Kangana Ranaut, the enfant terrible of Bollywood, recently sat down for an exclusive chat with Firstpost. She talked about her upcoming film Rangoon, her leading men Saif Ali Khan and Shahid Kapoor (with whom she is working for the first time), and the ugly battle with Hrithik Roshan that dominated much of entertainment coverage in 2016. The actress, known for her honest opinions, opens up like never before. Excerpts from the conversation:
Rangoon is a very ambitious project for director Vishal Bharadwaj. What are your thoughts on it?
Absolutely. It is a very demanding canvas the way it has been written for last seven years and what has been riding on it in terms of investments and the scale of the film. It revolves around my character, Julia, and so it becomes a lot more demanding for the person who is actually the central character of the film. It took Vishal sir so many years to greenlight this project... The film talks about World War II, there has not been a single film been made on the subject. We don’t care about it, I guess. We'd rather see a goon flirting with a girl [laughs] than talk about World War II. We'd rather see those typical Bollywood masala films... than talk about India’s involvement with World War II. It took the director a lot of time to make this film. It took me a decade to come to a point where I am worthy of roles (like this)... One has to earn scripts like these. You can be the biggest star and yet such scripts may not come your way. For me it was definitely a do-or-die situation.
Your Hunterwali look in the film is pretty interesting. It is also quite raunchy!
Vishal sir’s women have always had that erotic undertone to their demeanour and that is the case with Julia as well. In fact, the context in which the hunter/whip is used [laughs] it is not that we are showing her in an action avatar. I feel her hunter and mask are somehow symbolic of her dark relationship with Saif because he has given her that image, he has given her that persona and there is a very important scene in the film — whenever she is in pain, she whips herself. It has that undercurrent and she is in love with two men. One is a very dark romance and the other one is more Sufi, more setting-herself-free. She has to choose one. It is a beautiful thought and it is a beautiful backdrop to have, and to top it all, this is happening during World War II.
Do you think we now have far more intelligent audience that appreciates good cinema?
Look, there will always be audiences that watch stereotypical Bollywood masala films. Just like the existence of television or very young audiences (children). But we should not deprive our young minds or the niche cinemagoers. There's a huge middle class, and there's the multiplex culture, which is giving us so many screens. Five years ago, 2000 screens were meant for a huge star — now we have 4000 to 4500 screens (for every film)...all this is new. We need parallel cinema to grow and if it doesn’t, then it will be occupied by Hollywood films and foreign films. So we need to up our game and cater to that audience. And not lose them.
Talking about Hollywood, do you have any plans of making inroads into it like some of your contemporaries?
I have three scripts lying on my table right now; two of them are American and one is an international, non-Hollywood project...Asia is the market for them (foreign film studios). I am not thrilled about it because it is a great time for me here. I don’t want to go missing. Right now, our challenge is how to keep the English dialogues in Rani Laxmibai to a minimum, because that film is veering in that direction. How do I become part of my people’s lives? How do I become more involved and engage my audiences, who is my audience, who makes my films a huge success? This is not the time for me to disconnect with them. Also, I am not looking for an alternate career where I can shift to another country and can live there. To be honest, every community, every society, every race, they have their own role models. I cannot hope to be a role model for another country. I want to help grow what we have. It has taken us 100 long years to grow this business.
You are paired with Saif Ali Khan and Shahid Kapoor for the first time. How was it working with them? Who is more comfortable to work with?
They are both great actors, they are not just good looking men. Both of them are equally amazing, but Saif is a lot more charming and that goes for the entire industry. He is the most charming man in the industry. He can charm you within five minutes. The way he speaks... there is something very pleasant and endearing about him. We don’t have anything in common, we come from different backgrounds and upbringings — but you don’t feel that way. He has a sense of humour about everything, which is very likeable.
Shahid, on the other hand, is more introverted. He is very suspicious of people [laughs uproariously]! There are days he is amazing, he would joke around and then there are days he would be in a different zone...very suspicious, watching your every move as if you were hiding a gun, or you were a suicide bomber just about to press a button and blow up everyone! But overall, working with him was good. I realised that it (the changes in his mood) has nothing to do with you, because the very next day he got me breakfast, and again the next day, he had changed. He definitely has these different moods.
You and Saif will be appearing on Karan Johar’s Koffee With Karan together...
I am looking forward to appearing with Saif on the show. Saif can surprise you, he is very witty. Didn't he say on a chat show — 'I am a Godzilla in the size department?' Now who would say that! Someone told me about this and I wasn’t surprised at all.
You are the recipient of three National awards. Your films are critically acclaimed and have also been huge commercial box office successes. Don’t you think you should have bagged many more big projects?
Actually I did get big film offers, I never felt short-changed in the industry. But I felt that I want to play the main lead in my films now especially since I have done a double role... Also the fact that Katti Batti didn’t work, in which I had a small role to play. I think that the audience was expecting more from me and that I can’t be seen standing behind someone. Katti Batti was also a big revelation... in a way I just felt that maybe 10 to 15 minutes in any film is not something that I can actually do now. I did get good roles with people who are supposed to be doyens, big actors and makers but then I chose films that portray me as the central character. I don’t feel that I didn’t get bigger and better projects. I feel that I have the best films right now. There is Hansal Mehta’s Simran, which is a great opportunity; then Rangoon is a great character to play. I will be really surprised if this year I see a better script and better female-centric film than Rangoon. I think this will by far be the best written character for a girl to play. I have utilised all my abilities and I have taken the best possible decision, but let’s see what lies ahead.
