Queen Of Drama

When you think of Bollywood’s finest talent, one of the first names that come to mind is KANGANA RANAUT. With a successful acting career spanning more than a decade, the A-lister has made her mark in what can still be a hostile industry to outsiders. Kangana shares with Asiana Wedding Magazine, her inspiring journey from small town girl to self-made superstar, sharing her trials and tribulations, how she has always stayed true to herself and why she is not afraid to speak her mind

Hair & Make-up: Anisha Siddique
Outfits: Saira Rizwan
Jewellery: Anayah Jewellery
Interview: Fariha Sabir-Bajwa

Kangana Ranaut is no stranger to controversy, yet she doesn’t go out of her way to seek attention. She sometimes comes under attack for being unconventional, yet she doesn’t need anyone’s approval. It wasn’t easy getting to where she is, but she has never compromised her principles. She thrives on defying stereotypes, the haters and rising to the challenge. A small town girl with big dreams, she transformed herself from school drop-out to a respected artist. In August, she represented India by sharing a global and prestigious platform with influential women like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. There are really no limits for this unstoppable icon of talent, style and female empowerment. 

Taking time out from her busy shooting schedule for her forthcoming film Mental Hai Kya starring Rajkumar Rao, Kangana arrives on set in a casual tracksuit, living up to the expectations of being refreshingly real. Sitting in her vanity van, she doesn’t give much away and can be difficult to read, although when she breaks out in a smile or giggle, you can’t help but feel her warmth and openness.

A world away from her fast paced life, Kangana grew up in the sleepy mountain territory of Himachal Pradesh, where she recently built her mansion of dreams in Manali – revealing she is still a mountain girl at heart. She reminisces about her hometown: ‘Himachal is a very small town in the hills, where people usually go for breaks to get away from their hectic city life. It was a very laid back and easy life. I grew up very close to nature, which has been the biggest advantage for me, as an artist.’

Coming from a traditional family, Kangana’s family didn’t support her career choice. Kangana wanted to break the restrictive mould of female stereotypes in India: ‘I come from a background where (back then at least), working girls don’t bring pride to the family, because it makes men feel they are not good enough. I wasn’t ok with the idea that I can’t be independent and can’t have a say in my life. Financial freedom is a sort of liberation and I remember I had a strange pride in me. Growing up, I never asked my parents for money – I wanted to do part time jobs in coffee shops and my dad never allowed me. They didn’t leave me an option as they wouldn’t give me any financial stability, but they wouldn’t let me acquire it either. Then, tomorrow whatever I wanted to do, my husband would decide. That’s when I decided, I better take things in my own hands and I’m so happy I did, even though my father opposed it.’

Kangana’s journey began at the tender age of 16, when she decided to make the brave move of leaving home. She recalls: ‘When I left the valley, I tried many things including music, sculpting, painting, theatre where I found a good response. My theatre guru suggested that I should try for movies because I was young and had my whole life ahead of me. Although my first film in 2006, Gangster was a big success, I never got jobs and I’d just sit at home waiting for the phone to ring. So then, the struggle started.’

Without her family’s moral and financial support, Kangana found herself all alone in Mumbai, but that became the beginning of her embracing and overcoming challenges: ‘I was quite smart for my age, even though my parents were trying to make me feel like I would be doomed without them. I wasn’t even a graduate, I was just a school drop-out, but I could see a sea of opportunities out there. I just felt that their whole idea of settling down revolves around being a doctor or engineer, because of which you can find a good spouse, who would then decide if I should work or not. How unfair is that? That didn’t make any sense to me. I was scared of the life back home. But of course, starting from scratch was very difficult, especially coming from a very good and influential family, being very protected while growing up. My father decided not to support me at all, thinking I’d get scared and come back home. So that became an extreme experience for me, but I’m glad it happened that way. It made me a very fine person, being without food or money and understanding values on my own.’

But unlike her fellow strugglers, Kangana wasn’t in it for the fame She divulges: ‘I realized that I was very practical about life. Before Queen was a success, things weren’t working out for me, so I was doing direction courses, mini films and editing. I wasn’t rigid that I have to be an actor. People ask me for advice and I always ask them, what is your dream? Are you after the superficiality or the real thing? The real thing is that you want to act, you want to be an artist. But if you want people screaming your name and be clicked everywhere you go, then you are into the superficiality of it. I always knew I was into the real thing. I was not bothered about the accompaniments that come along with it.’

In an industry dominated by star kids, whose families are like Bollywood royalty, the Indian film industry is somewhat hostile to outsiders like Kangana. Famously, she spoke out against nepotism, accusing big shot director Karan Johar of only casting the elite of the industry, which spiralled into a nationwide debate. Along with her boundless talent, it is this fearless and bold attitude that has helped Kangana through adversities. She concurs: ‘The industry is a very close knit circle and they’re very intolerant of outsiders and judgemental, especially with people who can’t speak English or people who don’t hold any name or dynasties – that was a wake up call for me. Not having any value because you’re a newbie, you can lose your identity. Many people like me must have come before and didn’t make it, because of people alienating them or discriminating against them.’

Kangana continued to work on different scripts that she believed in and it was films like Queen in 2014, that became an unexpected, yet deserved success. She enthuses: ‘Times are changing, as people have a say in what they want to see and expect – in fact I’d say Queen is a by-product of social media. Queen was a very small film with a first time producer, director and a very unusual script. But it spread like wildfire, so if it wasn’t for this time and age, it would have been one of those rare gems that nobody knows about. There are so many more success stories of talent who are from outside the industry, which is a great change.’

