National Award-winning actor Kangana Ranaut spoke to Seema Chishti, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express, and Harneet Singh, Senior Editor (Films), on Rani, Tanu and Datto, preparing for her roles, breaking out and her acting prowess intimidating her male co-stars.
The latest edition of Express Adda, presented by Yes Bank in association with IIFL and The Claridges, was held in Delhi last week. National Award-winning actor Kangana Ranaut spoke to Seema Chishti, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express, and Harneet Singh, Senior Editor (Films), on Rani, Tanu and Datto, preparing for her roles, breaking out and her acting prowess intimidating her male co-stars.
On the success of her latest film
Well, we had made a good film (Tanu Weds Manu Returns). I think there is no point in lying to the audience, because I think they have all the right to spend their money on a right and deserving project. I knew that it will be liked, but I had no idea that it will be liked on this scale.
It would be wrong to say that I don’t want to be successful. I want to be successful because of the opportunities success brings. When you work on a movie, it is a process of (several) years. It takes your time, passion, everything, and you should give that to things that are deserving. If you are successful, there are opportunities, and I am definitely welcoming this phase of my life.
When we were working on the script, the writer said Tanu has a lot of gifts from me — she is confident, a stunner and gets her way. She is a woman everyone can identify with. She is desirable and aspirational. Datto is not conventionally beautiful, she comes from a rural area, has buckteeth, so we need to see that she can compete with Tanu. It should come across as a difficult choice to make, but I think this country has shocked me by showing how welcoming they are. We think women are supposed to be a certain way, but I don’t agree anymore. I think they loved Rani (in Queen), they loved Datto, so I think they want to see real women, raw characters and I think Datto has got all the love, but I like them both equally. I love them both.
When I heard the script, one thing I noticed was that Manu was this perfect guy who insists he leads a normal life, he wants to have a wife who is tame, not very scandalous, but when he got that person, he doesn’t want her. So men contradict themselves, don’t they?
On being a rebel
The rebellious streak in me drove everything inside me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, forced me to break the social system I was a part of, and like they say, a dog’s curly tail can’t be straightened, so I just continued, I just remained that way. I can’t help it. Growing up, I was an ambitious woman. I wanted to go out there and see what are my options and limitations. That small town and valley (in Himachal Pradesh), where I was born, did not provide me that platform. I went to a Hindi-medium school, I didn’t have many options, I just wanted to explore. I didn’t find my parents supporting at all, not because they didn’t want to, but just because they were so scared of criticism, that this uncle will say that, or grandpa will say this. I knew what they are feeling is just momentary and might not be there tomorrow. When grandpa is not there, then that fear won’t be there, but then I would have been too old to try anything, so I took a chance.
On preparing for her roles
I basically divide it into three parts: first is the physical appearance of the character, which I think is very important. Second is the body language, which is very different from the emotional journey of the character. Third is the current state of mind or the emotional journey. When you approach a character in three stages, you pretty much cover everything. I think body language is important. Some people asked me if “the other girl” (Datto) was my sister. That was a compliment. The body language bit is very important and it’s not always necessary that you always get it, sometimes you are just struggling till the last day of the shoot and sometimes you are confident that you have nailed it. I think I have been quite confident with Datto and Rani, but with Tanu, it was only after I saw the film because (to show) a married woman’s desperation and frustration and a sort of coming to terms with a failed marriage but still have intense love for your husband, whom you don’t want to see and can’t stand, was quite conflicting. I wasn’t sure if it was coming across the way I wanted to convey. So, everytime it is a different journey. Like I said, some characters, like Datto, are body-language driven. For Tanu, it was more emotionally driven. I didn’t give much body language to her, just the eyes, the way she would convey with her eyes.
On how scripting and directing a short film changed her
My direction experience changed everything for me. You go just like an actor to the sets, thinking I have to do my bit, that’s all I’m required to do, but when you are in someone else’s shoes, you realise it is so difficult to be a director. Filming with a little boy and a dog, a child and an animal (in The Touch), changed a lot for me and the fact that I edited it with my editor in California, gave me a better understanding of the format that we were using for acting. Acting is of various kinds — Broadway, (performing as a) stand-up comedian, theatre, so many types. But when you act in films, it just depends on how you are going to place those shots, so the link of that emotion, and how it is to be conveyed, all that you can understand once you have a certain understanding of editing and writing.
Express Features Service