Kangana Ranaut Curated
National Award-Winning Actress
CURATED BY :
I want you to talk about a little about your own journey from being a small town girl in Himachal Pradesh to getting to this point, from growing up in a family where you have quite openly admitted that your family was more favorably disposed towards your brother and in some ways openly discriminated against you to the point where you decided that you are going to run away from home.
I think this kind of discrimination exists even today. I won't say there was anything unusual about my childhood but I appreciate that today we talk so much about women empowerment. I don't know how much difference it's making but I think somewhere children who are growing up and women who are going to be our gen-next, in their schools, in their teens, they at least do understand there is something wrong in being discriminated, as opposed to us. Though growing up didn't seem something which is wrong like I thought it's a matter of fact that being a girl child is a liability on our parents.
Did you feel like a liability growing up?
Well, I felt what they feel, there is nothing wrong in what they feel. But I didn't feel that I am any less than my brother and I am just someone who they just have to take care of. I felt quite independent. But that's very rare.
What made you to take the decision to almost run away from home, come here to this city where you had no sugar daddy and you knew nobody. People made fun of your accent, they mocked you for not speaking English properly. You then took lessons. You were entirely self-made. But you virtually ran away. You had an argument with your father and you walked out.
I think the same frustration that I didn't see myself as someone who was any less than my brother or anyone else, and that something that drives you to just find yourself and your worth. I didn't have any clarity that I want to be an actress or I want to change the world or do this. But that frustration that I can't be what they think I am, I can't be such a useless person who is just good for nothing, who is just supposed to follow a script, or sort of a stereotypical map where I do a post-graduation, then they will find a guy for me and then I will go about making babies. So I did have a lot of doubts about that system but I had so many doubts about my own choices in life.
Is it really difficult for a woman to get a break into this industry if you do not come from a filmy family, especially a woman? Is it really difficult?
Well, I won't say that it's very difficult but there is a very narrow sort of opening. If you have to become an actress, you have to become this type of actress, you have to fit into those roles and you have to be attractive in a certain way, you have to be able to do certain types of dances and expressions. I say there is a lot of talent but there is no appreciation, there's very stereotypical actresses that Bollywood propagates. And if you are not that then becomes very hard for you to discover yourself where I feel there are as many people, as many stories, as many women and we need to encourage women, our women, for being who they are as opposed to trying to box them and fit them - this one is attractive, this one is behenji types, this one is intellectual and this one is a baddie - a badass who has boyfriends and wears clothes like this. So we need to stop boxing our women.
How sexist, how discriminatory is the industry you work in? And has there been any change since you made that comment asking why you are not being paid the same or at par with men?
Yes, I started this conversation because when I was working on my films I realized that it takes a significant amount of time, like around 200 days from 365 days and when I work as many days, why don't I get paid as much. And when my films do well, it's not when these guys, I am not talking about people who have established themselves since 25-30 years like the Khans, but say my counterpart who is my age, they don't guarantee you success of a film.
Women have a problem talking about money. I think women are generally shy to say we need to be paid more. Did you go through that struggle?
Oh yeah! I think we are made to feel extremely... this is the mentality in India we have that overtly ambitious woman is just looked down upon; which is also very... I don't think that's the case though. But they make you feel that way that if you are overly ambitious, no one is going to admire you and you are not a nice person. But then in my experience, the more successful I get, I see a lot more proposals from men. Why is that then? Isn't it? I have been around for 10 years and the more successful I get the more crazy they get. Why is that?
Do you work in an industry that men are going to be forever young while women are put on the shelf…well most women seem to have 5-6 years if they are lucky? How does that make you feel?
Again, it's a kind of manipulation. They manipulate us to feel that way, to believe that way. But it's not true. If that was true, I mean who remember last glamorous hot bod face, everyone remembers Datto, the woman I played with buck teeth, everybody remembers Queen. Our society loves raw character, we love raw women. We don't love our mother because she is hot and sexy, we love our mother because she is our mother. We love our granny because she is our granny. We value her. We don't remember anyone's face from our childhood; we love our granny's face. So, our society loves...if that wasn't the case why would Datto be such an iconic character? My Krish character is not iconic, the one where I play a really hot ass.
