The time is right to meet Kangana Ranaut. Her next film Rangoon is round the corner. We caught up with the frank and forthcoming lady and here’s something that you may remember for a long time.
How did Rangoon happen to you?
I was in Paris and I met Vishal Bhardwaj (director of Rangoon). I expressed a desire to work with him. And he removed his wallet to show me a picture of mine, a very fierce picture with short hair.
And what did he say?
This is my Julia!
I was so touched. It still gives me goose-bumps. Rekha (Bhardwaj) ma’am was there as well. She said: Haani, Vishal Sir sees you in this role. It was a magical moment.
Did you immediately say ‘yes’?
Well, those were early days when Vishal sir was simply toying with the idea of making Rangoon. Things were not concrete then. But later when he returned to India, he met me with the script. Rangoon is the best script that I have heard till date. One look at the script and I could see the work that must have gone into it- dialogues, plot, characters. I was floored. Julia is essentially a lover. That’s her arc. She is not someone you would look up to. She is very insecure, stuck in a group of people. What she turns out to be is amazing.
How was it working with Vishal Bhardwaj? He is said to be a hard taskmaster…
There are certain passionate filmmakers who want certain things only in a certain way, and they get labelled as hard taskmasters. But Vishal sir is also so child-like. There are so many amazing things about him. He gets excited about small things. I remember when we did the first look-test of Julia. I was quite happy about it, I am not a fussy person, I don’t object even when people put a false nose or teeth on me. But he entered the room and said: ‘My God, what have you done to her?’ He sat down with Adhuna Babani and decided my haircut. He would decide which shade of red I should wear. He would come and say: ‘Oh why is Kangana not looking as beautiful as she is?’ I would find that very unusual. No director has hired me for my beauty, I don’t even know if I consider myself as beautiful and if that’s an important aspect of my personality. But Vishal sir was so involved in mixing the fragility of Julia with her fierceness, which is amazing. There is an erotic undertone to it, and at the end of the day, it was so appealing. He is a great director.
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Did he tell you at any point that what did he see in you that made him your automatic choice for Julia’s part?
Because his Julia is fierce. There’s a childlike innocence to her but a dare-devilish attitude as well. I would agree with him. At times, I am unbelievably naive and then the fighter instinct in me surfaces to become extremely dominant.
You have been fragile and fierce in real life. How much has it landed you in bother?
I do have a mind and voice of my own. And yes, you do pay a price for getting extraordinary things in life don’t you? Ordinary is easily achievable. I think I live an extraordinary life. But it’s fine. There’s a price tag to precious things, isn’t it? It’s only fair.
Don’t you feel sometimes that you should change and become diplomatic?
There’s no looking back. There’s a world out there where one has to act for survival. If I tame myself down, there are predators around and I would be eaten alive. They would spit my bone out in 2 minutes. I have to hit back at people who attack me. They are threatening my career, choices and dignity. If you are going to shame me, what option am I left with? Should I fall prey to depression and commit suicide? That’s not what I am going to do. My first and foremost duty is towards my own well-being. Women are all made to identify with heal, nurture, condition and looking after people. That’s fine. But that doesn’t me that I stop looking after myself. I fight back to not set an example, and mind you it’s not by choice. It’s done to address myself and to help me make it as an individual.
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Have you always been like that? Or did it come to you only after you became a part of the film industry?
I have always been like that. When I was 14, my dad tried to tame me down. I was horribly rebellious and they took to strict parenting. I told my father that he can’t raise his hand on me and left the house. As a kid, I was like a house on fire. I came to the industry and got slotted in B-grade films- because people said I didn’t know English very well and that’s the best that could happen to me! It’s out in the open and it’s unfortunate that in my love affairs and relationships too, I haven’t got the acceptance: You can be somebody inside the door but not somebody with whom the man can step out. I disagree. I am amazing as a woman and have lots of potential. I deserve the best.
Why have men kept you behind the doors? You are beautiful and successful…
Everyone wants to be goody-two-shoes. That’s too good to be real. Honestly, it’s hard to know why they want to be holier-than-thou. Nobody talks about their relationships. Everyone wants to portray that they are virgins. I think it’s because they feel that they are judged for that. But I don’t think likewise. I think people are looking for real people, they don’t want to see holier-than-thou people. I have still always been open. I have even spoken about my panties and vagina. I think it’s important to be yourself. I have said so much rubbish on public platforms. When this whole controversy happened, I even accepted to being a psychopath or a whore or a witch or to having written mails which I never wrote. I accepted simply to test what kind of response I get.
I got beautiful letters of love. I was appointed Head Of A Witch Community formed by some young women (laughs). I love my audience. People are living in delusions. I am sorry for them, they are not living real lives and not getting true love.
Do you think you made wrong choices in your love life?
They’re not wrong choices. It’s just that one thing rolls into another and you don’t reach anywhere because of a certain path. I too initially thought that you cannot speak about your affairs and many other things because the society is judgmental. If this obstacle hadn’t come my way, I would have still remained in that cocoon. But this particular incidence taught me that there’s no such thing. Everybody is struggling with his/her life. Nobody realises it but deep down, we all know what’s our true essence and what goes on in human psyche- whether it’s malice, hostility, love or desire. So why be fake? Why not bare your soul? I think this incidence only taught me that there is acceptance and love out there from people.
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But in your love story, don’t you think you appeared naive?
