Not a day seems to go by without Kangana Ranaut's mention in the media, whether or not she has a movie in the pipeline. Recently, the Manikarnika actress was involved in an ugly spat with a journalist, whom she accused of running a smear campaign against her.
One must admit one didn't think much of Kangana Ranaut in her initial years in Bollywood. Sure, she made us look up and take notice of her in her debut, Gangster (2006). For the longest time, to me, she was Simran and not Kangana and that is a victory for any actor - to be known by her character name from a movie.
Though there were spirited performances in films like Fashion (2008) for which she won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, one soon became tired of the stereotypes she played. A neurotic woman who was ready to slash her wrists at the drop of a hat. It seemed for filmmakers, the order of the day was if there was a character that was a drug addict or one who was unable to move on from a toxic relationship, sign Kangana.
Things turned for the better for Kangana Ranaut with Tanu Weds Manu (2011) and Queen (2014). It looked like the outsider had taken on Bollywood royalty and come out on the other side. I'm frankly a little worried for the ladies who are reprising her in the South Indian remakes of Queen.
In between, I must mention her relevant interviews on The Front Row With Anupama Chopra and other stints on the Hindustan Times Summit and the like, where she spoke about the problems of nepotism with restraint. This was before Queen.
It all changed the day the blue-eyed boy of Bollywood, Hrithik Roshan, slapped a legal suit on Kangana Ranaut for her 'silly-ex' remark, where she was referring to him. And our Queen was no longer holding it back. Suddenly, the floodgates had opened.
Not only did she take the bull by its horns by sending a counter-notice to Hrithik Roshan, but also savagely trolled Bollywood's despot-in-chief Karan Johar for being intolerant to outsiders. 'Movie mafia', 'flag bearer of nepotism' are a few phrases that anyone is unlikely to forget if you had watched the now infamous Koffee With Karan episode wherein Kangana blasted KJo. Star World got more than its promo, if you know what we are referring to (wink wink).
Kangana is not entirely in the wrong here as Karan Johar himself had admitted in an interview to film critic Anupama Chopra that his interest in launching actress Alia Bhatt stemmed from the fact that she is filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt's daughter. But again, he wasn't used to anyone saying it in-your-face to him as Kangana did. Karan retaliated by asking Kangana to leave the industry if she felt suffocated by it. Intolerant to outsiders, much? Point taken. So far, so good, Kangana.
As Vidya Balan pointed out during the promotions of Te3n, "It's very creditable that she is standing up for herself because as women we find it easy to stand up for everyone else but ourselves... We stand up for our fathers, husbands, children and parents but we rarely stand up for ourselves. So kudos and more power to her," she added.
In showbiz, we have heard of hush-hush affairs and heroines not daring to come out for the fear of repercussions, forever. It seemed like Kangana had won round one. While the Hrithik saga died a natural death only to resurface a little later during the promotions of Super 30, the actress' fight with nepotism wasn't over yet. At an award function, actors Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan along with Karan Johar trolled Kangana Ranaut, that too, in her absence! All three men are, incidentally, products of nepotism.
Though the feathers had been ruffled earlier, now we had to admit that there had been no smoke without fire. The men in question had tendered their apologies to Kangana, except Hrithik, and it looked like she had won again.
Round two in bounty as well.
But nepotism or not, Kangana Ranaut continued to be in the news. She was accused of taking away writing credits or 'hijacking' movies under the nose of the director or writer, but we steadfastly stayed by her. Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi was not the blockbuster she was dreaming of, but it clearly announced that there's more to her than acting.
Now, where did it all go haywire?
For the incessant jibes at Alia Bhatt, who's not only younger than the actress but is a power-house performer as well, debunking the theory that all nepotism products lack great acting chops. One's tired with her perceived slights from Taapsee Pannu as well.
A role model is not one who calls out the injustice alone but one who's gracious and forgiving as well. Clearly, Kangana has lost on both accounts.
Further, during the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, Kangana Ranaut openly portrayed her awe of the ruling party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The statements employed by her and the likes of actors Anupam Kher and Vivek Oberoi bordered on fandom rather than serious political following.
The final straw came when she got into an ugly spat with a reporter at a song screening of her upcoming entertainer, Judgementall Hai Kya. Kangana doesn't seem to have taken lightly the critique of her last outing Manikarnika by the reporter.
Sure, I've watched Manikarnika. Did I think it was a good film? Did I like it? Not in the least! Does that mean I, as a media professional, am a 'desh-drohi' (traitor)? Dear Kangana Ranaut, don't I have a right to critique your film without being branded 'anti-national'?
At a time when there have been cases like the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh for daring to raise her voice against the growing intolerance and right-wing officiated violence, to brand journalists who don't agree with you, as 'tenth-fail', 'nalayak', 'desh-drohi', 'fishing for free food', etc., is sadly misinformed.
The latest salvo from Kangana is a legal notice on journalists who had orchestrated a boycott of her through the newly-formed Entertainment Journalists Guild of India.
Once upon a time, Kangana Ranaut took on bullies. Today, she IS the bully.
(Views are of the author's)