If there has been a visible shift in the role of the heroine in Bollywood, Kangana Ranaut has been at the forefront of that change. On Friday evening, at the Express Adda held at The Claridges, Delhi, the queen of spunk showed why.
Dressed in a white top paired with a printed knee-length skirt and beige high heels, the actor was candid, amusing, witty and feisty in a session moderated by Deputy Editor Seema Chishti and Senior Editor (Films) Harneet Singh.
Fresh from the success of her latest release Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Ranaut said she had been stunned by the reaction to the film, in which she repeats her role of the whimsical, rebellious Tanu and also plays a sedate girl from a Haryana village called Datto. “The people first loved Rani (Queen), now Datto. They want to see raw characters,” Ranaut said.
Asked to pick who her favourite was between Tanu and Datto, she added, “Datto was a revelation. While Tanu is a confident stunner, Datto has buck teeth and, as the Banno song says, she is a ‘dehaatan’. I love them both.”
The audience, including senior journalist Madhu Trehan, author Kishwar Desai, academic and writer Madhu Kishwar, actor and director Shivani Wazir Pasrich, communications consultant Dilip Cherian and former model and actor Naina Balsaver Ahmed, among others, asked the actor about her experiments with scriptwriting and direction, her success in being a rebel and breaking stereotypes in Bollywood, her learning English, and the insecurity among male stars.
This year has seen a new high for the actor, who entered the industry at the age of 18 with Gangster. She picked up a National Award for Queen, her second after Fashion in 2008, and has now carried a woman-centric film such as Tanu Weds Manu Returns to Rs 100 crore benchmark.
Ranaut said she saw the change in Bollywood terms of how women’s role in society had changed. “Earlier women had conventional roles in life. Now they are working as engineers, doctors and journalists, which means more stories, more women in the audience.”
Praised for her nuanced performances, Ranaut said she had a three-step to approaching a role: nailing the physical appearance, getting the body language, and figuring out her character’s current state. “Each character takes away a part of your life that you never get back. Those chapters are closed. For instance, after Fashion, I couldn’t do The Dirty Picture,” she said.
Asked about the one actor she would like to share screen space with, Ranaut thought hard before saying Madhubala.
“She was so beautiful and innocent, almost like she could get away with anything. I would like to be in a film with her, as a pillar maybe,” she laughed.
At another time, she had the audience in splits when in reply to an eight-year-old’s question on the favourite part of her career, she said, “When I get my pay cheque.”
While praising her as the representative of a new India coming from small towns, Trehan asked her about her acquiring an accent and learning English. Ranaut was honest. “I wanted to communicate with a wider audience. When I would travel internationally earlier, I couldn’t even properly ask for water.”
Apart from winning accolades for her acting skills, Ranaut often finds mention in best-dressed lists across publications. The actor explained that as part of her love for art, “be it buildings or clothes. It’s a form of expression”.
Not batting an eyelid, she added, “This is why I work so much — to be able to buy clothes.”
Asked what she would do if she had a daughter like herself, Ranaut laughed, “I would take sanyas. I dread that day, please pray for me.”
To a question on male stars thinking twice before working with her after her spree of successes, she replied, “After TWMR, I was talking to Irrfan sir about the next film we are working in together, and he said, ‘Ek myaan mein do talwaarein kaise rahengee?’. I think it’s a big deal that he thinks I am competition, it’s so flattering.”
As she looks forward to her future films, Ranaut is also keen to take up a course, and learn farming. “I want to grow carrots, and one day shift to only eating raw veggies.”