You seem to be just over the huge and ugly battle with Hrithik Roshan. What have the after effects been like? Did you feel any sense of isolation from the industry?
I had intentionally made myself little bit isolated. I was working on Rangoon those days. I was in Arunachal Pradesh where there was no network. Besides, the matter which was supposed to be between two people was out in public but actually no one, no third person could have helped in this matter. Only those two people can give each other closure. And if it is going out-of-hand, nobody can help that situation. So there was no point in involving people in it. Though there were instances when he (Hrithik) was going and crying to the entire industry, wanting them to sabotage my career, and people were calling me and saying — ‘He met us, he has showed us proofs and (do you) want to meet us because we want to know your side of the story as well?’ But I was like, it is none of your business. I was trying to figure things out and felt that it didn’t make sense seeking closure from others. I didn’t have any meetings with anyone, whether with the media or film people regarding that matter. I made sure of that... I think people understood that and gave me my space.
You had said that you felt threatened those days...
The threats were quite open, weren't they? They said they would release some statements, they would reveal something, say something... 'We will expose her and everyone will be shocked'... something along those lines. When that made headlines, I was like, ‘Wow! I would like to know what is so exciting'. They would keep saying ‘We are coming out with some facts’, and who wouldn’t want some sense (to emerge) out of this absurdity? This was the most absurd thing that could have ever happened. So, of course, I also wanted it to make some sense. I thought some big, fat reveal would take place which they were about to announce. Let me see what they come up with, because I had no clue, everything was as new (for me) as it was for everyone else. It is not that I knew this sort of game plan that would be unleashed against me. So I thought there would be some reveal but there was none and obviously those were just threats.
What were you going through, what was your state of mind like?
I was completely shattered on a personal level because of the loss of faith that I had in that person and going so wrong with that individual, so wrong in your choices in life, in your decisions...it was just a shattering of your own confidence in people, faith in people. That does give you certain calmness, right? So I was just floating about in that calmness that how I did go so wrong with this choice of mine. Besides that, I didn’t feel any other emotion.
Is the case shut completely?
Of course, there was no case only. It was all so absurd... actually I couldn’t understand what the entire matter was. So there is someone who is in love with me but he wants to impersonate Hrithik. But I in return want to stalk Hrithik, Hrithik in return wants an apology [laughs]. He is basically not after he person who is impersonating him, he is after me. Apparently, he wants an apology (from me) because someone is impersonating him and romancing me, whereas I am meeting him every day on the sets and he is my friend regardless. I frankly did not get this. And apparently, all this happened in my head. It was in my head, but the impersonator was a real person. But then, I also imagined things and through those imaginations, I also managed to harass this person who eventually did not decide to ever speak to me about this matter — the only thing he decided to do is have a court case against me!
It was very absurd for me to digest any of this and I always knew that all this is just sensationalism... And then two to three more people dived in with their comments about 'bi**c, wh**e, mixing of blood’... all of this led to too much excitement. When that excitement subsided then people wanted to know — 'Hello, what is this story?’ This story will not make sense in any time and age. It doesn’t na? This is what eventually happened and I had to stay quiet through that sensational period. I felt that if I stay quiet through this period eventually it will not make sense (to anyone) and that is exactly what happened.
So what next? What more challenges would you like to take on the work front, and who would you like to work with?
I would like to work with Shoojit Sircar for sure. Doing some sort of heart-warming story through him, through his eyes and environment will be great. He explores culture and goes deep into the characters and their lives. His characters are simple. I would like to work with him.
How would you describe your journey so far?
It has been quite a roller-coaster and lot of love...especially now. If I would not go through so many extreme situations in public, I would not really get so much love and support, they would not know me as a person if I don’t reveal the true me. Everyone loves the fact that I take things head on. I think my kind of people like me and the ones who feel threatened, they are not the kind of people you want to hang out with because they tend to be on guard about their egos. People who just want to be the only brilliant people in a room and can’t stand others' brilliance, then you don’t want to hang out with them. I don’t want to be around such people who make you feel bad about your gifts. You want to be with people who are good at what they do and appreciate you as well. I like such people. I have my set of friends but I am not the kind of person who needs 10 people in my house all the time, or who needs someone to talk to, or reassure me, or keep complimenting me. I need my space and that is how I am.
What do you do when you are not shooting? What’s your favourite pastime?
I usually spend time with my dog. You work so hard and then there are days when you have nothing to do. You just want to be in your pyjamas, sleep and eat. I have some plants outside in my balcony, I do little bit of gardening, too.
Is it still a pain spending several hours dressing up for shoots and doing up your hair? You have often said that you like walking freely on streets.
Yes, it gets on to me because it is too time consuming. You have to go somewhere for just 10 minutes and for that you spend time dressing up for one hour, then you dress down, which again takes at least half an hour. My whole day is wasted in getting ready and then getting out of those clothes and removing make-up. I feel I could have done so much with those two or three hours. When I travel, I like to walk freely on the streets.
You recently said that you want to get married this year, is marriage on the cards?
Yeah, why not? It is something that is on my mind. I am thinking about it, but it is too early to talk about.
Published Date: Feb 03, 2017 05:43 pm | Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 05:50 pm