Dear Kangana Ranaut,
We will begin by saying Happy Birthday given that you are turning 28 on Wednesday. And what productive 28 years they have been! She was a good student, then she left her studies, her home and family to make a career in films. In an era where South Bombay babies enter Bollywood like their daddy owns it, she is actually a de facto rags-to-riches story.
She slummed it out, she had terrible no-money days, she fought with horrible, lecherous men and lived to tell the tale. Kangana, do you know why you are a hero – because you told the tale and you went on speaking your mind in an industry where euphemisms are a stock in trade. Friends are called friends, friends with benefits are called friends and friends with baggage are also friends.
If you have no work, you are said to be resting. When you OD on suspicious substances, you are said to be resting and when you vanish with your ‘friend’ to a place with beaches, you are said to be resting.
Heroines are compliant creatures who simper and smile. Like children brought up in ’40s, they are supposed to be seen not heard. If a Bollywood actress actually says something that makes sense, the world goes into shock. The poor woman is so shocked by her courage that she never repeats the experience.
And then, there is Kangana. A rank outsider in an industry which is built on ‘my daddy biggest’, she has spoken out every single time with confidence, clarity and who-gives-a-damn attitude.
If she was the highest paid actress in Bollywood then why hide it? She said it out aloud and then she did the unimaginable, Kangana actually tried to break the glass ceiling in an industry which is more sexist than a couple of starched old CEOs running their fiefdoms. “I think I am still underpaid. I want to make as much money as my male counterparts,” she said as gender politics cried silent tears.
She also wanted to move beyond three-scenes, two-songs routine every Bollywood heroine knows so well. “At 18, I wanted to work with the creme de la creme because I thought that was the only way to be successful. But I don’t think any A-lister has done as many B-grade films as I have. Today, all I want is 50:50 on paper.”
But then, Kangana and gender issues have history. She was born an unwanted female child and Kangana was happy to make the skeleton’s in your family’s cupboard dance. “When I was born, my parents, my mother especially, couldn’t come to terms with that fact that they had another baby girl. I know these stories in detail because every time a guest visited, or there was a gathering, they repeated this story in front of me that how I was the unwanted child,” she said. It takes bucket-loads of courage to say that out aloud when the star knows the paparazzi will flash the news with lurid headlines.
The struggle in the industry came with its own issues. Her relationship with a Bollywood celeb ended in a physical attack. But the physical attack didn’t end in a way you will expect – we are talking about a woman who is anything but bechari. “(The man) who must have been my father’s age...he hit me so hard. I fell on my head on the floor. It started to bleed...and I picked up my sandal and hit his head hard and he started to bleed. I struggled so much that I couldn’t believe I had so much strength that either I died or I kill you. And then I went to the cops and lodged an FIR against this man. But that day, I really saw myself as who I always thought I was... I’m actually a born fighter.”
And that she is. Probably being fashioned by struggle instead of finishing schools has something to do with it. “Ten years of humiliation, rejection, embarrassment could’ve made me believe what the whole world thought about me - like if they thought about me as a loser, but I didn’t think of myself as that or as what the world or my parents thought of me. That’s why I could do what I did in my life... Not just in India but all over the world, winning and success in so overrated,” she added.
With the Hrithik Roshan legal mess on her head, public opinion is that Kangana, for once in her life, has lost the plot. We would like to point out that she has actually taken her game one notch up. For those who have been living under a rock, Hrithik and Kangana allegedly had an affair which soured. He reportedly had her thrown out of a film, she referred to a “silly ex” trying to get her attention in an interview, he tweeted he would rather date the Pope rather than “some” Bollywood actresses.
He then sent her a legal notice, demanding an apology for calling him a silly ex. The ignorant he said she is delusional because she has Asperger’s and dreamt up the entire affair. She reverted with a legal notice, calling him needy, narcissistic and an email hacker. He then issued a public statement that he is doing it all for protecting his family’s good name.
For once in her life, Kangana responded with silence. Just when it got dirty beyond belief, she asked for some personal space and the right to remain silent. Can silence be strength? Yes and this Kangana Ranaut statement proved it: “Sometimes, you guys (media) have to allow that sort of personal space to celebrities as well. It can be overwhelming to be called strong. But strong doesn’t mean that you can walk through life without being affected or intimidated. Being strong means that standing up against things inspite of all this. You need to give me some space and it’s not that I won’t talk about it. I will but as of now, please grant me this much.”
You, Kangana, have said that you hate stereotypical, sobbing, sympathy-seeking image of Bollywood’s female celebs. We could not agree more given how India and its women are changing. And don’t let a Hrithik Roshan change it. On your birthday, we hope you will continue being strong and a hero. Or, if you would like that tag, a Queen.