A 1980 interview/column of theatre and film director/actor Girish Karnad with Fearless Nadia aka Mary has resurfaced thanks to the new movie Rangoon. In this delightful first-person piece, Karnad says "To us school kids of the mid-'40s, Fearless Nadia meant courage, strength, idealism." To the film-watchers of now, Kangana Ranaut means the same: courageous, strong, idealistic. Courageous in both her personal and professional choices - everyone knows her story in Bollywood, it's been told and retold. Strong because she didn't get cowed down by the movie mafiosi in Mumbai and lived to tell her tale. Idealistic because she spoke too soon, declaring: "It's a set of values you follow, I let go of certain award functions and I stick to my values, so some brand might come my way, who needs that value system and who needs me and they are ready to pay 3 times." ...I pray that I am not!
From the early reactions to Rangoon, it doesn't look like the film is going to match up to the box office collections of her last hit Tanu Weds Manu 2. It is this box office might that gave Kangana the audacity to ask for one rupee more than her male co-stars in Rangoon. The fearlessness to call out the deep seated nepotism in the Hindi film industry, that too on national television, sitting in front of one of the most successful studio bosses. To shun popular award shows just as they started acknowledging her.
But what will happen if Rangoon doesn't work at the box office? The critics are lauding her performance: The best we have, says one, Difficult to imagine another actress in this role says another. Kangana was brilliant in Life In A Metro as far back as 2007. Bollywood only gave her a real chance a decade later after Queen and Tanu Weds Manu were big hits.
All of Bollywood is going to be saying she spoke too much too soon. Her contemporaries who have been holding their peace are going to start planting stories, all attributed to "sources" of course, of what a loud mouth Kangana is! Will mainline A-list directors work with her after Rangoon after she so publicly declared she refuses to play second fiddle to the Khans? There are already reports of her being struck off the list from a Shah Rukh Khan starrer, though to be fair, her name was never announced. How will Bollywood deal with Kangana Ranaut and her frank speak after Rangoon?
I confess these are my fears. Kangana doesn't seem to have any.
(Sonal Joshi is a consultant with NDTV 24x7)
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