Under the bright lights in a Parisian club, Rani from Rajouri finds some solace at the bottom of many a glass of wine. The alcohol offers her a few revelations about her current state: on her own in Paris, on a honeymoon without the fiance who thoughtlessly jilted her two days before their wedding. The past 24 hours in the French capital have been overwhelming, Rani has had to cross the busy streets on her own, run away from the Eiffel Tower looming large in the distance, and wrestle her way out of being mugged in an alley. “Rani is such a poor thing,” says Kangana Ranaut indulgently about her character in Queen, a film that has made Bollywood sit up again and take notice of the actor who delivered a pitch-perfect performance as a naïve Delhi girl who goes on a journey of self-discovery against the odds and emerges a winner.
Seated crossed-legged at the centre of her plush vanity van, Ranaut, 27, speaks unhurriedly about how the timing of the film worked in her favour. Her last few films had been disappointing, with the exception of Krissh 3, and she was hesitant when writer-director Vikas Bahl approached her to play Rani. “ She is not a quintessential heroine. You will miss her in a group, she is called behenji and bullied. But Queen is changing the way my contemporaries perceive me,” says Ranaut.
“I wrote the story of Queen with Kangana in mind. Once she liked the story, I worked on the screenplay. She figured out the character and completely transformed herself. Those superficial non-layered characters don’t excite her so much. She likes to be challenged,” says Bahl. Ranaut also co-wrote the dialogues of Queen. Most of Rani’s lines were written by the actor. “When I first read the script, there were very exciting dialogues. However, in terms of giving it my own feel and texture, I added some lines. Other than the Gupta uncle line in the trailer, the rest are mine,” she says. Queen is also that rare Bollywood movie that has passed the Bechdel Test and Ranaut finds woman-centric films fun to shoot. “I get a chair with my name written on it. And I say ‘wow’. You are the hero of these movies and the story follows you. Otherwise, you have to match your dates with the hero,” she says.
A certain amount of risk is involved in taking up such projects. Ranaut signed Tanu Weds Manu (2011), soon after the success of Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010), when director Aanand Rai was a nobody. “I knew, the only way I could make Tanu Weds Manu work was by getting the casting right. I did not know Kangana. From continued…