You had a two crore rupee offer to do a fairness cream ad and you not just turned it down, you said you are embarrassed and ashamed of every colleague of yours in the industry, and this includes both men and women and some of the bigger stars who market fairness products. What made you say no?
Like I said, I really think my ex, a white guy who I was dating... because growing up I didn't come across conversations like this and I thank you and people like you who... I don't know how much change people like you can bring about but at least you are talking about it. The one who is willing to have that awareness or may be fortunate enough to have that awareness will actually get it. Growing up, I didn't see anything wrong with fairness cream; in fact I thought it was actually cool to be fair or not to fair.
What do you think of your colleagues who do market fair and lovely or fairness products?
I think it's very very irresponsible. If tomorrow I have a dark kid, I wouldn't my kid to think he needs to get lighter or she needs to get lighter. I would be extremely embarrassed and wouldn't know how to deal with the situation if my child is watching that advert, I wouldn't know how to tell him or her that it's supposed to be that way. I wouldn't know because the whole world is saying something else and I would be in a very very awkward situation.
Your sister was a victim of an acid attack and you really helped her through it and you got her back on her feet. Speak a little bit about how that experience shaped you and your views on violence against women? What you saw your sister go through.
My sister is an acid attack survivor and she is quite a hero of her own. I just feel we are so...all over the world, not just in India, you know just winning... and success is so overrated because any way nothing lasts. So rejection is so hard to deal with anyone and people who, like growing up in schools also coming first was such a big deal and even in my own family, the kind of trauma I had to go through, the year I didn't stand first my parents treated me like I have done some sort of crime - that kind of attitude. So I think especially men, there is no acceptance that this woman doesn't want me or she doesn't have feelings for me.
People made fun of your accent, they called you the pahadi ladki. You taught yourself English. Why was that important to you?
It was important to me because I wanted to reach out to many people. I don't always see failure and criticism as something which is out to destroy me. Definitely, I can't do anything about the lizard thing but all the criticism that I get I have a very objective point of view to that and I have always been like that and that really helps me and shaped my personality. I wanted to reach out to many people especially in Mumbai where not many people speak in Hindi.
How would you describe yourself? Because one of the things you said about yourself is that, I am not a sati savitri I am a badass. What is a bad ass?
Me. Well, it's very hard to describe yourself. Like I said, it is so inbuilt in a woman like growing up anything that I demanded, I just felt that I stuck out like a sour thumb, like my parents made me feel like... so I had to have this thing that ok fine I must be a baddie but I want this, I want to do this. So I am very comfortable in being a baddie. We need to let our girls be overly ambitious. When people said you are so ambitious and dedh shanni kissi ko acchi nahi lagti, I remember someone telling me that. I was okay with that. I don't feel anything wrong in being dedh shaani, that's your definition of a smart woman. I even don't mind in calling myself a bitch but I do have a different definition for that.
You have been really blunt you said you have trashed film awards, you have said it’s a shame. You have said you don’t need to take selfies to be in the news. When you make these kinds of remarks, do people in your industry just hate you; do they still call you to their parties?
There is a lot of prejudice around me I would say. The simpler you get the more complicated you seem, isn't it? I don't know why is that. But the way they approach me it's like I am a time bomb which can explode anytime. I don't know why is that. In my understand of me I am what I say and I have been the most honest person about my past, about my present and the person I am, and still I seem so threatening is beyond me. But again that doesn't distort my understanding of myself.
You’ve told that you experienced physical abuse because you fell into a trap. When you go through abuse, abuse changes you and this is something I have spoken about. It changes everyone who have experienced it how did that physical abuse change you?
When this man who used to be my father's age, he hit me so hard that my head was...I fell on my head on the floor and it started to bleed. I must have been 17 or something. I picked up my sandal and I hit his head hard and it started to bleed as well. But then obviously his physical strength took over mine and I struggled so much that I couldn't believe I had so much of strength that either I die or I kill you. I went to the cops and I lodged an FIR against this man. That day I really saw myself as who I always thought I was. I never really tested myself under such extreme situations. But then that clarified my own understanding of myself and I thought I am actually a born fighter.
How do you help yourself to develop your accent?
