Art & Culture

Kangana Ranaut: A firebrand who is unafraid to break conventions

Biswadeep Ghosh
Biswadeep GhoshMar 02, 2019 | 15:38

Kangana Ranaut: A firebrand who is unafraid to break conventions

Kangana Ranaut is unlike anybody else in Bollywood.

A feisty and successful ‘outsider’, the young Himachali actress speaks her mind, taking on bigwigs when necessary. Kangana’s frankness may not have made her overly popular with Bollywood's traditional establishment. But, whenever she has an opinion on something, she expresses it freely.

That's a quality most of her Bollywood colleagues don’t share.

Standing with the nation, post-Pulwama 

After the Pulwama tragedy hit India hard, Kangana remarked, “Pakistan has not only violated our nation’s security, they have also attacked our dignity by openly threatening and humiliating us. We need to take decisive actions or else our silence will be misunderstood for our cowardice... anyone who lectures about non-violence and peace at this time should be painted black, put on a donkey and slapped by everyone on the streets.”

133288_030119094246.jpgKangana is never afraid to stand up for what she believes in. (Source: YouTube screengrab)

Hurt, disturbed and annoyed, she advocated aggression without mincing her words.

Everybody would not have been impressed with her opinion on how a peacenik should be treated. However, the ordinary citizen would have been in complete agreement with her view on Pakistan, whose acts of cowardly sabotage have tormented India for decades.

Batting for the underdog

Working in an industry dominated by men, Kangana has delivered solo-heroine successes, among them being the big-budget period drama Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and the modestly budgeted Queen. She knows what being an underdog means, and she is fiercely protective of those who do not hail from privileged backgrounds. Somewhere deep inside, she believes she is one of them.

During a product launch, she reportedly said that it is wrong to shame ‘someone who doesn’t speak English, or has sweat patches because they have come in a rickshaw for an audition or someone who is sharing an apartment with ten people in an ‘uncool’ location…The doors shouldn’t be shut on their faces because of that.” She is right.

Mumbai manufactures celluloid dreams on a grand scale. Thousands of youngsters gravitate to the city every year. They live in tiny, shared rooms in suburban Ghatkopar or Kandivli, aspiring for that one moment that can rewrite the script of their nondescript lives. Many stories of such eternal aspirants begin and end with hope.

The war against nepotism

Coexisting with such strugglers are those born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

collage_030119094634.jpgKangana called Karan the Bollywood Mafia! Do we agree? (Source: PTI)

They live in upscale areas like Bandra or Worli and get their first roles served to them on a platter because they are part of influential industry families. Kangana famously hit out at Karan Johar once, calling him a ‘flag-bearer of nepotism’ on one of the episodes of Koffee with Karan. Her statements led to a huge controversy — an experience Kangana is quite familiar with. When she was asked if her opinion had altered the viewpoint of Johar, she reportedly said, “I am no one to do that, my intention was not that. He believes in bloodlines, dynasty and such talents worked for him, isn't it? I cannot make him believe in talents that he does not believe in — but I can say what I want to say.”

How many of her counterparts would dare do it — especially if they are as successful as she is and can aspire for meaty roles in big-budget extravaganzas that the Karan Johars of Bollywood can offer?

Pushing the envelope for women

Male leading actors are paid much more than their female counterparts worldwide with few exceptions. Hollywood is guilty of it. And closer home, Bollywood as well.

Reacting to the fact of pay disparity, Kangana reportedly said, “My male counterparts are paid thrice the amount. No one can guarantee (the) success of a film. So why such discrimination? I don't do one scene or one item song in a film. I can only speak for myself and I am commanding (a) certain amount of money, but I still think I am underpaid.”

More actresses must speak up to initiate the process of change in the industry.

The question is — how many do?

p-1505443903_030119095130.jpgMore power to you, Kangana! (Source: YouTube screengrab)

Backing out? Never! 

There have been times when she has been guilty of making statements she needn't have. After the Pulwama tragedy, for instance, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar turned down an invitation to attend an event hosted by the Karachi Art Council. This was her response, “People like Shabana Azmi calling for (a) halt on (the) cultural exchange — they are the ones who promote Bharat Tere Tukde Honge gangs... why did they organise an event in Karachi in the first place when Pakistani artistes have been banned after Uri attacks?... The film industry is full of such anti-nationals who boost enemies' morals (she apparently meant morale) in many ways, but right now is the time to focus on decisive actions....”

Kangana is entitled to her feelings about Pakistan. She is not alone in thinking the way she does. But some might argue that she should have been extra-careful while speaking about revered industry colleagues. Calling them ‘anti-nationals’ was certainly unconventional — if not totally controversial.

That said, when has Kangana ever been afraid of controversy or criticism? One may call her natural. Or simply, undiplomatic. But that is the way she is — an honest and unpredictable firebrand! 

Last updated: March 02, 2019 | 16:22
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