Not true. The picture was wrongly portrayed in that manner. I am not someone who will show patience against something that is my attacking my dignity. Take my word, I have never begged any man to stay if he wanted to leave. I have never suggested any relationship to be dragged if it has died. In fact, I have been the one to say: ‘Why drag dead meat?’ And I hold pride in that. I hold the trend to carry on without any weakness. And people want to attack that very thing. But I am a great daughter, friend and lover.
So why did it end?
Two different personalities.
You didn’t realise it in the beginning…
We are not here to talk about what has gone in the grave, We can go on dissecting but…
You have problems, but every time you fight against odds, re-surface and reach the top. How do you do that?
What option did he leave me with? He sent me a notice asking me to apologise in front of everyone. But am I going to do that? It’s not fighting back, but I am not going to respond to such bullying. So, I sent a notice back. Till date, I have not said ‘Sorry’, though he’s going on forgiving me.
That doesn’t answer my question. Let me put it differently. How do you concentrate on your work in such times?
It’s very difficult. A part of you is falling, and a bunch of jealous hacks are trying to down you. It is terrible when you are betrayed by someone to whom you have given all your love and faith to. I was in Arunachal Pradesh when the notice came. I was going for my shots— and my hands were shaking and blood pressure was low. The phone was ringing. It was crazy. There’s a world out there which is coming crashing down, you are giving a shot of a film which is your priority but whose fate you don’t know. It’s a tragedy of different proportion.
Yes. Were you taken aback?
I was shattered. I didn’t expect it.
I meditate a lot. I remove the trash off my head. I tell to myself: Save yourself right now, it’s okay if people get hurt. Don’t worry about tomorrow.
Averse to men, love and marriage now?
No. I have some wonderful men around me, who have supported me through this. This man has gone to big people to sabotage my career, but nobody entertained him. I am grateful to all those who stood by me.
Yours is a big success story. Would you put it that way?
I have succeeded in living a free life. When I wake up every morning, I feel happy and independent.
You sleep well?
So unlike to when I was trained to cook food and wash plates when I was 10. I was even trained to remove stains from garments. And why? Because my parents said that I shouldn’t be beaten up by my in-laws! Look at my life now. Yes, it is truly a success story. Isn’t it a free India? (laughs).
Do you know how to cook now?
Yes, I can even do my laundry. I will also train my children to cook and do their laundry but not out of fear— but only because I would want them to be independent.
You were averse to awards. You took one at Filmfare, last year. Are you changing in that aspect?
Have you seen award functions? They’re all yawning there. At one time before social media came into effect, it was a big thing to get a glimpse of your favourite star at the commercial awards. But now with the advent of social media, you can see him/her dancing and even get into their bathrooms. One doesn’t look forward to an award function as he/she did 20 years ago. It doesn’t thrill me to see so many stars together. it’s just not exciting, and so I don’t like to invest my time. I do certain things which I want and I don’t do certain things which I don’t want.
So, you are not on Twitter…
Twitter is very consuming. We have so little time for ourselves, Twitter closes the doors on us to get close to ourself. There are so many thoughts on Twitter, it makes people so superficial. The greats had the stamina to pursue one thought to its logical conclusion. What is happening however now is that people are shrinking their IQ. It is one thing to accumulate knowledge, it is a different thing altogether to assimilate it.
You mean it is too much and too frivolous. Back to meat, your upcoming film. How was it working with Saif Ali Khan and Shahid Kapoor in Rangoon?
They are both fun but different, in fact poles apart. Saif is extremely charming. Let me tell you an incident. Once during a shoot, I was freaking out. It was a night shoot and the light was less, We were using real swords and I was practising very hard. Saif took me aside and said: ‘Why you looking so scary? Why such an intense expression?’ I couldn’t help laughing. If he doesn’t like something about you he will tell you upfront and want it changed according to his way, like a true Nawab. On the other hand, Shahid is very friendly on certain days but extremely suspicious on other days. Maybe that’s again because of my intense expression. But even I can be like him. There are days when I get zoned out. But he is essentially a nice guy, I must say. Coming back to Saif. He is a rockstar, he is not just charming but good looking as well. He is cracking the best jokes, having the best arguments, takes centre-stage- and goes home. Perhaps that his philosophy of life, and I quite like that.
You have intimate scenes with both?
I don’t like intimate scenes in a film. They are the most difficult to shoot. You have a formal equation with someone and suddenly you are into each other’s mouth.
That big moustache of Shahid is horrible. It was such a ….
Not a turn-off (laughs) but a tragedy of different level. When I asked him about it, he said he applies wax and has a running nose! It was getting…
Yeah, and he was teasing me (pauses). I have intimate scenes with Saif too, but they aren’t that many.
Let’s put the name out. Where is your case with Hrithik Roshan going?
Woh bhi koi case tha? There was an impersonator who wanted to imitate only Hrithik and is in love with me. I am in love with Hrithik and since he wants a ‘Sorry’ from me he sent me a Defamation. And now, there’s no impersonator and no Defamation. It’s all out in the open and we all know it is such a random thing. I always knew it won’t go anywhere. You seduce the sensationalism of journalism by making tall claims that you will spill a big secret about a girl. What sense did it make? It went on for a year, mind you. If you are carrying such a master plan you SHOULD have a big reveal at the end isn’t it? Bull s**t, crap. It’s behind us, we should move on. Moral of the story: People should not unnecessarily bully people just because they are powerful. It does not get anywhere.
Next is Hansal Mehta’s Simran. And after that, Ketan Mehta’s Rani Laxmibai?
Yes, and I am so excited about both.