By: Express Features Service
The latest edition of Express Adda, presented by Yes Bank in association with IIFL and The Claridges, was held in Delhi last week. National Award-winning actor Kangana Ranaut spoke to Seema Chishti, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express, and Harneet Singh, Senior Editor (Films), on Rani, Tanu and Datto, preparing for her roles, breaking out and her acting prowess intimidating her male co-star.
On the success of her latest film
Well, we had made a good film (Tanu Weds Manu Returns). I think there is no point in lying to the audience, because I think they have all the right to spend their money on a right and deserving project. I knew that it will be liked, but I had no idea that it will be liked on this scale.
It would be wrong to say that I don’t want to be successful. I want to be successful because of the opportunities success brings. When you work on a movie, it is a process of (several) years. It takes your time, passion, everything, and you should give that to things that are deserving. If you are successful, there are opportunities, and I am definitely welcoming this phase of my life.
When we were working on the script, the writer said Tanu has a lot of gifts from me — she is confident, a stunner and gets her way. She is a woman everyone can identify with. She is desirable and aspirational. Datto is not conventionally beautiful, she comes from a rural area, has buckteeth, so we need to see that she can compete with Tanu. It should come across as a difficult choice to make, but I think this country has shocked me by showing how welcoming they are. We think women are supposed to be a certain way, but I don’t agree anymore. I think they loved Rani (in Queen), they loved Datto, so I think they want to see real women, raw characters and I think Datto has got all the love, but I like them both equally. I love them both.
When I heard the script, one thing I noticed was that Manu was this perfect guy who insists he leads a normal life, he wants to have a wife who is tame, not very scandalous, but when he got that person, he doesn’t want her. So men contradict themselves, don’t they?
On being a rebel
The rebellious streak in me drove everything inside me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, forced me to break the social system I was a part of, and like they say, a dog’s curly tail can’t be straightened, so I just continued, I just remained that way. I can’t help it. Growing up, I was an ambitious woman. I wanted to go out there and see what are my options and limitations. That small town and valley (in Himachal Pradesh), where I was born, did not provide me that platform. I went to a Hindi-medium school, I didn’t have many options, I just wanted to explore. I didn’t find my parents supporting at all, not because they didn’t want to, but just because they were so scared of criticism, that this uncle will say that, or grandpa will say this. I knew what they are feeling is just momentary and might not be there tomorrow. When grandpa is not there, then that fear won’t be there, but then I would have been too old to try anything, so I took a chance.
On the change in her hometown
It has changed but not only because of me, but in the last 10 years (it reflects) the changes that we see in society. The world has become a little smaller and we have internet. Earlier, we had one kulfiwallah visiting once in a week, but now we have McDonald’s, Cafe Coffee day. I think what our society hadn’t achieved in the last 100 years, has been achieved in the last 10 years. It’s a different place now.
On preparing for her roles
I basically divide it into three parts: first is the physical appearance of the character, which I think is very important. Second is the body language, which is very different from the emotional journey of the character. Third is the current state of mind or the emotional journey. When you approach a character in three stages, you pretty much cover everything. I think body language is important. Some people asked me if “the other girl” (Datto) was my sister. That was a compliment. The body language bit is very important and it’s not always necessary that you always get it, sometimes you are just struggling till the last day of the shoot and sometimes you are confident that you have nailed it. I think I have been quite confident with Datto and Rani, but with Tanu, it was only after I saw the film because (to show) a married woman’s desperation and frustration and a sort of coming to terms with a failed marriage but still have intense love for your husband, whom you don’t want to see and can’t stand, was quite conflicting. I wasn’t sure if it was coming across the way I wanted to convey. So, everytime it is a different journey. Like I said, some characters, like Datto, are body-language driven. For Tanu, it was more emotionally driven. I didn’t give much body language to her, just the eyes, the way she would convey with her eyes.
On her acting prowess intimidating male co-stars
(Laughs) I’m doing a film with Irrfan sir and after Tanu Weds Manu Returns, I told him when do we start the film. He said: “ek mayaan mein do talwaarein kaise rahengi?” I thought that was a compliment, but I would love to have someone like Irrfan sir work with me and give each other tough competition. For me, it’s a very big deal that he thinks I am competition. I am flattered. But people do feel that if she is going to say yes to a film, then obviously her role would be written in a nice way.
