Lady Aamir Khan!

Out­spo­ken ac­tor is break­ing down show­biz sta­tus quo with her in­con­ve­nient truths. How right is she, and how much does our scru­tiny of Kan­gana re­veal about our own dou­ble stan­dards

The Day After - - BOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT - By daN­FES FeeTback onJre­porWer@Tayaf­ter­inTia.com

How do you solve a prob­lem like Kan­gana Ra­naut? The nar­ra­tive is both­er­some, to say the least, which is why I sug­gest a quick re­cap of the prick­li­est parts. Her tim­ing - as she pa­rades facts about al­leged ex-lovers Hrithik Roshan and Aditya Pan­choli just be­fore the re­lease of her new film - feels dis­taste­fully op­por­tunis­tic. By her own ac­count, she has had af­fairs with mar­ried men and has gone on to com­plain about those men to their wives and fa­thers. Her help­less, put-upon story doesn’t quite add up, and sev­eral de­tails ap­pear askew.

She is con­sid­ered a ‘dif­fi­cult’ ac­tress on set, and a de­mand­ing ne­go­tia­tor with an un­re­al­is­tic sense of self-worth. She has an­gered nu­mer­ous col­lab­o­ra­tors, and ru­mours about her sound both ma­li­cious and be­liev­able. She has of­fered no de­fense about hi­jack­ing Ke­tan Me­hta’s Rani Lak­sh­mibai project, putting to­gether a film on the same sub­ject - with an­other di­rec­tor, at an­other stu­dio - af­ter agree­ing to do the film for Me­hta. She has got­ten into an ugly spat re­gard­ing writ­ing cred­its on her lat­est film, Sim­ran. All of 31, she has au­da­ciously de­clared that she will di­rect or co-di­rect all her up­com­ing films.

She has even made nepo­tism a bad word sim­ply by re­peat­ing it a lot, iron­i­cally while em­ploy­ing her sis­ter as her man­ager. Yet Kan­gana speaks her truth, and by do­ing so and never back­ing down, has be­come such an anti-pa­tri­archy poster child that it is nearly im­pos­si­ble to crit­i­cise her today.

Nearly, and yet we man­age, which is to miss the point en­tirely, in my opin­ion. The ques­tion is not how ac­cu­rate Kan­gana is about her al­le­ga­tions, both ro­man­tic and writerly, or how re­proach­fully she should be ad­mon­ished for var­i­ous flaws and in­sin­u­a­tions. The real ques­tion is why on earth so many of us are so keen to point fin­gers? We can choose not to agree with her, but in­stead we de­fame and ac­cuse. She has raised the in­dus­try’s hack­les. Is this be­cause her tell-all per­sona is in­con­ve­nient to a com­mu­nity that prefers its skele­tons clos­eted? Or is she widely la­beled out of con­trol pri­mar­ily be­cause she’s a woman?

One can ask since sev­eral broadsides one see lev­eled at Kan­gana Ra­naut sound dashed fa­mil­iar. They make me think, to be pre­cise, of Aamir Khan.

In May 2006, just be­fore Fanaa was re­leased, Khan - the film’s lead­ing man went on the record to lam­bast the BJP’s han­dling of the Nar­mada Dam is­sue in Gu­jarat. He spoke pas­sion­ately about the cause and joined in with ac­tivists, but af­ter the film had re­leased, was nowhere to be seen and didn’t men­tion the sub­ject pub­licly. Khan has since gained a cer­tain in­famy for mak­ing newsy head­lines prior to a film re­lease, and while we cast as­per­sions on Ra­naut for go­ing on about Hrithik Roshan be­fore Sim­ran hits the­atres, Khan is ad­mired as a cun­ning op­er­a­tor for this very rea­son.

One of the in­dus­try’s most per­sis­tent ru­mours has to do with Khan ‘di­rect­ing’ most of the movies he stars in, and tales of his on-set in­ter­fer­ence are leg­endary. It is whis­pered that Khan chooses film­mak­ers who are will­ing to sub­mit to his vi­sion, and be­cause their films with­out Khan don’t do as well as the ones he makes with them - and he specif­i­cally makes one film apiece with most di­rec­tors - Khan is widely con­sid­ered as the guy who “re­ally” made the film hap­pen. For her on-set ex­ac­ti­tude, Ra­naut is branded a trou­ble­maker even as this be­hav­iour earned Khan his ‘per­fec­tion­ist’ tag.

Back in 2007, Taare Zameen Par pro­ducer Aamir Khan had an aw­ful row with the film’s orig­i­nal di­rec­tor Amol Gupte, cul­mi­nat­ing in Gupte forced to back off the project and the di­rec­tion credit go­ing to Khan him­self. Ra­naut had a messy strug­gle about writ­ing cred­its with Sim­ran screen­writer Apurva As­rani, and as this trail of emails shows, it isn’t likely to end am­i­ca­bly. Ra­naut con­tin­ues to re­peat­edly be grilled on the sub­ject, as op­posed to Khan who got away with a shrug - and plenty of ap­plause.

Af­ter the suc­cess of Queen and Tanu Weds Manu Re­turns, Ra­naut rightly re­fuses to set­tle for low re­mu­ner­a­tion and holds out for a big­ger piece of the pie. In an in­ter­view, she claimed to be paid 80 per­cent of what Ran­bir Kapoor/Ran­veer Singh make, which is a gi­ant state­ment is con­sid­er­ing this in­dus­try is so lop­sided that Shahid Kapoor makes sig­nif­i­cantly more money per film than Deepika Padukone. Mean­while, Aamir Khan has re­port­edly struck an un­prece­dented deal with Yash Raj Films for the up­com­ing Thugs Of Hin­dostan where he will get a whop­ping 60 per­cent of the film’s prof­its. None of these numbers may ac­tu­ally be true, but most pro­duc­ers we have spo­ken to ap­plaud Khan’s acu­men, while they wait for one flop to bring Ra­naut “down to earth.”

Are we be­ing fair? Are we call­ing it down the mid­dle? As ev­i­denced by the open­ing para­graphs of this piece, we are not an all-ap­plaud­ing mem­ber of Team Kan­gana. We also do not think Aamir Khan re­sem­bles Kan­gana Ra­naut, or that she will some­day di­rect an all-girls La­gaan re­make. We merely be­lieve it’s worth ex­am­in­ing the way you and I in­stinc­tively re­act to in­stances of sim­i­lar be­hav­iour be­tween a suc­cess­ful man and a suc­cess­ful woman. Be­tween a Khan and a woman who doesn’t need a Khan.

In an in­ter­view, Ra­naut claimed to be paid 80 per­cent of what Ran­bir Kapoor/Ran­veer Singh make, which is a gi­ant state­ment is con­sid­er­ing this in­dus­try is so lop­sided that Shahid Kapoor makes sig­nif­i­cantly more money per film than Deepika Padukone

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