Kangana Ranaut has had a busy 2018 so far. She’s wrapped the shoots of Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, in which she plays the titular ruler, and Mental Hai Kya, her second collaboration with Rajkummar Rao. In a conversation for Vive Le Cinema (presented by Grey Goose) she spoke to us on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival about the things that make her happy and why she values her critics more than her fans:
Anupama Chopra: Kangana, it is going to be a big year, with Manikarnika releasing. I read this interview you did, where you talked about how she was in life very close to how you are in terms of very clear ideas about what is right, what is wrong and you said she was not someone who was willing to live without dignity. Do you think, Kangana, you’ve paid a high price for being an outspoken person in the mainstream Hindi film industry?
Kangana Ranaut: I don’t think I’ve paid any price. In fact, I’ve earned a lot by standing up against bullies and speaking up for things that I feel are not right. Like I said, I am no standard to measure whether things are right or wrong. I’ve always been honest to what I stand for. But like I said, that’s not the barometer for society or parameter to see things as right or wrong. That’s for my peace and my happiness and I think that’s what one needs to do with bullies. Bullies need to be put in their place and that’s what I did. I don’t think I have paid any price. In fact, I have earned. I have earned my happiness, I’ve earned my place, I’ve earned my respect, I’ve earned my dignity. There’s no price I’ve paid.
AC: I don’t know if you remember – when we had talked four-five years ago, I’d asked you, ‘How do you go from being this small-town girl to this National Award-winning actor to this fashion icon?’ You said you were criticised for your accent, for your hair, for the way you looked, for where you were from. And you understood and accepted and said, ‘Okay, I’ll fix that.’ Even now, are you able to process criticism like that?
KR: Oh yeah. I love to take my opponents’ opinions about me and I like my opponents more than my fans. As in, I admire my critics more than people who like me. It’s not something unhealthy, it’s not something that exists in me in an unhealthy way. But, I have deep admiration for people who criticise me, not hate me, because I think criticism is another form of admiration. Somebody having such an investment in you, such an interest in you is a sign of admiration. It lies much, much deeper than somebody’s love or blind attraction for you. My critics, I think, believe in me more than my fans do. That’s precisely why they criticise me.
AC: I’m also intrigued by how you don’t follow the norms in terms of what’s expected. You said, ‘The things that make other people happy don’t really make me happy. I won’t do the big hero film and I won’t do the item number’ – the sort of standard things which women are expected to do. So what are the things then that make you happy, if the normal things don’t?
KR: I think there are three levels of people. We are segregating people, but there are emotional people, the intellectual people and then the spiritual people. So, growing up, I think the things that mattered to me were on a very emotional and physical plane. Somewhere in my 20s, I elevated to more intellectual stuff, like I want to do films which are meaningful. But now I am trying to be somebody who could be even more refined as a being. So that’s the pattern of the growth I’m trying to acquire as a human being. So now maybe stuff which is transcendental, films in which you can actually be outside of yourself and live through millions of people, just that inclusiveness with audiences, that feeling of being one, that ecstatic feeling. That’s why I want to be a director. Just going outside of you and breathing through millions – isn’t that orgasmic?
AC: So when do you start to direct?
KR: Look, I’m ready. I’m ready and it’s just about time. Let’s see. The right time will come and I will be able to make a film, but I don’t feel too far from that dream. I’m just going about doing films very mechanically because somebody very wise once told me, ‘If you are truly intelligent, you would do what you want, but if you’re a genius, you would do what is needed’
AC: That’s lovely.
KR: So I told myself that every time I do what is needed, it has been my best decision. And every time I have done what I want, it has been okay. So what is needed right now is that I go about doing this and there will come a time when what I want to do will be needed.
AC: Tell me, back then, when we first talked about you directing, I said ‘What would it be?’ and I think you’d said that a Kangana Ranaut film was at that point going to be a road movie. Was that ever a thing? That you were going to make a movie about a woman travelling? My question is what would a Kangana Ranaut film be today?
KR: I have two-three scripts, but like I said – I would just let an idea come and I’m not rigid, I can take a script and direct it because a story is not necessarily what gets conveyed through a film. It’s sometimes the theme and the theme might not be the story and the moral might not be the theme. So a director and her language is not the script, I’m quite open to directing somebody’s script. I’m quite open to adapting a book. I have my own scripts as well. But like I said, it should be the need of the hour. There was a time when I was very aggressive about it and I thought that’s the way to go about it and then I learnt that’s not how it happens. Because the things that I’ve been aggressive about are the things that I regret today. So clearly, what people are trying to tell us, ‘Do what you want’ and ‘That’s the way to live’ – that’s not the way to live. I’ve come to learn that ‘do what is needed’ is the way to live.
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