There’s a sea of vastness between her life and heart. The currents of this sea are charged by ambition, faith, envy, love, dedication, passion and of course, sex. But she swims through this gigantic space like an elegant blue whale. She swims alone. And you admire the magnanimity of her existence. Making no bones about the distance between her demanding work life and her bohemian existence in her personal space, the young and fiery Kangana Ranaut has now learnt to bridge the proverbial gap. The outspoken and independent actress has derived wisdom from her life’s experiences – both scathing and memorable. Her drive to better her creativity is her most attractive feature. Whether the power trends of the film industry favour her or not, she continues to carve out her own niche. Whether it’s the bloody gash over the bridge of her nose or the gory details of her tumultuous past, nothing can faze this young woman. Talking about face injuries, past relationships, writing her own films and even directing them, affairs with married men and the zest for sex, Kangana steam rolls through the conversation. It’s in her nature to succeed but it’s her decree to do it on her own terms. Excerpts from a freewheeling chat…
The mark on your face is very much visible. How did you get hurt on the set of Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi?
I was doing a sword fighting scene with three men. (Laughs) I guess Nihar (Pandya, who plays Rao Saheb) forgot his cue and he hit on my head. There’s no way of avoiding something so unfortunate like this. Especially, when it’s choreography related. The co-ordination of the various elements is difficult. It was a bad accident. It exposed my bone and my face was full of blood.
The face is everything for an actor. Were you scared at that moment?
There’s something about being in character. You cannot be a warrior without adopting the body language and the demeanour. When the metal sword hit my head, I felt it. I saw blood streaming down my face. There were stains on my dress. I asked Nick (Powell, Hollywood action director) whether I needed stitches. He said yes. I asked how many. He said around 10. I asked him to take me to the hospital, to the best plastic surgeon. Nick and my producer, Kamal Jain found it amusing that it was me who was guiding them. Usually, I’m scared of blood. But in this case I wasn’t. Perhaps, I’m romanticising it but there was a certain high in having a real-battle scar. A queen’s life is always associated with luxury and glamour. But when you talk about Laxmibai, she was the general of an army. She was an extraordinary woman. How many battles she fought in the prime of her youth! She was like a ‘killing machine’. So it would be a shame to try to get into character superficially through clothes, make-up, hair styles and jewellery. And if you give blood to play such a woman, it’s worth it. To be honest, I’m only happy. You can’t hope to immortalise the greatest warrior of all times without having a battle scar on your face. So it’s justified.
Will you undergo plastic surgery if this mark doesn’t go?
Accidents in my childhood have left behind many scars. As the plastic surgeons say – you need to create one scar to remove one. So, it’s hard to get rid of scars. Honestly, I don’t mind it. If you need to play a soft character, then you can always use make-up and CG. I’m sitting here in front of you without make-up, without even combing my hair. All this is part of life.
There may be scars in your heart as well… those we can’t see…
Of course, we all have soul scars but they are like medals won in a battle. Your mind, your inner being can carry a lot of scars based on your experiences, on how hard you fought and hit back. Whether you were scarred or left others scarred… it all depends on how you went through life.
Do soul scars ever heal?
There’s no need to heal them. They are medals that you wear with happiness. (Smiles) Now, I’ll probably have a mark, which will join my two eyebrows, so that they will never be separated again. The more medals you have, the more equipped you are to deal with life.
Challenges seem to attract you on screen and off it too…
I like to do extraordinary things. I’m 30 and at this stage, it’s important that I invest my time in doing things that are extraordinary. I’ve done a lot of frivolous stuff through my teens. I might continue to do that knowingly or unknowingly in the future. We’re artistes, we entertain but eventually there has to be meaning to the entertainment. That can happen when you enter the challenging zone. I might go for a script, which might not give me assurance in terms of monetary returns but it can impact people in a personal way. Like Simran is the story of an ambitious woman and an outcast and it will resonate with everyone. It’s a ‘sexless’ film. It’s not about a woman; it’s the story about the youth and their aspirations. And it’s relevant.
There was time when you self-confessedly did a few films just for money…
(Grins) I do all films for money! The perception that I don’t work for money is untrue. Of what use is name and fame if you’re not financially secure. I’d rather sit at home, cook my favourite meal and spend time with people I like. But when I’m out there in a worker’s capacity, if I dedicate my youth and my time to do a certain job, I want to be part of the earnings, the profits. I’m clear about that.
So, have you started taking profits now?
Not yet. As of now, I charge my remuneration. But in my next film Teju, I will be sharing the profits. (Smiles) I’ll be charging as an actor, as a director and will be sharing profits as the producer.