I have a tutor who works on my accent and on my language when I get the time. So the idea is to reach out to as many people I do and we travel a lot and sometimes I get to attend these very significant summits so I want to reach out to many people.
What was the most cruel thing you have heard said about yourself?
I think body shaming is one. A journalist openly wrote that this girl from the mountains has frizzy hair and a lizard-like body.
What does a flop film teaches you,say your film Rangoon?
I have learnt quite a lot from the failure of Rangoon. I had too many expectations from that film. So, it was like a reality check. I realised that when I had run away from home to come to this city to become an actor, and after all the success, I had started expecting too much from myself. So, this failure taught me that this is wrong. I shouldn’t be obsessed with expectations. It was becoming a vicious cycle. Now, I have a sense of freedom from that. I have built a beautiful house in Manali. When struck by failure, you tend to believe that this is the worst that can happen, people were attacking me left, right and centre. So, Rangoon’s failure was my worst nightmare come true. It shouldn’t have happened, but if something like happens, you stop getting bothered by it all. Now, nothing can bring me down.
When you had won a National Award for FASHION you weren’t expecting it. Were you expecting an award for QUEEN ?
No I wasn't expecting a National Award for QUEEN as well. In Bollywood we know which films have released and which performances are most sought after or which are the ones that are award worthy but on National level you do not track everything. You don't know which film has come where and hence you cannot have preconceived notions. For instance, I had no idea about Vijay's performance, he is a terrific performer but I haven't seen his movie for which he won the National Award. Sometimes, they even nominate films which haven't released like Vijay's film. So on that sort of platform, I cannot expect an award.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement is definitely my experiences because everything you have has a certain life; be it property or social status but experience and IQ you develop over the years is priceless.
Now that you are in the top league, how does that feel?
I really don't know on what top most level I am at but as an individual or artist I definitely feel that my new journey has started. There was a time when I struggled to make a mark and to prove myself to deserve what you rightfully deserved and then there comes a point where that struggle is over and your own struggle starts of how you want to transcend your own limits, levels and explore yourself. I think now I am moving on to stag two.
What challenges did you face while playing the character of Datto?
I approach my characters in three stages = first is physical appearance. We worked on her physical appearance a lot, be it dentures, short hair, athletic look and body language. The second is the emotional aspect of a character which is internal and third is the body language. People's perception towards you has changed over the years.
Now that you have achieved success, has the definition of struggle changed for you?
Today, for me getting good work is not a struggle. I have always been an outsider and that is not going to change and I don't want to. There was a time when getting work was a struggle, but not anymore. There are different levels of struggle, but not as intense as it was earlier for me.
Has the success of QUEEN given you more confidence to try out different things and venture into newer subjects?
I have always had the confidence to experiment. When I did TANU WEDS MANU, I was offered THE DIRTY PICTURE but I chose QUEEN over it because I was sure that I didn't want to play those neurotic characters.
Do you think Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone, you have brought a change for writers who want to depict women oriented films?
Yes absolutely and I think these women are doing incredibly well. Vidya Balan was the one who started. Then Priyanka Chopra proved herself with MARY KOM and Anushka Sharma proved herself with NH 10 respectively.
Kangana, do you believe in the institution of marriage or you would choose a live-in relationship?
It is too hard to say anything. To each his own depending on the partner and whether you feel comfortable, safe, and secure. Living in can also be tricky at times. So is marriage, especially when people around you are having ugly legal battles. Generally, actresses avoid getting married before 30.
Now that you are in the top league, will we see you doing films where you have a small role or special songs?
As long as my kitchen is running I won't. If not then I don't mind. What is wrong in work? You cannot look down upon any kind of work.
As an actor does box office make you insecure?For what?
I don't have that much pressure. I have come here with 1500 rupees. I have a lavish apartment, I drive in beautiful cars. After I made my 1500 rupees, everything is bonus.
2019 looks like a particularly exciting year for you. More so as last year we hardly saw you on screen.
There were only cases; about six to seven of them. People were trying to put me behind bars, can you believe that? They should make a film on my life also (laughs uncontrollably). This year, I have Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, Mental Hai Kyaand Panga, all of these are exciting subjects. I personally feel that life moves like a wave. I have had a really horrible time and I hope it changes this year. 2018 was bad. My films weren’t working, cases were filed against me; it was going really downhill, till a point, it couldn’t go any further down. But you never know; life has a way of surprising you. Hopefully, it will change for the better.
