Kangana Ranaut on Judgmentall Hai Kya, her spat with media, working with Rajkummar Rao and political ambitions
Kangana Ranaut talks about what drew her to Judgementall Hai Kya, the impact of the 'ban', and grabbing festival dates for her next couple of releases.
Feisty and fearless, Kangana Ranaut, who swears by the mantra 'I do not care' has been taking Bollywood by storm on her own terms. She has seen more turbulence coming her way with a section of media ‘banning’ her after her ugly spat with a journalist at the promotions of her upcoming release, Judgementall Hai Kya (26 July). She accused him of running a smear campaign against her.
Since then, the actress has repeatedly said that she does not choose her battles but the vice versa. So there is no point in asking her: "Yet another controversy?" She sits in her vanity van parked in a suburban film studio, coughing intermittently as she recovers from a viral fever. It does not seem like she is ready to wage war. Dressed in a three-piece printed outfit, she lightheartedly and candidly talks about her fresh battle and the impact of the media 'ban', grabbing festival and public holidays for her next couple of releases (Panga and Dhaakad), the excitement to portray late actress-turned-politician Jayalalithaa in her biopic, directing a period film, her political ambitions, and more. Excerpts below:
You seem to see humour in every adversity. It does not appear that you are on yet another warpath...
I take things very lightly and that is how it should be. The way things unfold in my life, people think I must be very intense. But it (her reaction) is so spontaneous that it literally flows out of me, and I don’t restrict myself in any way to project a certain image and be a certain way. That is how I have been so far and I am comfortable with that.
So is that how you are tackling the recent incident as well?
Everybody is telling me, ‘Oh, you blasted a journalist?’ But for me he is not a journalist, he is a bhatka hua navyuvak (lost youth). What he has been writing about me shows he is just a professional troll. Constitution allows a journalist to critique but not troll and degrade somebody. It is something which is (of) national (interest) and concerns all of us.
Aren’t you, as a 31-year-old woman, who is a responsible role model for millions and billions of people, say, ‘Hey, you there! You are really misusing your power’. If you want to troll (people) and cannot get over your jealousy or bitchiness, why don’t you make another account with another name? Why do you have the identity of a journalist while still wanting the freedom of a troll. Why do you want constitutional rights as a troll as well? That is so dangerous.
But at times, it is felt that you mix up feminism, nationalism, and your personal issues. What is your take on this?
No, I don’t think so. That journo has been trolling me on a personal level but that is not the matter I should concern the nation with. But the tweet mocking martyrs are matters of national concern. Likewise, journalists who are indulging in these kind of activities - we need to collectively take a call on whether they can be called journalists or not. Are media organisations going to take some action when they see such tweets on their (employees') personal accounts. Also, you cannot expect personal access to my van and then come to hit me. You better stay out of my private zone. You come into my personal space with your organisational tag with the intention of hurting me. Why should I entertain you if I feel threatened by you? Aren’t there any guidelines for journalists?
How does the 'ban' imposed by a section of media impact you?
Today, everything is on social media. They are more internet sensations than actors. Actors find relevance only because of Instagram. At least four to five brands come to me every month and ask me, 'How do we sign you up? You are not on Instagram or Twitter.' I tell them I don’t want to be (signed) but my point is that every actress today – Jacqueline (Fernandez), Deepika (Padukone), Alia (Bhatt) — has over 30 million followers, and that is where you need to promote your film and promote your brands. Then why are they trying to bully me by saying I'm intimidating a journalist?
Considering that you often walk that extra mile to play a character, what attracted you to Judgementall Hai Kya?
My character Bobby is actually twisted and mental. People say 'Kangana is mental, pagli hai; she is a bit sanki.' But that is not in a literal sense. But Bobby is literally sanki. She is a crackpot, who is clinically suffering from a mental disorder, and it is all in a fun space. Usually, these disorders are shown in a tortured space. Either people are killing themselves or others are torturing them but here, the character is fun, and it is a quirky thriller.
Both you and Rajkummar Rao have come a long way from your first film together, Queen. How was it reuniting five years after collaborating on a coming-of-age blockbuster?
Raj (Rajkummar Rao) is an amazing actor. As an outsider, I identify with him. He is so diligent because people like him don’t have anything to fall back on. He’s so focused, sincere and so capable. I have seen him as a shy young boy in Queen when both of us were relatively new and today, to see him find his own space and be so successful, it makes me so proud of him.
How did you and Judgementall Hai Kya producer Ekta Kapoor gel? Rumour has it that you two had differences on the film. Is that true?
Ekta is somebody who is definitely a badass producer. She goes all out with her films and I like such people. I like people who are out there and speak their mind. I am privileged to have a producer like her. As a woman producer, she is so emotional about her films. She has seen the edits so many times. She has taken an emotional interest in the film and along with that, she was mothering her kid. I feel only a woman can give time to both these aspects of her life.
