FEAR­LESS KAN­GANA

India Today - - INSIDE - —Suhani Singh

Kan­gana Ra­naut’s fear­less re­fusal to keep quiet about the pay dis­par­ity be­tween male and fe­male stars, or kow­tow to Hrithik Roshan, may have earned her some en­e­mies. But it won her at least an equal num­ber of fans—in­clud­ing di­rec­tor Vishal Bhard­waj. When the time came to cast the hero­ine of Ran­goon, his World War II-era drama that re­leases Fe­bru­ary 24, the di­rec­tor was con­vinced Kan­gana was the per­fect choice to play ‘Jaan­baaz Ju­lia’ , a stunt­woman loosely based on Aus­tralia-born Mary Evans Wa­dia, aka Fear­less Na­dia. Like many of Bhard­waj’s fe­male char­ac­ters, Ju­lia ex­em­pli­fies the “du­al­ity of a woman—her fragility and stub­born­ness” and “the com­plex­ity of her psy­che”, Ra­naut ex­plains. Ra­naut iden­ti­fies with Ju­lia be­cause she is fierce and not sub­mis­sive, a mix that she says Bol­ly­wood has lost since the days of Na­dia. “Now, you can ei­ther be sen­su­ous or timid.” Dis­mis­sive of com­mer­cial awards, Ra­naut is hop­ing one of her two 2017 re­leases will earn her a fourth Na­tional Award. Along with Ran­goon, she has the ti­tle role in Hansal Mehta’s Sim­ran (Septem­ber 15). “I would be pleas­antly sur­prised to see

bet­ter writ­ten char­ac­ters than Ju­lia and Sim­ran this year,” she says. “In that case if I do not get a Na­tional Award, then re­ally, shame on me.” De­spite win­ning praise for her per­for­mance in

Queen (2014) and gen­er­at­ing more than Rs 150 crore in Tanu Weds Manu Re­turns (2015), Ra­naut is still an out­sider. Karan Jo­har has never in­cluded her in his ‘rank the best ac­tresses’ seg­ment on Kof­fee with Karan. And he of­fered a cryp­tic in­sult in his book An Un­suit­able Boy, say­ing that while most ac­tors are known for their mag­nif­i­cent pres­ence “she has a mag­nif­i­cent ab­sence”. The back­handed com­pli­ment does not un­duly con­cern her. “I don’t get it,” she says. “Is it a jibe or a com­pli­ment? Am I ‘ab­sent’ be­cause I’m miss­ing from his par­ties or his gos­sip cir­cle or the What­sApp group they have? Or be­cause I skip the filmi par­ties and award shows?”

That frank­ness doesn’t al­ways sit well with the ‘film fra­ter­nity’. Last year marked a par­tic­u­larly low point, as many closed ranks around Roshan and she was ac­cused of ev­ery­thing, from hav­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems to be­ing a jeal­ous girl­friend who uses black magic.

Ra­naut ad­mits that the “mal­ice and be­trayal from some­one who you have been ex­tremely close to” af­fected her. But she says she found so­lace in her work, and she re­mains proud that she re­fused to back down.

“I per­son­ally feel that women over-iden­tify with the healer and nur­turer archetype,” she said. “I don’t en­cour­age bul­ly­ing. Why should I? The fighter in­stinct in me dom­i­nates ev­ery other in­stinct.”

She has her share of de­fend­ers—who find noth­ing evil in her brand of witch­craft. As jaan­baaz as her char­ac­ter in Ran­goon, though, she’s more than ca­pa­ble of fight­ing her own bat­tles.

“I have been cho­sen for things that are ex­tra­or­di­nary,” she says. “I have had a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with my par­ents. I later fell into the most un­be­liev­able traps that the in­dus­try has and then went through a strug­gle of a life­time. I have paid a heavy price for that. My life will al­ways be of ex­tremes. But I’m OK with it.”

BANDEEP SINGH

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