You are an extraordinarily spirited individual. But do you see yourself as a lone wolf?
I don’t feel lonely, because honestly, people may not be there with me physically, but I get a lot of support from various quarters. I’ve stood up for so many things. But I’ve never had a situation where I had egg on my face publicly. Like I said, it may not necessarily be from our industry, but I do get support from individuals across different walks of life. God knows where that comes from and how much people really resonate and identify with me. For example, when the whole nepotism thing happened, Karan Johar went on record and apologised to me. There are a whole lot of instances of such a nature. When I began shooting for Manikarnika, I switched off from everything. I never bothered about it, but there were these never-ending open letters. Even in the past, when I faced uneasy accusations from one quarter and I was sent a notice, there was such an outrage. But though I was not relevantly a big star and I was having this conflict with a co-actor, I did find people supporting me.
Is the Bollywood hierarchy dominated by Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and you? How do you view the top position?
Let’s not have any delusions about that. The kind of place Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan naturally inherited from their seniors like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan worked differently. Actually as far as the girls go, this is not something that can be looked upon so superficially. With women it has been different. What we have currently is definitely as good as it can get. However, I don’t know about us being a part of the hierarchy. In the ’80s and ’90s, we’ve had Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit-Nene, who enjoyed a certain spurt of superstardom. If you see, there were those small phases of stardom that they saw, it was very age oriented and focused only around that span of time. Keeping all that in mind, we’ve definitely made a better place for ourselves. But are we on par with our male counterparts? No. However, we do wield a certain amount of influence on the audience and that feels good.
A recent media report quoted you as saying that you can identify with Rani Laxmibai because there are similarities between your life and hers.
I don’t think I said exactly that. Her life was very extreme. It would be naive of me to say that I identify with her life or say my life is similar to that of hers. We are born in free India. Our issues are, jaise kehte hain na, ‘amiron ki gambhir samasyaaein’. In those days, there were real problems. The way she struggled, or even how unfortunate her death was. It’s too much for us to realise its intensity. We can fight cases openly, we have a proper constitution. But someone throwing you out of your palace or for that matter from your land because they think they can grab your wealth! Jhansi was one of the princely states at that time, especially a Hindu princely state and perhaps the richest. So, they had very real issues. But I do identify with her spirit. And that is perhaps what I have tried to convey. If I’m tested, I don’t know to what extent; but not giving up, standing for what I feel and having a voice is definitely what I identify with.
We have often seen your aggressive and expressive facet. But what is your go-to tool to get yourself back to a composed state?
Whenever I feel agitated, meditation and looking inwards comes to my rescue. I also suffer from excess energy. I need to channelise it into something productive and creative. The last time I felt energy getting accumulated, waiting to explode, I signed up for a writing course in New York. This energy is the reason you see me writing, directing, singing, and what not? Many of those my age take it easy, but that doesn’t come easily to me. I need to do a lot more than others to stay in form.
You seem to have your own philosophy. What lessons has life taught you?
Life is not what happens around, but inside you. Whenever you want to understand if you are happy, stop and ask if your inner world is calm and satiated. Don’t look at your bank balance or assets balance sheet. Those will only lie. What lies inside you defines you, your happiness.
You walked the ramp for designer Gaurav Gupta for the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour with the theme My Express My Pride. Is there some prepping you do when you are the showstopper?
Yes, I am his muse and he has given me a flattering red flared gown to walk down the ramp in this historic palace hotel. I was chosen as it takes a sense of attitude to display such a gorgeous ensemble. I think I have the pre-requisites so all that I do when I am a showstopper is to enjoy being there and that translates into what is expected of me.
What’s your wish list for 2019?
Three of my films will be released in 2019. They better be blockbusters. The next would be a talk show with relevant conversations and a healthy dose of entertainment. And an exotic vacation with my family.