On other women actors she finds inspirational
Certain exceptional faces and personalities sometimes come on screen and it is just magical, and it never happens again. I think one such person is Madhubala. There is something so innocent and beautiful about her, she can get away with anything. I would love to be in the same screen (frame) as her, but maybe as a pillar or something.
On the character closest to her
Each character you play is special and takes a part of you and that will never be yours again. I can’t play Rani again ever in my life. Why would I do that? I did Fashion, but I couldn’t do The Dirty Picture for the same reason because it was over for me, that chapter of my life was closed and I think so with Datto as well. It is living different lifetimes with different people.
On how scripting and directing a short film changed her
My direction experience changed everything for me. You go just like an actor to the sets, thinking I have to do my bit, that’s all I’m required to do, but when you are in someone else’s shoes, you realise it is so difficult to be a director. Filming with a little boy and a dog, a child and an animal (in The Touch), changed a lot for me and the fact that I edited it with my editor in California, gave me a better understanding of the format that we were using for acting. Acting is of various kinds — Broadway, (performing as a) stand-up comedian, theatre, so many types. But when you act in films, it just depends on how you are going to place those shots, so the link of that emotion, and how it is to be conveyed, all that you can understand once you have a certain understanding of editing and writing.
On what’s a good day at work
I think when the director and I are in sync, that day is great. Also when everything works out. Sometimes it’s so hard to contain an emotion, especially with intense scenes. You know in your script, there are days that are going to be difficult so you keep asking your director when that scene will be shot. Because I know that scene is demanding, I will start preparing much in advance and so when those scenes are shot, you are prepared. Sometimes on the set there is a break, like some phone call comes or sometimes you completely forget everything and you are like, it’s not even there any more. So you go through the whole process again and you know something else happens. There are difficult days when things don’t happen for technical or practical reasons, but there are days when you are just in that mood and you have prepared and everyone on the set is in sync, the director knows the shots and everyone is together.
Q & A:
Madhu Trehan, Senior Journalist
When you first joined the film industry, you were treated quite badly by the brat pack. You represent the new India, which comes from small towns. You mentioned that you went to a Hindi-medium school, so today if you were to advise a young girl coming from, say, the type of school you came from, would you tell her to train herself to change her accent and become more acceptable to the old school?
I would advise her to definitely (change her accent). When I started out, people did criticise me — some of it was just for the sake of it and some of it was genuine. So I realised that when people like me have a certain platform and we can set an example, I would like to communicate to a wider audience. When I started learning English, my coach said you should speak in a neutral accent so that people all over the world can understand you. But my hometown accent is still there. When I go back to Manali, I am a true-blue pahadi.
Raakhe Kapoor Tandon, Founder & CEO, RAAS Capital (India) Pvt Ltd
What makes Kangana tick? What motivates you?
Well, you should have short-term goals. I finish one thing and then I look forward to another. I have signed a couple of more films but I am going to take a break. So, when I am working, I look forward to a break and vice-versa.
Naina Balsaver Ahmad, Jewellery Designer and former Model
In about 10 years, why don’t you start a chain of schools where people can teach young girls acting the way you do it?
I would love to make people aware of not just acting, but also of the other opportunities that cinema and the film industry offer. I feel it is a brilliant option for women. You can take projects and then you can have time off instead of working for years and years, waiting for retirement. I would also like to write a book and break down my process and convey it to others.
Kishwar Desai, Author and Columnist
When you get around to making your own film, what it is going to be about? Have you decided what subjects you are going to cover?
Well, I had a subject in mind but I think it’s like a relationship — the longer you stay with it, the more unsure you are about it. I am so over my script and I need to get a fresh one.
Shivani Wazir Pasrich, Actor and Television Presenter
If you had a daughter who was as rebellious and as adventurous as you, would your advice be the same as your mum’s or would it be different?
I would take sanyaas! I dread the day I have a daughter like me. Please pray for me everyone.