Tripping with Kangna
She is at a studio in the entrails of Mumbai’s Byculla district. Princess-like, a silver tiara glitters in her short gamin-cut hair. This is a wig, but her tresses were recently cropped short by her hairdresser, much shorter than she would have liked, she informs us. However, Kangna Ranaut is happy to live with the mistake, as she lives with several mistakes made over her young life. She is aware of her face that changes almost on command, chameleon like, and uses it to remain lit up, even on a tiring schedule. Her shoes are being buckled on as she stands on the paper which creates a backdrop for our photo-shoot and she sips at a small bottle of Bisleri water.
Her silver blouse is voluminous on her almost boyish frame. A hint of ribs peek out from over the waistband of her long skirt. The skirt is printed pink. Ranaut does not care. Her bony frame provides the perfect clothes horse. She is confident about carrying off any ensemble that the stylists hold up to her. That was the reason she did not need to know earlier. That strong slim frame comes from hours of training to play Bollywood’s first female super hero in the upcoming Krrish 3. Other eagerly anticipated films on her anvil are Shootout at Wadala and Tanu Weds Manu Part 2.
She is professional, quick and obviously very practised in front of the camera. Oh yes, she had been a model at one time. And then, she was only 15. It was before she broke into the closed world of Bollywood, an outsider who seemed to burrow her way under the arc lights. She was destiny’s child who wandered where the winds of chance took her and luck being on her side, she made it on the big screen. Luck and talent, a talent that was recognised as she struggled on the Delhi stage with Asmita, a theatre group that saw her acting prowess. The talent that she admits she had no idea of. She was 15 then as well. In small-town Bhambla in Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh, this young girl, fortune’s favourite, did not dream of the big lights, of the silver screen or of stardom. She did not know of these things…. She only cared that she discover all the things that she did not know about; she knew that she had to live life, very large.
So, what about that trip we mentioned? With Ranaut, of course. Where would she wish to travel? Who would she be? One of the dark edgy characters she played in films like Fashion for which she won an award for best supporting actress or the over-loud Tanu in Tanu Weds Manu, last year’s box-office hit? Would she act her heart out as she did in her very first film (award for acting debut) Gangster or play the fashion maverick as she was doing today. Would she set herself in a different era as in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai where she depicted a ’70s star, a gangster’s moll? Or would she remain the gypsy-child, the forest nymph, the heady 24-year-old, in touch with all – her fierce, soft and wild – sides?
Excerpts From The Interview….
“I believe in magic….”
The difference between me and a common girl would be that I believe in magic…and I believe in dreams and I believe in fairy tales. I believed in all the things that cannot be possible. Being human beings, we can imagine what we have experienced. We cannot imagine what we haven’t experienced. To expect a life like this, for me, was never possible. I am from a different background. My family has traditionally been in academics, my grandfather was an IAS officer, my great-grandfather was a minister, my mother is a teacher, my dad has his own business. Everything is very real in my life, you know, so I never thought I would be an actor, that I would belong to this world of glamour. But yes, like I said, I always believed in magic, that things can happen, that things can change overnight.
“I didn’t run away from home….”
I was in high school when I told my dad that I didn’t want to study…. I wanted to do something else but was not clear what. He said he could not support me in this. I was very stubborn so I left home. They thought I would be back in a month but I never went back. I wanted to try every possible thing and see what would click. I was wise enough to know that there was much in the outside world that I had not been exposed to. I could be good at painting, music, singing but I had never really tried any of that. In Delhi, I did a little modelling but I didn’t have much luck. It supported me through that little phase, though. I tried painting, music – nothing really worked. Sometimes, it’s not where you want to go; some places just accept you and theatre was one of those places. My guru (theatre director) Arvind Gaur and this little theatre troupe called Asmita, they were very welcoming, very warm and recognised my talent which I didn’t know about.
“I was so open to everything.”