Bollywood actors are typically all about the glitz and the glamour, rarely speaking out about the reality of the industry. Kangana goes against the grain by being enlightening honest and outspoken. She ponders: ‘Like any industry, there are issues that we can work on. Objectification of women needs to stop. Our cinema is creatively poor. When it comes to the Arts, poverty is not about resources, it’s about the values system, it’s about creativity – that fire. It lacks in that. I feel we can do so much better. It’s also very shamelessly sexist at times, which needs to change.’

Being fiery and speaking your mind in a closed society, is often received with a backlash. But Kangana is accustomed to dealing with the media and the industry: ‘There are times when things do get out of hand. Every time I say something regarding an issue or my own experience, I ask myself is it something that is in my interest or am I speaking on everybody’s behalf? Will it unfold in a way that will benefit everyone or is it just my own personal little agenda? If it’s my own battle, of course it will be irrelevant in one month’s time, but if I’m going to speak for everyone, in the larger picture what I say could be right or wrong based on my information of the world. But my intentions will never be wrong because I’m speaking not for my own motives, but what is good for all of us. So I always keep that in mind, being a public figure – I should not have petty motives and small agendas because that won’t be long lasting. Even if people are opposing and being mean or rude, I just need to sit back and let it pass.’

Often ridiculed and looked upon curiously for being unconventionally unique and individual, Kangana has experienced bullying by media and even her peers, to the extent of being called ‘mental’. Cue her next project, Ekta Kapoor’s Mental Hai Kya, a psychological thriller out in February 2019, giving Kangana the precious opportunity to break the stigma around mental health. Kangana chooses films and roles that are close to her heart, reflecting her beliefs and personality. She explains: ‘I like to be engaged in more than just acting, I like to gain interest in all aspects of my films and I like that kind of involvement. So far it’s worked for me.’

She is also working on the epic Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi, a powerful period drama set in the 1800’s, with Kangana depicting the main lead of Rani Laxmi Bhai, a warrior who fought for independence. Essaying the role of a strong female lead, in a high-budget movie, amidst a male dominated industry is a huge feat and is testimony of Kangana’s prowess. A fierce advocate of feminism, Kangana was one of few to fight for equal pay, when her female peers were silent on the subject. Kangana’s range of roles is testament to her versatility. Who else would she like to depict? She explains: ‘I’m doing so many interesting projects, I’m running out of ideas now! I am playing a Kabbadi player in a forthcoming project and also starring in an Anurag Basu love story. I think I would like to play a tough cop.’

When asked whose work she admires, she shares: ‘There are a lot of great actors who are doing amazing work. I just saw Raazi and Alia is so good in the film. I really like Radhika Apte, Swara Bhaskar who are raising the bar. I have not seen Padmaavat, but I heard Deepika Padukone did a great job.’ In her own time, Kangana reveals she loves to play the grand piano in her Manali mansion and interestingly describes herself as ‘A seeker, an artist, mountain girl, fiery and hard working.’

Does she want to get married one day? She chuckles: ‘Sure, I do believe in the institution of marriage, it’s very useful. Everyone should have their own definition of marriage and companionship, also knowing what you want from that arrangement. I would love to get married and have children one day. I would like to have a traditional wedding, somewhere like Jaipur because my ancestors are from there, as we are Rajputs.’

But for now, her career comes first and she still feels she has so much more to give: ‘Do I believe that I’ve achieved what I’ve set out to do? Not really. As a creative person, you should grow and be able to see that there is still something in you that can be manifested in so many ways. I want to do many things in life still – I want to be an actor, direct a movie, write a book, do organic farming – that romance with life should never end. There should be no pressure about it. In pursuit of your dreams, you shouldn’t miss out on the great phenomena that’s unfolding before you, that is life itself.’

Dream Team:

It was a dream come true working with Kangana! She is a unique beauty and so versatile, that any look suits her. I especially loved styling her natural curly locks. They give her so much character and oomph that I really didn’t want to spoil them with anything too elaborate, as she just didn’t need it. She has gorgeous features, which I enhanced with impactful eyes, glamorous highlighting and a subtle lip to complement the tones of the shimmering outfits.
Anisha Siddique,
Hair & Make-up Artist
t: 07872608159
e: anishasiddique@mail.com

When you think of fashion, you think of Kangana. It was an absolute pleasure dressing such a versatile personality and talent, who is known for her experimental sense of style and identity. Creating bridal ensembles with Kangana in mind, I decided to go for mainly contemporary, glitteringly glamorous gowns in chic tones of greys, pinks and golds – something she could even wear on the red carpet or runway. But then I also wanted to see her in one of my classic red and gold bridal lenghas and I must say, she carried off each and every outfit with the utmost flair and sublime elegance.
Saira Rizwan,
t: 00924235758158
e: sairarizwan@live.com

Being the ultimate style icon, it was important for me to choose a variety of jewellery sets for Kangana. From contemporary diamonds and polki crystals, to traditional kundan and statement pieces – Kangana worked it all like a natural. Each set was paired beautifully with every stunning ensemble.
Nilofar Jacques,
Anayah Jewellery
t: 07950747192
e: info@anayahjewellery.com