These days Kangana Ranaut is busy shopping in the fashionable city of Paris. Not just that, the girl with the curly hair is also planning to stay back for a few more months and do a cooking course in French cuisine. Next on her agenda are plans to trek in the mountains of Kenya, sometime next year. All this doesn’t come as a surprise, bearing in mind the actress’ precipitate nature.
For someone who has always followed her heart and incidentally achieved success, and for someone who has come from a place (Manali) which lacks even the basic source of entertainment such as a movie theatre, Kangana’s travel to glory is a classic example of an indomitable spirit and is an inspiration for small town aspirants.
So then, to set off in pursuit of a good time in Paris or anywhere seems most justifiable. With six films — Queen, Rajjo, Krrish 3, Ungli, I Love New Year and Revolver Rani — ready to hit the marquee, the lanky actress is back in the limelight. We catch up with her at a five star hotel.
Are you happy with the phase you’re in today?
I feel I’m in the best phase of my career. Since my first film, Gangster (2006), I had this perpetual complaint that I don’t get the kind of roles and opportunities that I should ideally get. If you read my early interviews you’ll realise how whiny I was!
We’ve heard that there were problems between Ekta Kapoor and you, as you felt left out from the promotions of Shootout At Wadala.
I know she (Ekta) loves me, but unfortunately she’s manipulated by people around her. It’s fine, because I know that at some point we will reconnect. She’s one of the few people who supported me early in my career and I’ll always remain obliged to her for that.
Have you managed to make good friends in the industry?
I don’t have that many friends in the industry but Hrithik (Roshan) is one of the few people who gives me good energy. He’s been always respectful and kind towards me when people around were nasty and judgemental. He stood by me and that means a lot.
Do you miss not being in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara?
No, I don’t, because I died in the original so obviously I can’t come back. Ajay (Devgn) also died in that film. And frankly, I don’t miss the buzz around it, because Ajay, Emraan (Hashmi), Prachi (Desai) and I had such a great time doing the first part that we became good friends. But I haven’t worked with Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha, so there’s no question of wanting to be part of this project.
You’ve achieved stardom but you haven’t worked with the top stars till now. Why is that?
If you work with big stars then they become the lead actors. It’s not that I don’t want to do films with big stars, but I would rather do the films where I get the title roles.
Why haven’t you done a big banner film?
Yash Chopra never approached me for any film. I’m working in a Karan Johar production, Ungli. I’m also working with Rakesh Roshan, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Anurag Kashyap. For me they are really big.
But you also did some movies where you were nothing but a piece of adornment? Like Rascal (2011) for instance?
Like I said earlier, I tried all that. And I don’t regret it because I had to run my household.
Where did you get the courage to step out of home at the age of 16, as small town girls are usually looked upon as being gullible and vulnerable?
My moving out of the house wasn’t planned. But there’s a saying, if you know where you’re going, the world will step aside and make way for you. I think that’s what happened with me. I knew I wanted to be someone big. That aside, I’ve always been a bit stubborn and rebellious since my childhood. If my father would gift my brother a plastic gun and get a doll for me, I would not accept that. I questioned the discrimination. I’m still the same.
There have been a few stories behind your running away? But what was the real reason?
I didn’t run away. I simply packed my bags and went out with everyone’s knowledge. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. So I took up science, but then realised that my heart was not in it at all. The thought of treating ailing people was very depressing. Do not get me wrong here. Medicine is a noble profession, but not everyone is cut out to be in it. I would have constant arguments with my parents. The conflict with my father and my stubbornness collided and I left home. But before leaving, I told him that I need a year to decide whether I want to continue studying medicine or there’s some other vocation made for me. Dad was clear that he didn’t want to waste his money on my aimless pursuit.
I had a friend in Chandigarh, and I started staying with her. Later, we both shifted to Delhi where I got a few small modelling assignments. I also did theatre. I still remember those bankrupt days when I used to live on bread and aachar (pickle) as I didn’t have enough money. That was the time my modelling agency sent me to Mumbai for an audition for a movie titled Gangster.
After your parents saw your debut film, what did they think?