I would come to Mumbai often for this modelling agency called Elite. I was not one of their best models but they would send me for auditions. In Delhi, you just model, but in Mumbai films are everywhere. Because I was so open to everything, I started going for movie auditions. In 2005 I auditioned for several movies but never got selected, until Gangster came my way. I was very raw and the beauty of a first film is that you have nothing to lose; you are a loser so you have nothing more to lose. When you have even one hit to your name, you have that hit to lose. People only remember your last film. So the whole thing changes. Maybe somewhere you lose that innocence and the freedom of being nobody.
“I became very strong.”
Initially I was struggling with everything. I was just a kid, I started at 17 and from school to come to professional life is a struggle; long-long, endless, working hours. And you have to deal with all kinds of people – moody, temperamental – and cope with them without any guidance from your parents. But now I am a 24-year-old woman. I have grown up in this place and I know how my day is going. Things are in control. When you come here at that young age, either you totally lose it or you become very strong, like nothing can break you. Today, I am so strong that little things do not disturb me or break me as a woman.
“Life is short but there is so much to do.”
There is always some other direction that you want to head. There are so many people I have not worked with yet; as an actor, so many things I haven’t explored. Comedy just came my way but there are so many other genres of cinema that have to be explored. I write a lot…I have written a couple of scripts. I would love to direct someday. Just see where life takes me, you know. It is not just about work and being somebody, it is also about my journey as a woman. It is a very Indian thought that one person can do one thing. I personally feel that there are so many things that I still have to do. I want to be a very good dancer, a classical dancer and whatever time I get, I practise Kathak. Someday I would love to be a good chef and open a restaurant which serves the kind of food that I like, because I love food. Food is amazing! Every nationality, every country has something different to offer. You have so many cuisines in India itself. So, I would love to some day do things like that.
“Marriage is the one thing about which I am very confused.”
Every morning I wake up with a different plan. Every day is a different day. There are those times when I believe in marriages and then there are days when I feel that it is the most ridiculous thing. How can you possess some other person and make a legal document about it – now you, your body and soul are mine! That is the first step towards ruining love. At other times I feel that today I am young but there will come a time when I will not get so much male attention and it would be good to right now make a contract with somebody and enter into that kind of settlement. Maybe I need to mature a little more. I wouldn’t mind allowing love into my life but marriage I am not really sure about.
“Yes I am in a relationship.”
I am dating this guy called Nicholas…. He lives in London and it is a long distance relationship. We are like friends and like I said, I don’t really mind a partner but I don’t believe in holding on to people. I think that everyone should have their freedom. This is a man who comes across as very liberal, very intelligent and very-very spiritual. So I feel comfortable with him…it’s a friendship, you can call him my boyfriend.
“I would dress up like Marie Antoinette.”
I love to travel. Every year I go on these trips on my own for 10 days. That’s all that I can afford but I would love to go for longer. The places I would love to visit, I have already visited but out of the whole world, I really love Rome and Paris. I would love to go to Paris again. What would I wear, who would I be? For a shoot in Paris, I would like to wear very period costumes, they are my favourite. I would dress up like Marie Antoinette; that would be perfect since she was a style icon. If we could explore the history of France, shoot with the old fountains and the old historical buildings, that would be perfect.
I still want to travel a lot. If I go to France, or Italy or Brazil, I would like to go to the villages, live with the people and experience the local life. We cannot do that in India; that is the only drawback of being who I am. It appeals to me to be a part of beauty, culture and history.
“It was not plastic surgery.”
These kinds of reports just annoy me. Some journalists don’t really realise the meaning of plastic surgery. There are so many things in the market these days. One time, I injected some kind of, what do you call it, sugar molecules into my lips. This dissolves in 15 days. I thought that thicker lips would look good. But it didn’t work. When you are growing up and getting to know things, you do a lot of disastrous things and this was one of those disasters. It was funny and I could not shoot for days. But I am over it; I am over that phase in my life. I would like to tell everybody that each one of us is different and each one of us is perfect. There is no need to try and look like anybody else.
“Today, I am very comfortable with myself.”
People initially criticised me for everything that I did, everything that I said. But now I am fine with it all – the tiny village I come from, who my parents are, how I have come up, the men I dated, the ugly relationships I went through, the imperfect English I speak. These are all a part of me and I think that absolutely nothing can make me feel bad about myself.