Anupama Chopra: Let me begin by asking you: where does this sort of spectacular fashion sense come from?
Kangana Ranaut: It’s been there since I came to Mumbai and have been travelling, seeing the world, reading and learning about different cultures.
AC: But, Kangana, all actresses travel and see the world, but not many dress like you. What do you do differently?
KR: No, I think it has a lot to do with me overcompensating for the fact that I come from a small town and the fact that I’ve always been made to feel like somebody who doesn’t belong here and it helped me grow into this person who’s supposed to be very stylish versus other people who are being Miss Worlds or supermodels or being somebody’s daughter, so it always helped me learn more and maybe not fit in, but at least be somebody who deserves to be here and not just somebody who happened to be here.
AC: Kangana, your journey from a small-town girl in Himachal Pradesh to a National Award-winning actor and style icon has been remarkable. What has been the key in this ascent? What’s the one thing that really propelled it?
KR: I think strong criticism about everything. I always had this desire to be somebody who can really inspire people and who can be somebody people can look up to and not just a girl who once was there. You know how difficult the competition is and every day there is a new girl and if people point out things about you, they say that your accent is bad or you don’t dress up properly or your hair looks bad, it helps you. You don’t want to continue. You don’t want to be stuck-up or stubborn and who would want to say only nice things about you? So I think we can work as people who would want to do better in life. I think they should see the nicer side of criticism.
AC: That’s a wonderful thing to say to a film critic. (Laughs) People do see the nicer side of criticism, but it never broke your heart, Kangana?
KR: No, not really. And it’s not because I don’t have any self- respect or I don’t really love or like myself, but I think people have been very genuine when it comes to criticism and I think we have to appreciate their spirit as well.
AC: You have six movies coming up including Krrish 3, Queen and Revolver Rani. Would you say this is the best phase of your career?
KR: It feels like that. I don’t know how these films will be perceived. Revolver Rani and Queen can’t really be categorized in a genre. They are so different. But I hope people like them. Personally, I really feel like I’m in the best phase of my career because I have never been given strong characters and title roles like that. Even where I don’t get to play the title role, like in Krrish 3, I play characters like a superwoman, which I think is largely based on style and physical appearance, but also characters like Revolver Rani who is ignored, rejected and neglected because of her looks, so these are contradictory characters. Every film-maker comes to me with so much conviction like I am this person, so I feel really thrilled and I think this is the best phase of my career.
AC: Kangana, why does an actress like you do films like Rascals and Double Dhamaal?
KR: We have to earn our bread and butter and sometimes we have limited options. As somebody who is self-dependent and doesn’t really have any other job, I have to keep working, doing something or the other. In those films I didn’t really explore something different but I don’t really consider them trashy or something very bad because there’s a certain section of people who enjoy those kinds of films and don’t really care much about the whole talent and art, like my parents or my brother. For them, three-four jokes and four-five songs are enough.
AC: That’s what they look for?
KR: I don’t think they are trashy films.
AC: When you do films like that, do you work as hard as you would for Revolver Rani or Queen?
KR: No, I don’t work hard at all. In fact, as much as you do it for money and everything, it does solve your problems for a few days. It really makes you very unhappy within because you don’t do anything, you just wait in the van and you wait for hours and the best you can do is write something or use your creative energies in some way. Then you’re given one line in the whole day and then that one line, you can say it anyway you want. (Laughs) Nobody cares and the worst thing about this is, if it were not you, it could have been anybody on this planet. It’s quite a humbling experience and it just puts you in your place, but yes, you get bored to death.
AC: Kangana, you said in an interview that you wish you had better guidance in the beginning of your career. Why? What would you have done differently?
KR: The first very big mistake I made was not managing my finances well and I didn’t value my talent or my image. I got very insecure in the beginning of my career. If I would have understood that I had been accepted and people already like me, I would have not made desperate attempts. This business is so unpredictable, sometimes there’s so much money coming in and then you are advised to put that money somewhere and, suddenly, in six months, there are no phone calls and no good movie offers, especially not the kind of movies you would want to work in and things change, and then you end up doing films you don’t want to and end up becoming unhappy, then desperate, then frustrated and then it leads to more mistakes. (Laughs)
AC: Your parents, especially your father, were against your film career. I read this in an article about you that he wanted you to be a doctor. That led to a lot of conflict. One day, when you were fifteen, he slapped you, and you told him that if he ever slapped you again, you would slap him back. After which, he asked you to leave home. Is this true?
KR: Yes, it’s true.
AC: But even at fifteen you were strong enough to say that?
KR: I am very strong, very hard-headed and very stubborn. One thing everyone notices about me is that I have a lot of confidence and I never get embarrassed, I’m very sure of myself. That has been the case from the beginning and I always had this very strong sense of right and wrong. I’ve been very obedient and not somebody who would answer back like that. But at that age and stage, I knew that raising your hand on anybody is so inappropriate and I’m not saying something under the influence of drugs, I am having a conversation with him and he cannot behave like that. So I think I’ve been quite clear and very mature as a kid as well.
AC: Today, when your parents see your success, how do they feel? Did your father ever say to you that he was wrong?
