In this exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Kangana Ranaut opens up about turning director for Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi and the lessons learned along the way. The biopic on Rani of Jhansi will hit screens on January 25.
Q. How much of Manikarnika are you in real life?
In spirit, I am a lot like her. But, my spirit hasn’t been tested the way her spirit was tested. She was put in very extreme circumstances. I would know how much of a Manikarnika I am only if I was put into that kind of situation, where I would be pressed against the wall. That’s exactly when you know who you really are. In Life Of Pi, there is a beautiful scene where a vegetarian person has to eat raw fish to survive. Same way, life can test you in a way you cannot believe and you realise the kind of things you can do to cope with it.
I would like to believe that I am very dignified, but that is because I always had the option of being dignified. What if I didn’t have that option, then I don’t know what I would do.
Q. Manikarnika is a film made by a woman on a female hero. How important is the woman’s perspective while making a ‘female-centric film’ or any other film?
To show a mother’s loss, a widow’s loneliness and the strength of a woman in the face of that sort of adversity, bullying and humiliation, a woman’s perspective was needed. The emotional quotient, the drama, the story and the journey of Manikarnika has really been worked on by me. That is where I have contributed a lot as a woman.
Q. Manikarnika was mired in controversy. What do you take from all of it today?
I don’t want to take anything from that rough patch. I have taken the learning that there is something bigger and grander in this world which is looking after everything. We just need to effortlessly sail through circumstances. There were so many obstacles in the journey of Manikarnika, but in the end, there was something that just worked out, even if it was at the last minute. When I look back, there were times when I thought it wouldn’t be possible, and now I realise how we have sailed though it already. So, I believe there was constantly a divine energy that was intervening through this. I believe there is somebody bigger out there who is making things work.
Q. You don’t need a male lead for your films to do well. Tell us about your journey to reach this stage.
Well, my journey has been quite open, I started at 17, and today I am 31. I have grown under the media glare. Starting as a teenager who had no skill, no access to anything here, today I have managed to have a standing of my own, and have my own voice. That’s the most important thing for me.
Q. People call you all sort of things – fierce, fighter, overly opinionated, crazy and chest-thumping patriot. How do you react?
Yes, I am fierce. Because of my fierceness, my relationships don’t last. Sexual relationships, not any other relationship. I think sissy men don’t like fierce women. I think they get intimidated. Let’s put it like that.
I have a fighter spirit. I have had to fight for everything. Being able to fight for your rights and what is right has definitely worked for me. I have had a lot of struggle in my life, and I value it.
When I had no way, and I had to direct Manikarnika, a lot of people said, ‘Don’t do this. This is like committing suicide. It will destroy you. It is a trap laid for you. They want to put the blame on you’. All kind of advice came my way. They said, ‘Only a mad person would do that’. So I was like, ‘Thank god I am not so smart in life’. I don’t think from my head. I think from my heart. My film needed me. What I can’t do, I anyway can’t do. But what I can do, how can I not do that? I didn’t know if I would be able to pull it off, but at least I had the spirit of doing what I can do.
I am ferociously patriotic. I am one of those small town people who do believe India is the best. I think it is a bit delusional also, but I am one of those who really believe in the concept of an ideal nation. A nation where people live in harmony and there are no rapes or crimes. I do believe that loving your nation and people is the only way to get there.