Pictures can be misleading.
I am not Kangana Ranaut's friend. Nor am I her fan. What I am is an aficionado of good cinema, and I believe she is an outstanding artiste. In her 11 years in Bollywood, during which she made 29 films, some truly National Award worthy, some utter rubbish, I must have met Kangana not more than a couple of times. But I have spoken to her often. This was especially during her early years. When she did films like Gangster, Raaz, Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai and Fashion, giving what are known as paisa vasool, power-packed performances. Unfortunately, few people took her seriously then. And that's partly because the behind-the-scenes events in Kangana's life were far more sensational than anything she did on screen. She came across like one of the dark characters she played; unpredictable and outspoken. Every time one of my reporters wrote a story that was not to her liking, Kangana would get me on the phone and engage me in a long, spirited fight. I played along because I thought she was fun. She argued with childlike pathos. But she put her case across strongly and intelligently. Forcing me to eat my reporters' words more than once because it was not possible to retract them.
This is the thing I don't get—leading media houses inviting Kangana to have a grand parade of all the skeletons inside her closet. And Kangana tumbles them out one after the other with a skill born of long practice.
Once she turned up at my office in a rage. Somebody had got her age wrong in a story. Hell hath no fury than an actress made out to be older than she is! Kangana didn't tick me off on the phone this time. Those were the days when she was free enough to indulge in all kinds of give-em-hell pastimes. Livid, she stormed in like one of those hurricanes named after women in the US that leave widespread destruction in their wake. And she brought her passport to show me what her real age was! Unfortunately, I wasn't in office. And I missed the chance of meeting Kangana then.
But other opportunities presented themselves.
Like the time the featured picture was taken at the Korner House in Khar some months ago. It was at a champagne brunch to celebrate Kangana's film Simran that releases today. Kangana was drinking wine. I was having a beer. She joined me at the bar and said, bitterly and accusingly, "You did that cover story on Hrithik Roshan for HT Brunch." Which was true. But there was no mention of her in it. Which naturally made her wonder. Kangana had made Hrithik her favourite hobby horse after she claimed he insensitively dumped her and ended their alleged relationship. And she was riding him furiously now and flogging him relentlessly in public through kiss-and-tell media interviews.
Kangana's always got some music left in her. All she wants is another show, a different stage, a new platform to kick an offender's butt.
Now I don't know if all the things Kangana says about Hrithik and them together are true. And the truth is, I don't really care or want to know either. But there are voyeurs who do because her claims smack of love, sex and betrayal. Apparently there is a vast readership and viewership that takes vicarious pleasure is following Kangana's attacks against actors she worked with or dated, directors she had a fallout with, and others in Bollywood with whom she just does not see eye to eye. And this kind of sensational but secondhand news is unfortunately grist to the gutter press mills. It specialises in gossip and scandal. It loves peeping through the keyholes and listening at the door. Or being a fly on the wall in celebrity bedrooms. And if in the process it can take the pants of some actor, or strip an actress to her soul, then so much the better.
This is the thing I don't get—leading media houses and television channels with celebrated journalists inviting Kangana to do live chats and shows with them and then encouraging her to open her closet before a distinguished audience or national viewership and have a grand parade of all the skeletons inside. And Kangana tumbles them out one after the other with a skill born of long practice. Nobody is spared. Anybody who had anything to do with her that was, well, not quite above board, is taken to hell and back.
In my meetings with her, because I didn't want to know who did what to her and when... what I was seeing was an actress of unquestionable talent, that's all.
You might have thought, if she's said it once, she's said it a thousand times. But no, Kangana's always got some music left in her. All she wants is another show, a different stage, a new platform to kick an offender's butt. And if that's not happening, then there's always social media. Raging wars are carried out for public consumption on Twitter. Accusations are made, charges leveled, denials issued and counterclaims fired back. From which also thrilling telltale stories are made. It's been going on for a while.
It makes me sad, because there's a lot more to Kangana than Hrithik or Aditya Pancholi or whoever else has earned her displeasure. In my meetings with her, because I didn't want to know who did what to her and when, she didn't come across as imperious and impatient. And I know she didn't come from acting in B-grade films to being one of the highest paid actresses in the country with three National Awards because of her looks or her relationships. So in my few dealings with her I focused on what I was seeing. And what I was seeing was an actress of unquestionable talent, that's all.
[S]he needs to secure her position, her career. But the way to do that is through her films and performances. Not by her revelations in the media.
Somebody said in her journey from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh to Bollywood in Mumbai, Kangana has proven time and again that she marches to the beat of her own drum. It is true. On the sets of Gangster in 2006 director Anurag Basu told Kangana to never make excuses or to defend herself—just do what she feels is right for her. And more recently Vishal Bhardwaj while making Rangoon advised Kangana to ignore people who are saying negative things about her, and to shoot them down with her performance. I wish Kangana had stuck to this advice. She's been anything but a regular Hindi film heroine in both her role choices and how she lives her life. She believes that because she's at the top, people are targeting her and her position. To achieve which she has been struggling for 10 years. Now she needs to secure her position, her career. But the way to do that is through her films and performances. Not by her revelations in the media. If she continues down this dangerous road, she'll find there is no end. But if she sticks to good cinema and powerful performances, then Kangana Ranaut will discover a new beginning. I hope after all the sound and fury of the past month Simran does well for her today. Otherwise the same media will rip her to shreds. It's waiting.