India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Cover Story
June 25, 2014

Queen Bee

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photographs by Jatin Kampani. Styling by Nisha Jhangiani. Assisted by Shirin Salwan. Make-up and hair by Marianna M, Tobah Model Management

Amidst the big blockbusters that hit the silver screen with much brouhaha, quietly came a movie this year that garnered both critical acclaim and box-office ratings. Queen shone with its sincerity and simplicity. Its lead performer, Kangana Ranaut – in a bravura act carried the movie on her slender shoulders as she morphed into the simple, innocent Rani and received kudos from every quarter. The actor speaks eloquently about the highs and lows on the route to the top

The story of a girl who realises her inner worth when she goes on her honeymoon alone and emerges stronger at the end is what made Queen so endearing. The curly-haired actor became Rani, the small-town girl and, in a heroine-centric script, delivered an ace act that enthralled the audiences.

The actor – who despite her National Award for Fashion – was not really taken too seriously as an actor till Queen. Post its release, caught up in the whirligig that success brings in its wake, Kangana Ranaut’s days are filled with events and promotions. Despite her jammed schedules, the cover girl of Verve’s Power issue this year, arrives on time for a 7.30 am interaction at Mehboob Studios, Mumbai. As her car halts outside the appointed studio’s entrance, Ranaut emerges, alone. Vanishing into the vanity van that is awaiting her arrival, after chatting with our team in readiness, Ranaut prepares efficiently for yet another flirtation with the lens.

A couple of hours later, she is back in her van – and ready to chat at length about the slings and arrows of fortune and the consequences of fame. Her words embody the essence of a girl who has lived life on her own terms…and is taking each day as it comes.

“Power is all about being in control.”
In today’s world, power does not mean what it used to mean in earlier times. Then, people felt powerful when they had power over others and were able to influence their decisions. In the kind of day and age that we live in, power is all about having power or control over yourself – your goals, your decisions, your own life. I think that is a lot more difficult than having power over others. It is very difficult to stick to something you have said. It is important to value timeset small goals and reach them. This could be something as simple as going to a yoga class at 6 am. So, I think anyone who is in control of themselves is the most powerful of them all.

“I am a very sorted person.”
Both professionally and personally, last year was eventful. Personally, I shifted into my new house – something that I have been eagerly waiting for quite a while. The move was delayed because for a long time the entire building was not given the possession certificate. Finally it happened. And, professionally, I will remember the year for the release of two of my films – Queen and Revolver Rani. I decided to do Queen for obvious reasons – it is a highly powerful film, especially in the Indian context. It’s very important for girls to value themselves and to actually know and understand their rights and power. I wanted to explore where a girl’s power comes from. A lot of this stems from self-acceptance. You have to accept yourself with all the flaws, your inability to speak English, to wear various fancy clothes, to look attractive. That is the first step to having your inner strength. For, if you do not accept yourself how will you expect the world to accept you? And as far as a comparison between me and Rani goes, I am a very sorted person. I am more like the poised girl she eventually becomes at the end of the film.

As a child, I was a different kind of kid. I was overtly confident. My father would get angry with the kind of confidence that I showed. I do not know where I got that feeling of confidence. I was perhaps born that way. So, I never had any issues when people ridiculed me for being a certain way. I am telling you that I could not believe that there was anything uncool about me. But, just like Rani suffers from an inferiority complex, I do have challenges based on my personality. I’m too sensitive; sometimes I even imagine things that haven’t happened – like why did that person look at me like that; are they upset with me? These thoughts
plague me and I get so wired up that I literally get hysterical about things which are probably not even there. But, even though I have my own challenges to deal with, self-acceptance is definitely not one of them.

Personally, I was very rebellious since my childhood. It perhaps came from the fact that I was treated a bit differently compared to my brother. I remember how everyone would go to a temple and ask for a brother for me. I thought that was weird. And as a girl that formed the basis of my personality – the fact that I was not good enough. I think it is awful that many girls who grow up in India are made to feel that way. On my part, I am very happy when people oppose me. I’m comfortable when there are opponents. I like fighting for the right thing.