Your last film in the south was the Telugu film, Ek Niranjan (opposite Prabhas, directed by Puri Jagannadh), which came out in 2009. You haven’t worked in the south since then…
Tell me about it! I worked in Ek Niranjan and nobody ever offered me a role again in Telugu or the south. I am stumped. Perhaps they think I am too busy with Hindi movies. I am always open to working in the south. I still remember how Puri (Puri Jagannadh) offered me Pokiri, but I could not do as it clashed with the dates of my debut film, Gangster. Apparently, Puri even commented, “What’s with that skinny, curly-haired girl? She is yet to debut and is already so busy that she can’t give us dates?!” But I am glad we worked together eventually. So here’s a shout out to Puri saying I am always ready for a good movie.
You said that you are the rags to riches story. What do you mean by that?
Could you share any of your bitter experience in life?
Which was your first film offer?
Were you satisfied to start your career with Gangster?
What was your experience when you first came to Mumbai?
Have you ever experienced a #MeToo moment in life?
Was it odd for you to start a career in movies?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali have been your inspiration. Have you ever had a talk with him?
When did you first realize that you had the potential to work in films?
Are you a self learn actor?
How does giving a particular adjective to each of your characters in films help you?
How would you describe your character in Queen?
What made you learn screen-writing?
What do you have to say about the negative PR happening about you these days?
Do you believe that all celebrities should show their concern for the country?
Have you ever been approached by political parties to join their squad?
Are you interested to take part in politics?
Do you let the negative criticisms about you affect your work life?
Are you a director's actor?
I think, on the set, the director is my best friend. I don’t feel like I have to be driven around like cattle. Most actors, they need to be brought out of the [vanity] van, but I’m not that. I make myself available at the director’s disposal, and that is why I look like a completely involved person
What do you think about Jayalalitha and her achievement?
When she was humiliated in the State Assembly, and she said that she would come back as a Chief Minister... I think that was an extremely powerful moment in her life. Until then, she was under MGR’s shadow, and she never revealed her own political aspirations. But that was a very decisive moment because for her as a woman, in a man’s world, to be beaten up and humiliated... anybody would have lost their confidence. For her to show the kind of strength of character under those circumstances... it is very powerful
How did you feel after getting the offer to play the character of Jayalalitha ?
She (Jayalalithaa) was a different kind of actor. She was not like me. She was a more a glamorous star... somebody like an Aishwarya Rai in Bollywood. It was a very big challenge to fit into those shoes because I’m not known as a glamorous star
Do you think there are any similarities between you and Jayalalitha?
I do feel that there are similarities. She was a very reluctant actor. It is the same with me. I never wanted to be an actor, and that is why we became very unusual actors. I think she always felt that she was worth much more than just being a glam doll [in films], and she became a politician. Like how I became a filmmaker because I felt that being an actress was very limiting for me. So, I think there are parallels
Do you find any similarities between you and Jayalalitha in terms of experiences of life?
I think, like every woman, she (Jayalalithaa) longed for a family, and she longed for a child. I think there was a time in my life also when I longed for a family. I think some of the married people took advantage of that... especially married actors... I will not reveal whom. There are scenes [in this film] with an actor who is married, and who promises marriage and then goes back on his word. She has to face a lot of public humiliation. I think this is what happens to a lot of the young actresses. It is not something that only we share
Did you have any apprehension about playing the role of Jayalalitha?
They (production) assured me that the film ends when she becomes the Chief Minister for the first time. I think she was around 40 (Jayalalithaa was 43 in 1991, when her first tenure began), and I’m 32. So that is somewhere closer. But I did weigh [the pros and cons]. I decided that it is an opportunity and, if done well, it can be something very exciting,
Will you be open to do more Tamil films?
“Even now, I want to do the kind of scripts I do in Bollywood in Tamil. But I don’t want to play second fiddle to heroes. It is very prevalent in the South, and even in Mumbai,” she says, adding “I don’t do that even if they are big Khans or Kapoors. I don’t do that. If I do another Tamil film, it has to be an exciting character
Kangana Ranaut to direct a love story next
Kangana Ranaut will collaborate with 'Baahubali' writer K V Vijayendra Prasad and direct a film which will be a love story. Talking about it, Kangana said, "It's a love story but not with a human." Apart from the Baahubali films, Prasad has also scripted Kangana's 'Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi'.