What made you turn director with Teju?
I believe creativity is like a ripe fruit. If you don’t pluck it then it’s going to rot. Now I’m ready to be a director. I’ve worked with lot of directors in the past 10 years. My priority now is to grow in life. I’m playing a grandmother in Teju. Also, it’s produced by Shailesh Singh. Teju will be my fourth film with him after Tanu Weds Manu (TWM), Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR) and Simran. During TWM, in between, we didn’t have funds. The film stopped. But Shailesh put it all together. He’s basically a creative person. He has assisted Mansoor Khan.
Teju is said to be a biopic of sorts?
How’s that possible? I’m not a grandmother. It’s a children’s film. It’s that part of my life when I was a little girl. I had fairytale notions about life as found in Dadima ki kahaniyan.
Your character Praful Patel in Simran is much like you – independent and unconventional. Is it so because you have co-written the script?
It’s not about me. It’s about womanhood, it’s about aspirations of the youth. I’ve worked on the character and added layers, depth, personality… that is my brain child. Praful is someone who is extremely ambitious and yet painfully ordinary. Nothing extraordinary has ever happened in her life. But she has an undying spirit. She doesn’t stop pursuing magic even though she has not realised it. I too continue to pursue magic in life. That about Praful is from my personality. She doesn’t want to be a liability on anyone. She wants to be rich. Sometimes women feel guilty about being ambitious because they tend to believe that it’s not great to only think about yourself and not want to have a husband or children.
How was the experience of working with Hansal Mehta?
I don’t remember looking at the monitor even once throughout the shoot. He’s someone I trust completely. When you are writing and acting you can get a bit controlling. But our sensibilities match. He has this understanding of life and a certain cinematic sensibility. Through my writing, I added lightheartedness to the film. Simran is our collaboration. It’s still a Hansal Mehta film but with Kangana Ranaut in it. The Kangana participation has dilated it and she does stand out like a star, which I believe is great.
You’re often accused of interference? How do you react to that?
People do these things only to attack me. Because I come across as fierce. How it is possible for someone to keep getting so much work, with people coming back again and again to work with them? But it doesn’t bother me.
Who’s your hero? Any personality you’d like to portray on screen?
My idol is Swami Vivekanand. But I’m my own hero. Also, I love ordinary people. Rather than playing extraordinary characters, I love the ordinariness of everyday life. And playing such characters has brought me a lot of success. Like in Queen or Datto in Tanu Weds Manu Returns and now Praful in Simran.
From a struggler to reportedly being paid `11 crore for Manikarnika… it’s been an eventful journey…
My experience in Mumbai has been an awakening one. When I came here I used to travel via trains and autos. After I began getting work, I got a little car of my own. Today I own the most expensive cars. I have my team following me. It’s like living in different worlds in such a short span of time. As much as we’d like to be grateful for our privileges, Mumbai is a city that can test you. Especially, when I used to be in crowded buses/trains and people piled over each other. So one must never forget about those who’re still in that phase. Today, even when in my car, I do retain a parallel perspective. I’m glad I went through all that before reaching here. It keeps you realistic and makes you less delusional about life. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy that phase. Being exposed to Mumbai from small-town Manali is a different experience. Going to Chowpatty to have vada-pav was a cool thing for me those days.
Did you face any unfortunate incident during those days?
Well, it’s unfair to subject the movie industry to this sort of judgment and insinuate that they don’t have values and are high on libido and are indulgent. When I started out, yes, I used to get hit upon a lot. There was no end to how many men wanted to take me out, married, unmarried, older, younger… But it wasn’t any different when I was in Delhi and struggling as a model or when I was a student. And when men face rejection they do get bitter about it and the work environment becomes difficult. And if you end up sleeping with colleagues then it gets more complicated. (Smiles) The mating game is the same everywhere. But I did encounter unfortunate incidents where a certain person forced himself or subjected me to extreme physical abuse but it was not in the professional space. It was not like I was working on a film or that he was my co-star. So I don’t know if I can associate that with the film industry. That person was associated with the industry at some point. It’s a personal choice you make. You believe that a certain person can help you in any aspect.
Didn’t you retaliate?
Of course, I retaliated and I went to the cops and fought back. But the point is that I decided to trust that person. It’s only later I realised that he would not be able to help me. A person who couldn’t do anything for himself, how could he do anything for me? Having said that, I take a lot of pride in being from the industry. I’ve been launched by amazing people like Anurag Basu and Mahesh Bhatt. But there are also fake casting agents or those rejected by the industry, sitting at café shops, flaunting fake projects and taking people for a ride. To call these people part of the industry is not fair. A hundred of these fake projects are made in Lokhandwala everyday.