After Manikarnika: Queen of Jhansi, Panga will also release around Republic Day (2020); the recently announced Dhaakad is reserved for Diwali 2020. Just like the superstars and Bollywood bigwigs who always scamper to get hold of the festival dates, you are also booking holidays for your releases. This is like taking professional ‘panga’ with the stars, isn’t it?
(Laughs) I think it is high time...With Manikarnika, I got the courage. The response that the film got and how it was received all across the country gave me confidence. The film’s success has given me that confidence in terms of how to go about becoming a pan-India actor and star as opposed to just focusing on small films. We can also go big with films. Female actors after Queen have been focusing only on small films. But the way Manikarnika was welcomed by the audiences gave me a lot of faith. I thought the audience is now ready. But are we ready to give a full-fledged pan-India action film which can cover (everything) from single screen to multiplexes? We have to go beyond issue-oriented women-led films.
But isn't it still difficult for a female-centric film to get the kind of patronage that a film with male stars gets?
It is not just about a male superstar. A large section of media is also paid by the movie mafia. I don’t call them journalists. They work in their interest and that section is trying to pull me down and how. They tried to badmouth Manikarnika, showed low collections, tried to discredit me as an actor...What have they not done! So why should I be tolerant of this nasty media? I am more than happy that they banned me because it is only the nasty section that has done so.
You are set to embrace an action role in Dhaakad. The first look is quite fierce with you posing with guns in the middle of a burning set. Are you looking forward to the film?
It is a festival release and it is not just an issue-based film for women. It is for families and and an out-and-out entertainer. Then Panga, in which I play a national level kabaddi player, is again an event film which is for families. Sport and family is a great combination. Tanu Weds Manu was a husband-wife love story but we don’t make too many films of that kind. Panga is also about family – husband, wife and kid.
When do you start preparing for Dhaakad?
There is still some time till Dhaakad get out. I have the Jayalalithaa biopic (in Hindi and Tamil). After the release of Judgementall, I will take two months' break and in October, I will start Jaya. I am looking forward to that one. Thanks to Manikarnika and its success, and, of course, it is my audience and their love that today, I have a lot of work.
What happens to your next directorial venture and also, your own biopic?
I am going to announce my directorial soon. It is going to be a very big project. It will be a period film but I will take some time. I won’t be doing my own biopic because (the) Jayalalithaa biopic is also about a small town girl who becomes a huge star. It is the same struggle as mine but her story is a lot more wholesome because she becomes a politician whereas I am still trying to do things in life. I am trying to become a filmmaker. She became a politician and maybe I will become a filmmaker. So there is no wholesomeness to my story yet.
Do you worry at times about losing your fans, considering that you are often mired in controversies, or calling out and questioning your peers..
I don’t think we are in an age of fans. We are not. We need to wake up. Today, these critics don’t make such a valid observation of a film, or some of these so-called journalists don’t have valid questions to ask. In fact, these young children on social media can give you a run for your money in minutes. They make these small videos and the way they edit, put music, sometimes they make their own films, it can put even a film school graduate to shame. They have such crazy minds. They are not fans. They agree with you or they don’t agree with you. The force on internet is so strong so you cannot be somebody who is just wanting to be worshiped for being a celebrity. You need to earn the respect that you want from them. If I am celebrated by them, tomorrow they will also turn around and say, ‘Why do we give her so much attention? Why like fools are we dancing around her? Then we need to answer them. What is it that we have done in our capacity? Whether it is the roles that I choose, or whether my actions, that I either propagate or condemn everything, should reflect and I should be worthy of my position. Tomorrow, when they ask me some political question, the youth should look forward to my answer. I can’t randomly say, ‘Oh I don’t know anything about it’.
Today we have to be more conscious and aware. Those days are gone that everything will be filtered to people, and you will be projected and worshiped like god. So many of them abuse actors on twitter. The star system has died. They are not going to see films only because you are a star, they go for content. That is happening with social media also. You deliver what you can. Actresses are busy doing fashion post, make-up post, friendship post, these youngsters are making them work overnight and overtime. If I come to see you, 'You give me a reason, your time starts now'. That's how they are treating celebrities... if their Insta following is dropping or going higher, they are on their toes all the time. This is the power of public. They are not the people who are blindly going to follow you. People have gone to their bathrooms for selfies. Actors who used to cover themselves in scarves, shades, security, and paparazzi used to click through the gates, today they are posting their selfies and they are begging, ‘Please see me’. If this is not enough, I will drop the towel also. This is where the equation has reached.
But you are still not on social media?
Well, I do so much more (laughs).
Lastly, your political ambitions?
I had a lot of offers. But if I wanted to be in politics, would I do a film where I am playing a mental person who could possibly be a murderer? But you never know. Right now, my ambition is to become a good filmmaker rather than a politician.
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