Kangana Ranaut came with almost zero chances of making it in Bollywood. Hailing from Himachal Pradesh, this actor did not belong to the uppity, class-conscious industry that largely relies on nepotism. Her accent was jeered at and she was not taken seriously. Today, this very girl has managed to force those very people to take notice of her. And that, in spite of her still proudly holding on to her humble upbringing.
Ques: You are getting a great response for Queen?
Kangana: I am still smiling ear-to-ear due to the kind of messages I am receiving. I thought only hard-core commercial films get this kind of immediate response. There was a bit of a worry about this being a female-oriented film, and how men will react to it. But I guess some issues are universal. For instance, almost everyone can relate to lack of self-confidence and being treated badly by the person you love. I am so happy because this film has been made so organically. Sometimes, you see a script and can't really decide how it will shape up because some nuances come to light only when the film is being shot. Also, Vikas Bahl (the film's director) didn't set out to make the film with the idea of making a kickass film. We all put in a great effort, but the motive was not to shout from the rooftops about how path-breaking the film is.
Ques: How did you approach this role, of someone who blends into the background, which is not what you are in real life?
Kangana: I like the method approach to acting. When this film came to me, it took me six months to get into the character. I start living and breathing it. This psychological approach sometimes scares me because when you are psyching yourself to be what you are not, it could lead to a lot of complications. It is cathartic in a way, but, in the long run, I could end up being one messed up person. I set my own limit of how far I can go. There are things that I wouldn't do. Nobody taught me subtle acting.
Ques: But nobody taught you anything. You learnt it all yourself, to survive, to choose the right films, and so on.
Kangana: That's true. I think travelling extensively and reading a lot of books has helped me tremendously. I have always had this raw, primitive approach to my films and life. Once I know what is expected of me, I switch on and then switch off. But rarely do you get to work with someone or a team which is in absolute sync with you. It is so fulfilling as an artiste when that happens. For six months, I put in all that I had into this. I didn't even meet my family in that period.
Ques: You were cruelly ignored and jeered at when you were struggling to make it. What makes you uncomfortable, praise or criticism?
Kangana: Definitely praise. I have been in this fighting mode with everyone till now and was so used to being ignored that now compliments are a little difficult to digest. I am not used to this spotlight being on me for good reason. I feel extremely awkward and don't know how to react. I guess it will take me some time to live with it and make peace with it.
Ques: What else are you uncomfortable with?
Kangana: Some directors can still make you feel like you are nothing. When there are clashes of ideologies and we belong to different schools of thought, I feel lost. When someone shows lack of confidence and just wants you to copy certain expressions, I feel lost. Like this whole genre of slapstick comedy is beyond me. Then there are some dance steps that we are made to do, which I don't relate to. I am a trained classical dancer, but this whole business of certain steps to be done with appropriate sexy expression can make me uncomfortable. I keep thinking to myself, "God, how do I get out of this situation". But then you just clench your teeth and go with the flow to avoid sticky situations.
Ques: What irked you the most about others' attitude towards you here?
Kangana: I have had many moments of despair; I still do. This whole attitude of people that if a girl comes from the middle-class and is trying to make it here, she must be a gold digger. These ideas about bloodline and the belief that only certain people truly belong in the film industry is irksome. My question to them is - if a woman is ready to work hard, what's wrong about her wanting to make money? Why are women judged, if they want to buy certain brands or diamonds? I don't think a girl who earns money and is ambitious should be judged.
Ques: Looks like you will never give up on your values?
Kangana: (Laughing) Never. I am so happy that I could afford to buy a house for myself and one for my parents. My sister lives with me. Back home, in the village, my parents now lead a comfortable life. That's enough to make me happy. I still feel alienated from 'filmi people' and the 'high society', like they do with me. I don't relate to the kind of gossip they enjoy, or take any pleasure in talking about horses or cars. I want to retain the middle class in me.
Ques: You are quite the icon for a lot of girls coming from smaller towns. What would your advice to them be?
Kangana: Let people judge you in whatever way they want to. Just be financially independent. Go out there and earn your money. There is no bigger pleasure than being responsible for yourself. If you have money, you can live the way you want to, support the causes you want to and keep your family happy. I remember when my sister (Rangoli) had an unfortunate accident and had scars on her face. The surgery was done and now she is okay. I am so happy that I could help her financially to overcome that incident. When you have money, you can get the best of things for yourself and your loved ones. Just not having to depend on anyone for money can give you the biggest confidence boost. So study and earn for yourself. The rest will all fall into place.