“No matter what I do… the people that I fight with in the industry – are they dying to work with me? Yes. They are. So eventually it’s about the business and everyone wants the best”. Not short on confidence, movie star Kangana Ranaut’s voice booms across the sprawling lawn inside The Westin, Pune. She is the guest on the Signature Masterclass – a show, now in its third season, that invites talent to talk about their unique journey to success.
The crowd shuffles in to the ground restlessly, nearly filling out the venue. The host, VJ and actor Cyrus Sahukar, asks questions that help build a narrative around her extraordinary story. In Kangana’s case, that story starts in the village of Bhamla, Himachal Pradesh, where she was the middle child or the “forgotten one” as she puts it. It wasn’t until she moved to Delhi, however, that the 3-time National Award winning actor had her first taste of her current profession. Stumbling into a theatre workshop she met her mentor, Arvind Gaur, and got bit by the acting bug. “It was the first moment of respect that I got, that’s what hooked me”.
And she didn’t look back, moving to Mumbai – the city of dreams, Cyrus chimes. “I’ve met some really terrible people in Mumbai” she retorts without missing a beat as the audience break out in laughter. She got her first big break in Anurag Basu’s Gangster (she was 19 at the time). She followed it up with a short but effective turn in Fashion (winning her first National Award) and the surprise hit Tanu Weds Manu. And then – nothing.
“What do you do when you’re not getting any work?”, Cyrus inquires. “I used to get 10-minute roles….that I specifically just did for money,” says Kangana. She used that money to fund her passion projects, one of which would’ve meant a move to California. And that’s when Queen, a small-budget independent film, thrust her back into the Indian limelight with its overwhelming success (another National Award followed). The applause rises, as her voice gets louder and more passionate. Her tale of the outsider-turned-megastar resonates with the people as they hang on her every word.
Kangana now ventures into a new territory once again with Manikarnika, which she has co-directed. As the evening draws to a close, the actress parts with a final nugget of wisdom. “In the rut of go-getting and reaching for success…don’t lose sight of the one person that is most important……you. Be kind to yourself”.