KR: Well, he hasn’t formally apologized. (Laughs) But sometimes, in a moment of happiness, he remembers the moment and he seems proud. The movie is still continuing, right? Picture abhi baki hai, so I think somewhere they are a bit sceptical of what’s going to happen and where I will end up. But there is a lot more confidence now and they trust the fact that I am mature and that I can take care of myself. But for them, the best thing that can happen to me is marriage, which I don’t agree. Two different worlds, two different ideologies, this is how it’s always going to be.
AC: You also said people who are married need to go to a psychiatrist. Why?
KR: (Laughs) This is my opinion. My parents have a very successful marriage and my sister is so happy that she doesn’t want to step out of her house. She loves her husband and her house and everything. But with me, the thing is that I don’t understand this. I really don’t. (Laughs) Why do people get married? I don’t understand the whole set-up and the reason behind it. I think a companion is very important and I would love to have somebody, but marriage is not as important as it is made to look, especially for girls. I see it as a very big problem because girls are never encouraged to be somebody or do something like men are. When I was younger, my father had unrealistic expectations from my brother, [when] he would play games, he pretended to be a commander or a leader or a superhero and I would only stand in a corner, holding all those plastic machine guns for him. My parents are very nice people and, every now and then, we were scolded for not following instructions and the main instruction was how you’re going to behave in your in-laws’ house. I think the focus has to shift at some point from marriage to the real challenges of life, which are the same for girls and guys. We have to prepare our girls like superheroes, like we prepare our men, and not have a ready set-up to be given to another man like a fully trained dog to take care of the house. This is my problem with marriage. People have fun and I love all those sangeets and all those parties and dressing up in gowns for reception and all, but I think this is the problem I have.
AC: The real marriage begins after all that, that’s the fun part. (Laughs). Where do you hope to find this companion who will be as evolved as you are?
KR: Well, I don’t have very high expectations (Laughs). I will interfere with no one. I am very practical when it comes to dating, somebody who’s honest, who’s doing fairly well in his career, whichever career he’s chosen. He could be a postman also, I don’t care.
AC: I love that, Kangana Ranaut dates a postman! (Laughs).
KR: In the past I’ve dated, not a postman, but somebody who’s not from films, he was a doctor. I just want somebody who’s very honest and very sensitive not just towards me, but towards everything around and that’s pretty much about it.
AC: Do you come across any men like that within the industry?
KR: Not too many of them. I think being actors, most of them are very insensitive to others’ feelings and they’re so self-obsessed that they look through everything else, that is a very big put-off and with directors, there is a certain tension and constant pressure around them. That’s why I prefer to be with somebody who’s not from this profession. I have seen many people doing bigger and greater things, like building bridges and discovering some antidote and things like that, with a lot more ease and effortlessness. These directors and producers make you feel like they’re carrying the world on their shoulders (laughs), that’s not cool at all.
Why do people get married? I don’t understand the whole set-up and the reason behind it. I think a companion is very important and I would love to have somebody, but marriage is not as important as it is made to look, especially for girls. I see it as a very big problem because girls are never encouraged to be somebody or do something like men are.
AC: But even after that initial success, you didn’t have it easy. How difficult was it to make contacts in Bollywood, which is such a nepotistic place? Did you ever lose hope?
KR: Oh, yes. Many times, in fact. You get fed up, just like with any other job where you want to do something different from what you’re getting. But things aren’t always clear, like what exactly you want and what you’re getting, how to go about it. I’ve had my moments of hopelessness and I felt this is not going to work for me and I should just quit. But the good thing about Bollywood is that you can never quit because you have that little fame. You won’t get any other job, even if you do, it will be such a weird thing to do. This half-successful actress working as an intern somewhere (laughs), it is just such a weird thing. You have to stick around and keep trying.
AC: You said in an interview that today you are absolutely comfortable with yourself — about the village you come from, the imperfect English that you speak, the men you’ve dated, the ugly relationships you’ve been through. How did you arrive at this place?
KR: I think there are things that you look for when you’re younger and you think these things are going to make you happier or make you feel complete. There will be one point when everything is going to be so worth it. I can say it a million times and people must have heard it, unless you really don’t realize, no such thing is going to happen and it’s really the moment. You get all your desires fulfilled and there will again be more desires and you come to a point where you feel complete and successful, then you see a higher point you want to go to. When you understand this cycle and don’t have any unrealistic expectations in life, you’re at ease. This is what I’ve learnt in life and I don’t have any delusions. I’m glad I learnt it at this point and not when it’s too late. Then slowly you need to apply this to everything, conversations you have with friends, time you spend with parents and not wanting to be anywhere else and just be there.
AC: Last time you were on the show, you talked about wanting to someday direct a film. So what would a Kangana Ranaut film be like?
KR: Oh, thank you very much! A Kangana Ranaut movie sounds so good. I’ve directed a short film. It’s about a little boy who has a healing touch in his hands and it’s nine minutes long. I directed it to see if I can actually direct, to have that clarity, so I’m glad I did and it has helped me so much in my acting profession. I’ve edited the film and I understand every little thing from screenplay writing to details that a director says.