“Each day is not perfect.”
Being a part of this industry is fun. I like the part that I have learnt a lot from being here. From being someone who was not useful in many ways, I have grown to become a capable person. I started here as a young girl of 17 and am now someone who is actually quite valuable to this industry. But, I have had my own share of struggles.

Each day is not perfect. Even when you are accepted, even when people are applauding what you have done, even those days are not perfect. Just being successful doesn’t make life easy or perfect. Life just goes on and challenges change. Success has nothing to do with your life being perfect. That‘s a very childish way of looking at life and it comes from Barbie Dolls and Cinderella tales – you get the shoe, you put your foot into it, the shoe fits and everything is going to change. That is not how life is.

“You allow the character to slip into you.”
It takes a lot of time for me to get under the skin of a character. Sometimes it takes four to five months like it did in Revolver Rani. I used prosthetics – I broadened my nose. The way my hair is done also makes a lot of difference. With Rani, the chapta maang helped; with Krrish 3, I had a lot of high hair dos.

While playing Rani, I had to deal with her character psychologically. As an actor, I have to convince myself that I am the character and then I allow the character to slip into me. When I shot for Queen, everyone was startled when they saw me perform. But long after I had stopped shooting for it, I literally started feeling that I was not loved. This feeling did not stem from my personality but came from my experience of Rani’s life. A character does stay with me for some time after I have worked on it for months.

“For me, success is control.”
Control. That is what success means to me. Today, I have control over my life and a clarity about how I am going to go ahead. I’ve rejected more than nine good scripts. If I eventually go into direction, I will have to start from scratch. But, I am not limited by my success. I have the guts and the spirit to not let myself be pulled down by my achievements.

After Queen and Revolver Rani, audience expectations have gone up. But more than that, my own expectations from myself have increased. I want to go beyond this now. I want to break the mould. I would like to do more of writing, perhaps co-direct a film. It’s not as if I want to prove a point to anyone, but for me, this is getting boring now.

I think it is not the ultimate goal of my life to only be an actor. I’ll do many things in life. I’ll direct, I’ll write books…. Life is very short and I want to do many things. I think we should all live our life and if anyone makes us feel that we aren’t good enough, it is not true. We can do anything that any guy can do.

“I do not look back.”
I think it is one of the most negative things to want to go back and try and change things. I do not look back.

It is heartbreaking to survive relationships that go wrong. Coming to terms with some sort of loss is a bit tricky and one has to be very kind and gentle with oneself. A break-up has to be handled very carefully. If something like that happens to me, I travel, indulge in other things and spend time with friends. You can read books, be kind to yourself and slowly, you’ll get used to it. And obviously, there are many people out there…

“Acting was never my ultimate goal.”
It does not matter what people expect from me. I keep working on myself. As a creative person, I want to do many things. I’m doing a screenplay writing course, I would like to do a baking course – I don’t have a concrete plan but you cannot keep on doing the same things, time and again.

I feel I am in a very comfortable space, but for me nothing much has changed. I’m not one of those people who starts getting high on money or fame. I became an actor but acting was never my ultimate goal. It still isn’t and I don’t think even when I reach my ultimate goal, I will sit still. Things are going to change because one needs to have other goals. I am not even clear about my life. I would like to go with the flow and see what happens.

“I do not enjoy the attention.”
I’m not a very star kind of a person. I don’t enjoy the attention that I get. I like my own space. I do things for my own reasons and not to get attention or hear people scream my name. For me power is the ability to continue on my path, no matter how difficult or how messed up it is. It’s nice to get love and admiration but I don’t work for this.

I have much more to do. I think I have six to seven people in me. I have a woman who is 27 and wants things like a 27-year-old. Then I have women who are 35, 45, 64, 85, 110 and more! I’m a mix of many people. I’m very difficult and by that I mean, I really fluctuate from being a 10-year-old to a 100-year-old. So, I can be very mature and very childish at the same time!

Go behind the scenes of our cover shoot with Kangana here. (video)

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