals with the film's most unsavoury section, and is stunning during an incendiary speech that elevates the entire film to a whole other level."
Bhatt continued to gain critical praise as she took on the role of an aspiring cinematographer whose life undergoes a series of changes after she consults a free-spirited psychologist (played by Shah Rukh Khan) in the coming-of-age film Dear Zindagi (2016). Writing for IndieWire, Anisha Jhaveri noted that Bhatt provides her character with "a three-dimensionality in which the somewhat annoying nature of millennial angst is balanced with an innocence that’s impossible not to recognize". The film proved a box office success as well, earning a total of ₹1.39 billion (US$22 million) worldwide. Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi earned Bhatt several awards and nominations; for the former, she won the Screen Award and the Filmfare Award for Best Actress, and for the latter, she received an additional Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.
The series of successful films continued with Bhatt's next project—the romantic comedy Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017)—which reunited her with Khaitan and Dhawan. The film tells the story of an independent young woman (Bhatt) from rural India who refuses to conform to patriarchal expectations from her chauvinistic fiancee (Dhawan). Rachel Saltz of The New York Times took note of the film's statement on gender equality and wrote, "Without ever falling into the clichés of spunky Bollywood heroine, [Bhatt] effortlessly embodies that admirable thing: a modern woman." With over ₹1.95 billion (US$30 million) in box office receipts, Badrinath Ki Dulhania proved to be Bhatt's highest-grossing release.
As of July 2017, Bhatt has begun filming for Meghna Gulzar's Raazi, an espionage thriller set during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, in which plays the lead role of a Kashmiri spy married to a policeman from Pakistan (played by Vicky Kaushal). In addition, she has committed to star with Ranbir Kapoor in Ayan Mukerji's Dragon about a man with superpowers, and opposite Ranveer Singh in Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy, a musical based on the life of rappers living in Mumbai's ghettos.
Bhatt has performed playback singing for the song "Sooha Saaha" in Highway (2014). A. R. Rahman, the composer of the film, invited her to his music school to undergo training. In 2014, she sang the unplugged version of the song "Samjhawan", for the composers Sharib-Toshi, in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. In 2016, she sang an alternate version of the song "Ikk Kudi", for the soundtrack of Udta Punjab, with her co-star Dosanjh.
In addition to acting in films, Bhatt has performed at the Filmfare, Screen and Stardust award ceremonies, and has also participated in a stage show in Hong Kong alongside Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra. In 2013, she performed at a charity event with Dhawan, Malhotra, Aditya Roy Kapur, Shraddha Kapoor and Huma Qureshi to raise funds for the flood-affected victims of Uttarakhand. In August 2016, she performed in various cities of the United States as a part of the "Dream Team 2016" tour, alongside actors Dhawan, Malhotra, Kapur, Katrina Kaif, Parineeti Chopra, filmmaker Karan Johar, and singer Badshah.
In 2013, Bhatt took part in a campaign for PETA to raise awareness about homeless animals. The following year, she launched her own line of clothing for women in association with the online fashion portal Jabong.com; she described the collection to be "very simple" and "very me". She is also the celebrity endorser for a number of brands and products, including Coca-Cola, Garnier and Maybelline.2013: The Times of India's Most Desirable Woman of 2012 #19
2013: The Times of India's Hotlist 2012 Most Promising Female Newcomer: #1
2015: GR8! Women Awards: Contribution to cinema
2017: Listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia