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A few local people living around the row bungalows near Versova were curious to know about the media activity going on in their area. “Woh Queen aayi hain wahan pe,” a little kid told his cricket team mate, while pointing towards the last bungalow, which happened to be the office of Phantom Films, where Kangana Ranaut was busy giving interviews. Surrounded by life size posters of her recently released film, the actress, dressed in an off-white spaghetti-strap dress and a pair of nude pumps, settles down with her coffee tumbler for a freewheeling chat with Screen. She makes some candid confessions and talks about her love for women oriented films, exploring new avenues and more.
Looking at the way the character of Rani has shaped up, many believe that you have personally contributed a lot to her personality and nuances. Is that true?
I was involved with this project since the early stages. When Vikas (Bahl) first met me, there was no hardbound script. It was just an idea and when I heard it, I was a bit hesitant because his idea of Rani was not that of a quintessential heroine. If you see the film, you will notice that she can easily become lost in a large group, can be passed off like a typical behenji and be bullied for that. I took time to relate to her, because I have always been a very popular kid in school. Rani doesn’t wear proper clothes, whereas I am a style icon. There are scenes where she praises her own sense of humour, but the fact remains that she doesn’t have one. This is the last role that you will want to offer Kangana Ranaut, who had just played a superwoman in Krrish 3. But I took it up as a challenge and in order to understand Rani, I had to get into the skin of the character to know her. In real life, I am not like her, so I am glad that I got the chance to be a part of the film since its inception.
Do you think an actor’s involvement helps in structuring the role?
Involvement always helps, because when we went through the process of costume trials, look tests, giving the finishing touches to the story and dialogues among other things, it helped me to give Rani a particular structure. There are details within her mannerisms that stand out. She flutters her eyelids when she spots people kissing randomly on the road, she won’t part with her bag very easily or the manner in which she puts her cardigan back into her bag, after trying to ape a strip tease performer in a bar. Back in my hometown, I had seen many girls who behaved like that, so it helped.
You recently stated that Queen is one of your best performance till date and many critics agree with that fact. Are you happy?
When I did Gangster, I thought I had shattered all my boundaries and done something novel, because I had absolutely no clue about my potential. But after that, for the longest time, I kept feeling that I am not doing anything beyond what I have always done. Although I got the National Award for Fashion, as an actor, I didn’t feel like I have done anything exceptional in my life. I continued to think that I am in the same space as Gangster and none of my roles have stood as superior within my limits. With Queen, I have finally hit the bulls eye. I never thought I could do a role like this.
You even penned the dialogues of the film, which were widely appreciated by the audience. How did that happen?
For an actress to become a dialogue writer of her film is not very common and for Vikas to give me that kind of a liberty was a huge thing. But I guess, he always had a certain confidence in me and as a person, he is very open to new creative ideas. He allows creative people coming from different backgrounds to contribute. Most of the dialogues penned by me were spontaneous and I guess, that was the exact requirement of the film. Infact, the dialogues for the entire scene where I am drunk, except the Guptaji ko cancer tha part, was penned by me.
Did this experience push you to try your hand at screenplay writing?
(Laughs) I think, yes. It did trigger the latent writer in me. I thought that if I am able to understand the technicalities of this process well, I can put my thoughts together and present it in a better way. This is one reason why I took up the screenplay writing course at the New York Film Academy. I truly think this is one of the best things that I have done for myself. Being a college dropout, this was a very different experience for me. I have been working non – stop for almost seven – eight years and then, I became a student all over again. Going back to school, sitting with students in a classroom and attending lectures was a refreshing change.
Did you have to face the stress that a student undergoes when it comes to submitting assignments on time?
Oh, yes, assignments! (laughs) I used get a lot of them. For my main assignment, I worked on a period film. Initially, I would hate the fact that I have to work on so many scenes. These sudden deadlines were a little difficult in the beginning, but as the course proceeded, I got used to working at a set pace and rhythm, and that is exactly what I loved the most. I am going back in June to complete the course. Deadlines help you push your own limits. Like, we used to get several scenes and the professor would ask us to submit three ideas. Writing can be extremely complicated at times and even you, as a journalist will agree with me on that. There are times when you can write something in 10 minutes and then, you get stuck on an assignment for 10 hours.
Is screenplay writing or direction on the cards anytime soon?
I would love to add another feather to my cap (smiles). As an actor, I am creatively pretty much satisfied. Now, I would like to do different things like writing, direction etc.
You also took lessons on how to handle the gun for Revolver Rani. How challenging was that?
That role is at another level altogether. My character in the film, Alka Didi, is not your typical dacoit. She loves her daily dose of fashion, no matter how quirky it is. I had to undergo special training for using the gun and trust me, it was very difficult.
How much of hard work has gone into your success story? For many, it is not less than a fairy tale.
Success doesn’t come easy for anyone. Any place where you have to face competition is a hard place to be in. But then at the same time, you learn to take inspiration from people around you and that gives you strength. That’s when you tell yourself— It’s alright. Accept things as they come your way.
Is there a conscious effort to do something new, beyond films?
Yeah, I think everyone should have a life beyond the larger picture. How else can you evolve as a human being? Before settling down in one place, I would like to open a cafe in some city. It can be anywhere—Mumbai, Switzerland, Manali, Paris or any place. I want to stay in different countries, learn new languages, do different things. After the screenplay writing course, I would love to do a baking course in Paris. This is something that all young girls must learn. They should make their own money, sponsor their own holiday, educate themselves further and enjoy their lives. You must explore life in your early 20s. But instead, we see girls getting married at a young age and their life comes to a standstill. Post-marriage, if you take up a responsibility, then you have to fulfill it. Taking a step back later is a shame. Instead, it is better to enjoy life to the fullest.
From Rajjo to Rani and now, Alaka Didi in Revolver Rani. Do you have a strong liking for women oriented films?
Of course! It is so much fun, right? You are playing the main protagonist, the hero of the film and the story revolves around you. What else would you want? I enjoy such films to the fullest. Infact, I get my own chair with my name written on it, which is very fancy. In multi-starrers, you don’t get such treatment. There is no separate chair for you (laughs). You have to match your dates according to the availability of the hero. It is the male lead who decides everything and the actress is never on the priority list. At least, that has been the case with me. Working in women oriented films is an enriching experience, because you get the chance to contribute in many ways. In films like Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, you just go, shoot for your part and come back home, without having any knowledge about the rest of the film. I enjoy attention and so, doing women oriented films is always good fun.
Recently on Koffee with Karan, Aamir Khan called you one of the sexiest actresses in India. How do you react to such compliments?
It is flattering. When you have got an actor like Aamir Khan, who is nothing less than an icon, then such compliments really mean a lot. If it was an actor whose reputation is bad or if he was a womaniser, then that would be creepy. I feel happy, because Aamir is respected in the industry and for him to call me sexy, I am sure it definitely comes from the fact that I am self-made, someone who has come from nowhere, is dignified and has made a name for herself. I am just flattered that it is Aamir who praised me, and not anyone else.
In Queen, your character goes through a heartbreak, which you said you have experienced in real life too. Are you trying to be cautious before falling in love again?
(Laughs) Totally! I am over that phase where I can just fall head over heels in love. When you are young, you tend to get attracted to all the wrong people. I am way past that age. I want someone who has got qualities similar to mine. I can never get along with materialistic people or someone who is extremely dumb. My man needs to be like me, completely chilled out. I am hoping there is someone like that out there (smiles).