She doesn’t have a filmy pedigree yet she has proved herself as an actress. Today, she’s among the few commercially successful actresses we have. Here’s Kangna Ranaut in an exclusive chat with Vajir Singh, before she leaves for a month-long schedule overseas, for her next film
You’ve been around for six years. Do you think you have hit a sixer?
If you count the number of successes I have delivered, I think I have managed to hit a sixer. I have also made my detractors eat their words. I was criticised but I never lost hope. It is very important for an actor not to pay attention to what people say about their work. Since it is we who face the camera, shouldn’t we know whether we are on the right track or not? Having said that, it is important for every actor to take a reality check every now and then. You can lie to the world but you can’t lie to yourself.
Reality check? Is that the reason you experiment with the roles you play or your selection of films?
(Pauses) People told me that actors usually wrap-up their careers with the kind of role I played in Woh Lamhe, Gangster or Fashion. Once you have had your fill as an actor, with all sorts of challenging roles, that’s when you opt for roles like these. A little art house and non-commercial kind of films but very demanding as a role and a fulfilling experience for an actor.
Everyone was, like, is this how you want to begin your career? Woh Lamhe, Gangster? I was like, I will work the other way round, unlike other actors. Later, I started moving towards lighter, commercial films and now I am doing more mainstream films. I acquired a very strong image as an actress at the very beginning of my career. How many actors in today’s times have managed to achieve this? Whether a big part or a small one… if it was demanding, people started thinking of me as the best fit for the role.
You do not hail from a ‘film family’. Is that why you felt the need to prove yourself and grow as an actress from the very beginning of your career?
No, not really. I was only 17 when I started my career. I was too young to have such plans at the time. In fact, as an outsider, you don’t really have the option to say ‘no’ to roles, you just go with what you’re offered. I was very fortunate to get my first break with Mahesh Bhatt. I felt that if I proved myself early, it would help me stay here forever. You can take away the tag of being a star but once an actor, always an actor.
So, what do you think really worked for you?
As I said earlier, it was my gut feeling and the kind of work I was offered. My work brought me recognition as an actor and I think Tanu Weds Manu (TWM) was a turning point. Before that, even I wasn’t sure whether people really loved me or they were just tagging me along. Also, if I was being cast for my talent or these filmmakers didn’t mind who they cast in those roles. I didn’t know if people loved me enough to sit through two and a half hours of a film to watch just me. After TWM, I realised it was not luck but people did appreciate my presence in the film. It boosted my morale.
(Pauses) When they came to me, they didn’t even have the funds to produce the film. The director said, “You accept the project and it will be easy to arrange the money.” That was when I realised, for the first time, that my name helps filmmakers get financiers. Another reason I said ‘yes’ was that this was the kind of script filmmakers would write with Sridevi and later Madhuri Dixit in mind. For an actor who didn’t know her real worth and was known for playing a tragedy queen, I was surprised and proud to accept. As for the credit, everyone said the film scored only because of me as was the case with Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit in the past. What more could an actress ask for?
With this film, you changed the perception of being a tragedy queen. It was a new trend – from a tragedy queen to a commercially successful actress.
Yes, you could call me a trendsetter because when I made my debut in this industry, everyone was so plump and I was really skinny, and suddenly all these girls started following the size-zero trend. You know, during Gangster, people asked me why I was so skinny and then later, the same people started going size-zero. Also, earlier people would wear sarees and lehngas to award functions and I started the trend of wearing gowns! Even when I chose roles like the one I did in Fashion, some of the big stars started doing tragedy roles. Before that, people had forgotten these types of roles.
I did Woh Lamhe and I was later offered The Dirty Picture (TDP). I told the makers that I had already done Woh Lamhe, which was very similar to the lead role in TDP. Now I am doing Queen and I know people will soon start following that too. (Pauses)
Please go on…
People tell me, ‘Arrey, aapne TWM banayi hai hum bhi waisi film bana rahe hain.’ Jaise humne koi baniyaan khareedi hai toh aap bhi waisi baniyaan khareedo.” It’s weird. (Laughs)
You mean, we will soon see more actresses playing ‘queens’ now?
(Laughs) Without commenting on your question, let me tell you something about Queen. The story of the film is about an ordinary girl, who stands up for herself. It’s a cute chick flick and my role is really funny. .
Despite achieving success so early in your career, why are you still so keen to experiment?
As I said, I was trapped in this tragedy queen kind of a situation. I made a conscious effort to not do TDP and do a TWM. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be very much to look forward to. You sometimes have to let go of a good opportunity and gamble with a few unconventional roles. That’s how you have fun with most roles.
Not when it is someone else’s film. And when I do, it’s not so much about the film’s business than about tracking my personal growth. Box-office collections give me an idea of how many people wanted to watch the film. If it’s a film like Fashion, Gangster, TWM, I keep a very close watch on how many people watched the film. Other than that, I don’t keep track of how films like Once Upon…did, as you are not sure what other factors went into the good business of the film.
You started your career with Vishesh Films and Anurag Basu. Why aren’t you working with them any more?
I did Raaz 2 with Vishesh Films a few years ago. It was a really good film. Anurag told me about Barfi! but it didn’t work out between us. He hasn’t done much post-Kites. But maybe we will work together in future.
Since times have changed and one needs to blow one’s own trumpet, don’t you think you should follow suit?
Like I said, I am very young and I don’t really feel the need to go out there and scream from the rooftops. I can see myself working as an actor for another 15 to 20 years and as a director too. I am at peace with myself. I don’t take all the advice that people give me. I don’t know how other people manage these distractions, but I have a very one-track mind and I think it’s better to focus on my films.
You were offered TDP, which later went to Vidya Balan. And she was offered Shootout At Wadala, which you are working on.
It’s quite a coincidence. People told me the TDP role was written with me in mind. That wasn’t surprising as I was the ‘Tragedy Queen’. But I have proved myself in both, those types of roles as well as mainstream roles. Now people say I am glamorous and can do intense roles. I wasn’t really excited about TDP at the time. And when I was offered Shootout…, I had tasted success with Once Upon A Time… and other films. So I decided to be a part of this film.
Why did you direct a short film, which was shot overseas, so early in your career?
Many girls take very calculated steps these days. I don’t. I always thought I would make a very good director, so I wanted to do a reality check. I went to the US and there was an agency that liked my script and I shot the film. I am waiting to complete it. In India, we tend to believe that every one has only one kind of talent. But I think I am multifaceted. I think I will make a fabulous chef and a director and an actor and a make-up artist. There are so many things I want to do including a course in prosthetic make-up.
Do you do fewer films because you want to explore the variety of talent you have?
How many scripts have you written?
I have written one right now and I am writing another one.
When will we see you directing a film, and will you cast yourself or someone else?
I might direct next year but I will not act in it. But next year, I have to complete six films. So it will be either between those films or after them. I am so busy that I wish I had more space to do what I want to do. I am releasing all the creativity I have; I am not acquiring anything. I need to do films to understand the craft more and be more hands-on. I think I am a very creative woman.