Actor Kangana Ranaut has added a new feather to her cap by making a smashing debut as a director with her recent blockbuster Manikarnika. The actor has won back the title of “Queen” of box office but is she a master of all trades? On being asked the question at the Signature Master Class event in New Delhi, Kangana replied, “A master? Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do something to absolute perfection but then there are things that I can do pretty well like acting or now, I feel directing. I also feel I am a good speaker. Not sure if I am a master, but I am sure I can do it all.”
In a free-wheeling conversation with indianexpress.com, Kangana went on to speak about the success of Manikarnika and the backlash from the industry.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. With Manikarnika tasting success, you are again being called the Queen of Bollywood. How do you feel about the tag?
Well, I am grateful that I could do this. I took a very big risk with the project. When the film was abandoned and at that time, I got into the shoes, everyone was like ‘you are ruined’. I was told by everyone that people will put the blame on me (if the project fails.) At that time, I thought if that is the case, then let it be. I will see how it goes. So, it was a risk that I took to revive a project.
In the film industry, they say it is easier to make a film since the beginning, but it is difficult to revive a project. So, that risk paid off big time. However, there were more than 50% chances I would not have made it. Now that I have, the film has become a bit more special. It is not like any other directorial debut, it is a little more special.
Q. Was there a moment where you felt cornered or negative about all of it?
I think professional life is like walking on a thin rope especially when you are in a high-strung situation like being an actor or politician or somebody who is always watched. I feel the last few years have been extremely challenging for me. Some of my films didn’t work and then a couple of people filed cases on me either for taking Manikarnika rights or personal vendetta. I did feel cornered.
When I met with an accident on the sets of Manikarnika, I got 18 stitches on my forehead and some sick people were attacking me in media.
I didn’t have this body of work. Like today, I am an actor-director, so people have more faith in me but at that time, they were like what is this Kangana Ranaut about. You cannot go out and explain your heart to everyone. I did have a phase where in my heart I was sure that maybe the world will know my truth one day or maybe, I will die misunderstood. So yes, everyone goes through a tough phase. I did too. You live in that low phase for some time. However, I do not get depressed. I keep myself happy. I keep myself surrounded with family and friends. I do worry about my career but not that much.
Q. What has the success of Manikarnika taught you about the industry and the audience?
My heart and soul was all for the story that belongs to each one of us. It is not that Rani Lakshmibai was a person who belonged to me. She belonged to everyone. Whatever we are today is because of them who sacrificed their lives. My sincere endeavour was to create something for people. I didn’t charge a single penny to direct. I felt absolutely devotional. I felt like I was serving the people of this nation. And I am getting the same kind of response. The way people are loving it or the way they are feeling overwhelmed or connecting with the legacy is what I gained from this.
Industry people are being absolutely obnoxious and ganging up against the film. They are not saying anything and ignoring it. The racket is so strong that even a small-time actor is secretly messaging me praising the film. You know, they don’t dare write it on social media. That is how they have ganged up. It is not that it doesn’t hurt. There will be Mental Hai Kya or Panga. These are not the films I will say I have done for the nation. These are the films that you do or come every weekend. But Manikarnika was a special film. We stood with a film like Queen, Dangal or any film that made an impact on the society. Everybody should stand with Manikarnika but it is a shame that their pettiness is coming out. What I feel is that the industry is actually full of petty and small people who don’t rise above their likes and dislikes.
Q. Your outspokenness is quite impressive. What gives you the courage?
I have six people filing a case against me. After this, I might have eight more. But deep down, I know I am talking about a bigger cause. Very rare it happens that a film does not belong to a single person, it belongs to humanity or the nation. These kind of films should be seen for what they are. I believe, in my heart, if my intention is right, I will never fall flat on my face.
Q. All those who have an issue with the film, did they ever sit down with you to sort the differences out?
I say everything openly. We wanted to show Krish the film in the month of December but he never showed up. In fact, he was so sure that the film is completely destroyed and how can anyone revive it. But when I did it and the minute he saw it, he went like, ‘its my film, its my film’ which is okay since the credit is with him but the question is – why do a media trial? Why can’t he meet me and tell me his concern? He never met me, never addressed his concerns or never responded to the invites me and my team extended to him for the screening. Also, all these character actors who are claiming that they were promised something but did not get it, they are secretly messaging me, ‘Oh, we were told you will get to do solo interviews’ this and that. I blocked them because, ‘Are you trying to butter both sides of the toast now?’ So, these people have agendas. I personally feel that if you have sincere respect for work like I, Ankita, Prasoon or Shankar feel, they will not go out in public and attack the film on a such an important week. This is sabotage that these people are doing.
Sonu Sood is not allowed to talk about the project. He should not be speaking about the film as his contract was terminated. He doesn’t hold any sort of participation in the film. Why is he maligning the film? So, these people have deep rooted agendas. The worst is that they are claiming to be a part of the film. It is shocking how people can exploit the situation. However, it is a time to celebrate for us as the film has crossed Rs 100 crore worldwide.
As the conversation came to an end, Kangana Ranaut said Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi was important to wake up people to the unsung freedom fighters. She added it is extremely important to know our history.