The months before Kangana Ranaut made her debut at the 71st Cannes Film Festival red carpet, she was in the centre of many a storm. There was the very bitter, very public feud with actor Hrithik Roshan. Then news channels began flashing bizarre accusations of Kangana practicing witchcraft on ex-boyfriend Adhyayan Suman. Followed by an ugly blame-game that broke out between Kangana and director Karan Johar when she accused him of being “the flag-bearer of nepotism”.
The National Film Award winner had acquired herself a reputation for being ‘fierce’, ‘feminist’, and ‘outspoken’. But also ‘difficult’ and ‘combative’.
There has also been some new turbulence in her life—a brawl with a journalist at a press conference and an ongoing defamation case filed by Kangana against actor Aditya Pancholi. But if any of this is bothering her, she doesn’t let on.
Nandini: Many see you as India’s most outspoken celebrity. Were you always so candid?
Kangana: “People say I’m outspoken or blunt, but I don’t really see myself like that. I’ve just always been this way. I see myself as someone who is plain-spoken. I am what I am, and what you see is what you get. This is something I live by, and I also like people who are like that. I do not like people who ‘dress’ things up, you know? Like, they want to say one thing, but they’ll cover it up in a way to create an illusion. At times, people are taken aback by my reactions but, to be honest, I am the one who is taken aback by their reactions because I’m only just stating the obvious and I don’t understand why that would shock anyone. I’m not comfortable with that and when I see others are not comfortable with my honesty, it just becomes very weird.
There have been some crazy reactions to some of the things I’ve said, but I don’t think I’ve ever crossed a line. And I don’t think I’ve ever tried to mislead people by painting a wrong picture or by being dishonest.
And while I might be upfront about my views, I am careful, too. If I think my words could hurt someone or that it might not be the right time to say something, I will refrain from it. It’s not like I’m this wild woman on the loose, you know, and that I don’t realise what I say or do. I am very much in charge, and when I do say something, I do it deliberately. I really want people to know that my words or comments don’t just happen on their own. I say things because someone needs take notice of themselves and what they are doing and how I’m feeling about it.”
N: Do the people around you ever ask you to change? Advice you to hold back your opinions, or not say this or that?
K: “Yeah, all the time. You would have noticed that I’ve never really hired a PR agency to run my life. Even my current PR manager, Neha...she used to be my manager, and then she got married and I asked if she would like work from home and manage my public relations. So she basically organises interviews for me, but it’s not like I have a professional PR agency or anything because I get so much gyaan from those people. Whenever anyone comes on board and they say we need to change this about you, I’m like, ‘You’re fired!’. Why should I hire you and then let you change me? I’m the one hiring you, you should change yourself!!”
N: Have you learnt any big lessons over the last couple of years?”
K: “In life? Oh, there are so many. Every day is such a huge learning—you learn so much and grow as a person, and then you also start handling things differently. The older you get, the better you feel. I mean, I was very reckless growing up and in my 20s. But as you grow older, you understand what works for you and what doesn’t, as a person, as an individual, as a professional. Another thing I’ve learnt is not to be afraid of making mistakes. Like, I feel it’s okay to lose sometimes and win sometimes.
Oh, my biggest learning has been that every day cannot be a victory. So you’ve got to just let go of some things and focus on what really matters and where you finally want to be. There is so much going on, and so much to do. Like we were just talking about the importance of building a strong social media following, or maybe you want to complete a script, or you want to continue growing in your profession, or you want to go further and sacrifice something and push the envelope... But it’s not possible to be everywhere and be on the top of everything, so you’ve got to pick your battles and stick to those. Life is very short, and you can only do two or three things in a really nice way, so you should focus on those three things instead of 300 things. That’s very important.”