How can a girl protect herself in such an environment?
Even now I get to hear horrible incidents about people taking advantage of girls everywhere. You’ve got to make sure that you’re safe. People who promise you work, by making you compromise are never going to give you work. I can give that to you in writing. You have got to get that straight and not play the blame game. If you cultivate a relationship and then people start favouring you… that is also going to backfire when you want to break free. Remember one thing that someone who can make you, is also the one who can break you. The one who cannot make you, cannot break you. You will remain a puppet on string for the person who mentors you. What’s the point of having success then? If you are going to be dependent on someone then rather be dependent on your father. Why leave your home and go through the misery? Get married; let your husband be that person in your life. At least he’s family. Why this person whose puppet you will be on screen for two years after which he will dispose or discard you.
You’re a star and always surrounded by people. But there must be times when you feel all alone…
Well, there can be times and especially so for artistes. Once Salim uncle (Khan) told me, “Art is nurtured in loneliness and exhibited in a crowd.” So you experience the extremes. And the in- between phase can get a bit confusing.
There’s an inherent poignancy in your personality… in your voice, in your thoughts… What would you attribute it to?
I’ve a firsthand understanding of life. It’s not borrowed from someone; it’s not borrowed from books. I’ve experienced life at the extremes; I’ve seen a lot of struggle. Even though I live in an amazing house and own amazing cars, at one point I’ve also belonged elsewhere. That’s the beauty of my life.
You have everything in life – success, wealth, fame… What can a man give you?
Well, with a man it’s about partnership when you want to take up on a bigger project like family. I want to have a big family whom you can rely on, you can go back to, you can spend time with, you can share your hard and good times. I’m a believer in that. What a man can add to my life is raise a pack of our own with me. We can have a small world of our own, where we trust and can rely on each other. Isn’t that the biggest thing a human being can acquire? His/her own set of people in whom he/she can invest his/her time and emotions.
Do men get intimidated by you as you’re very much your own person?
Oh yes. They do get intimidated. (Chuckles) It’s not a good thing for me. Trying to look vulnerable, waving my curves like a baby doll doesn’t last for long. So if someone is not sure of his sexuality, if he’s not secure in his pants, it doesn’t work for me. I am who I am. I’d rather be with someone who gets turned on by my fearlessness and my wildness as a woman. There are very few wild men who love to play with fire and even fewer who would like to tame the wild beast.
You’ve been through many relationships… what’s the common trait in all men?
The most common trait in men is insecurity. They get insecure of my success and confidence as a person and the fact that I’m also stubborn and headstrong at many levels. And it’s difficult to win an argument with me.
Do women hit on you?
Yes. Well, it gets a bit tricky if someone is really in love. But if someone is just making a pass at you, then you can handle that. When a man or a woman genuinely falls in love with me then it becomes awkward to handle such situations. It feels awful to be in love with someone, who cannot reciprocate your feelings. I’m sensitive about that. I hope I don’t come across more such incidents.
What’s the lure of the married man – even successful and strong women tend to fall for the bait?
Well, you have to add ‘young’ to successful and strong. When you’re young, you tend to believe the sob story of a married man when he tells you ‘my wife beats me’. If a married man, who is persuading me, gets a minute alone with me, he will say, ‘my wife is this evil bitch and I am this poor person’ and how the one who is sitting in front of him is his saviour. Women have to stop falling for this bullshit, this crap. This is not the truth at all. Do you think I’ll buy that now? No way. But I still hear this sob story. I’ve not yet met a happy married man in my life. No matter what the age is. At some point, post 25 years of age, you don’t buy this. But when you’re between 15 and 25, the natural tendency of a young woman is to fall for someone who could be an ‘ideal husband’ forgetting that he’s already a husband.
Are you looking for love?
I’m not looking for love. Because there has never been a day in my life when I haven’t been in love. Of course, I’m in love. It’s impossible for an artiste not to be in love… or else you will die. If you’re not in love then you’re as good as dead. This is the biggest crisis in an artiste’s life. If you’re not in love, you cannot create. You cannot be exhilarated. The creative fire dies down if you don’t love. It’s not a choice; rather it’s a necessity for me to be in love all the time. In love you surrender to another human being. And if it doesn’t drive you mad, if it doesn’t take over your mind, if it doesn’t make you do crazy stuff, if it doesn’t light up the fire in you then it’s not love. Being in love is an addictive emotion; it’s a dizzy-headed feeling.
Is sex overhyped in a relationship?
No, it deserves all the hype it gets. It deserves every bit of the hype that it has received from human kind.