Kangana Ranaut denies joining politics: 'What can it give me that I do not already have?'
'Why do I have to be a politician? You must align with your country,' says Kangana Ranaut.
Kangana Ranaut, of the impossibly-curly-hair-coupled-with-a-contrarian-worldview fame is sitting pretty; fresh from a strong opening weekend at the box office for her latest film Judementall Hai Kya. But, as Ranaut pivots from being a mere film star to taking on new roles as a film director, a celebrity influencer and a concerned Indian, she has simultaneously gained the distinction of being admired for her talent and being labelled a rabble-rouser for the contentious controversies she sometimes finds herself in. The most recent being an altercation at a press conference with a journalist on his social media comments about her attempts to sensitise people on environmental issues.
“I am welcoming of criticism. And about the said journalist — if it wasn’t about the environment, the martyrs, and animal cruelty" — a few of the things he has shown absolute insensitivity to — "I don’t think I would have been so offended,” says the actor to clarify her position.
There is no denying that Ranaut is an iconoclastic figure. Be it her stand on nepotism or nationalism, she holds the audience’s attention each time she speaks out on matters of consequence or otherwise. Ranaut’s recent utterings on nationalism and insistence on the importance of wearing one’s patriotism on one’s sleeve predictably set the tongues wagging on a probable interest in a career in politics. When I quiz her about this, the actor seems both amused and annoyed.
She counters with a question of her own. “I don’t get it. Why do I have to be a politician? You must align with your country. It’s just that people have become so petty in their thinking that if she is talking about the nation, there must be something to gain (from it). As if it’s going to give me a bigger platform. It will only put the stamp of a political party on my head. I will have to say what they ask me to say and I will definitely not express my individual views because the welfare of my party will be of primary importance. So what is it that politics is really going to give me? I don’t want to brag about myself but I am one of the highest-paid actresses, and if I have a press conference, there will be 30 cameras present. I can reach out to the entire nation — what is it that politics can give me that I do not (already) have, is my question to these people?”
Ranaut does make a pertinent point. Over the last 15 years, her film repertoire has shaped up well and to use a cliché, here oeuvre is one that does not bear a resemblance to the trajectory of her contemporaries. Besides being a leading lady in the prime of her career she also has a writing and direction credit in most of her recent films. This is a rare accomplishment for actors in general and actresses in particular. Her peeve about the industry’s lack of acknowledgment has been a bone of contention for a while, but for now, she seems to be enjoying the creative control and freedom that comes from wielding the microphone as a director. Specifically, the success of Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, which she co-directed has been a step up from merely being an actor.
“I had given up on my acting career before Queen, that’s when I ventured into film direction. I directed a short film and went to California. Since then I have been somebody who can look at a project from a wider lens. I think I am somebody who has a very good instinct about leading a team of people. I am not a person who is self-centered when I am in that role,” is how Ranaut explains her enthusiasm for direction.
With 15 years in show-business and her propensity to take a leading position in critiquing the film industry for its flaws, it seems an opportune moment to ask Ranaut if, with the passage of time, Bollywood has evolved and improved. Her reply, expectedly, is both unsparing and thought-provoking. She chides the Bollywood brigade (the Hindi-film industry) for being territorial (a long-held charge) and partying too much. According to her, Bollywood or the Hindi film industry pales in comparison to the Telugu and Tamil film industries, which are scoring the top box office numbers with films like Baahubali and Robot (this being only partially correct — Hindi blockbusters like Dangal, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and PK also, qualify, a discussion I hold off for another day).
Inclusiveness insists Ranaut would be key to a more flourishing creative industry — to have all the talent veer to one place instead of remaining scattered in different regional pocket boroughs around the country. It’s a pity, for instance, she points out that after Danny Denzongpa, there has not been any mainstream actor from the North East in our cinemas.
Ranaut, on her part, has takers on home turf but is creating strong synergies with regional talents like KV Vijayendra Prasad (the writer of Baahubali and Manikarnika). As an actor, she is in a happy space with her upcoming projects like Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga (about a kabaddi player), Dhaakad, an actioner, besides a biopic on the late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa — films with roles that carry heft and have a promising character arc.
“After a certain age and stage, you feel that there has to be some relevance to my work. It shouldn’t be just creating content. Whether it is about nationalism, about women empowerment or mental health it should identify with the times and transmit something more than just entertainment.”
Quite clearly, regardless of whether her outspokenness on contentious matters make her popular or not, when it concerns films, Ranaut, is quite likely to make us sit up and take note.
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