My father went into depression. I had worn backless and done kissing scenes in the film. People in small towns are very simple. They don’t see movies the way we do. I understand that today. But back then, I felt betrayed by my parents. I thought they will understand that they had given birth to an artiste! The conflict sustained until our relatives intervened.
There were talks that Aditya Pancholi brought you to Mumbai. Is it true?
I thought I just told you my story! No, he didn’t get me to Mumbai. Looking back, I feel I was so young and reckless and made so many mistakes which have damaged me physically and mentally. I met all kinds of people and have got into major trouble.
What do you have to say about the Botox culture to look young amongst actors and actresses?
I don’t know why everyone feels the pressure to look young. Personally I hate it. I don’t want to inject Botox and look young forever. It’s living in denial and anything that has an undercurrent of this philosophy is bad for your growth. Why compete with someone younger?
We’ve heard that Salman Khan is your very good friend. What happened to the film you were to do with him?
He is, but not the kind who I would hang out with every day. But at the same time, if something is bothering me and I need someone to talk to, Salman is the person. I can actually have a conversation with him without being bothered about work. I have never ever asked anyone for work, including him. He is sensitive and mature like me. We were to do a film together which was to be directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. But it never took off. I think Salman would be able to answer why it didn’t.
Are your family and relatives happy?
My parents are happy and so am I. Who cares about relatives? They call me today, but where were they before this? Nobody even bothered to know that my parents had two daughters. Now they want to talk to be me because I am successful.
How often do you visit your hometown Manali? What is life like there?
Once a year. Going back to the valley is always a treat! Mountain people are very sweet and simple. There’s no nightlife or any other source of entertainment there. Except a tiny theatre in Shimla, there’s no other movie theatre. People have their dinner at 5 pm and go to sleep. During winters, there’s bonfire and gossip. Now, the Internet has been introduced. The best part is that it’s a beautiful place untouched by the malaise of city life. There’s no divorce, and there’s zero crime rate. People are generally happy.
Will you ever go back to Manali?
I would never be able to spend all my life in a busy city like Mumbai. I haven’t lived a single quality moment in the last eight years here. I would at some point, like to retire there. Cities are fake and the real world lies in small towns. So much of nature is involved there that you stay balanced. Here you deal with cars, roads, buildings and if you see a beggar, you treat him like a building and you treat a building like a human being. I want to buy property in Manali and convert it into a house from the Victorian era. I can ride horses and go skiing. I want to do organic farming.
We’ve heard you will be made the brand ambassador of Himachal Pradesh?
Right now Preity Zinta is the brand ambassador. But I’ve heard that they wanted to make me at some point.
Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma saw the rushes of your next film Queen and were impressed. How does that feel?
It was very sweet and kind of them to talk about it. Both of them liked it. Anushka said that after Amitabh Bachchan, if there was
anyone who so convincingly played a drunkard in a scene, then it was me. I think it’s a huge compliment coming from colleagues.
How did you mend the troubled relationship with your parents?
My parents didn’t approve of my acting career for a very long time. In fact, when I got the offer, I excitedly called them up. When they learnt that I’m doing a film with the same director (Anuraag Basu) who made Murder (2004), they were horrified. I was very young then and my poor mother feared that someone would exploit me and make a blue film with me.
How did you bag your debut film?
It wasn’t that easy. Mahesh Bhatt (producer of Gangster, 2006) told me that even though my audition was good, I looked too young for the role. Chitrangada Singh was their original choice. But she disappeared as her husband took her back to Delhi. As I wasn’t getting any confirmation from the Bhatts, I went back to Delhi. But soon they called me with a confirmation letter and asked for my passport which I didn’t have. There were lots of issues before being part of the film.
Who are the stars you’d want to work with, other than Salman Khan?
I never said I wanted to work with Salman. But like every newcomer, I’d thought that you can be a big star in this industry only if you get to work with big stars and a few big directors. But it’s not true. You can be successful on your own and you don’t need big names. I am one example and the other big example is Vidya Balan. Till sometime back, the success of an actress was measured with the barometer of her pairing with a successful hero. But luckily things are changing now.