Kangana Ranaut made her debut back in 2006, with Gangster. And though she’s been around for the last eight years, 2014 might just prove to be the best of her career so far.
With a couple of new films that have got people talking, and where she plays the lead rather than the second fiddle, Kangana seems determined to find success without a big male star’s name to draw audiences.
On International Women’s Day (March 8), the girl from a small town in Himachal Pradesh who made it in Bollywood, talks about success, gender-discrimination and the need to be independent.
You suddenly seem to be in a new phase of your career, one where your focus seems to be on women-centric roles.
It’s not like I have taken up some kind of an agenda; neither am I working towards a concrete plan of doing only women-centric films. Having said that, I am an artiste…an actor. And every actor likes to play the central character.
As an independent woman, what message would you give to other women?
In our country, a big problem is that women are not in control of their own lives. As a result, they cannot lead a dignified life. So, the one message I’d give is that every girl should be independent, and be useful to society. Most of your problems get sorted if you are independent.
Can female lead actors ever be on par with Bollywood’s leading men, in terms of fame, or the kind of sustained success?
Male actors bring a lot of commercial value to their films. I won’t say that women cannot do that, but they are not given that kind of opportunity. I too give 16 hours a day to my character; I too get into the method-acting mode; I stay away from my family for months; I too don’t have a personal life; and I make sacrifices at various levels, just like they do. Maybe not on the level of commercial appeal, but in terms of effort, personally, I’d like to think that I am following Aamir Khan’s footstep, because he’s someone who is extremely dedicated.
What are the battles you’ve had to fight to get to this level?
My battles have been on several levels. The first is with your own self, where I needed to obtain clarity on what I want to be in life. Then, there were external obstacles. When you’re a single girl in the industry, without the backing of your family, men try to dominate you; some egoistic people also think of you as a soft target. This happens in any workplace; in the corporate world as much as in the film industry. Besides, in our culture, we still raise girls telling them to follow, not lead. We suppress their confidence. Everyone tells you to be a ‘nice girl’, and everyone has a different definition for it.
What kind of changes would give women equal footing in Bollywood?
There should be proper casting agencies, so that no one has an upper hand. Here, usually, the hero has an upper hand; guys take (casting) calls all the time, and you become an insignificant part of the film. I know how it works. I have worked in such films.
Has Bollywood evolved?
Remuneration for female actors: The male counterpart still gets paid much more than the girl. He might even hike his fee after a film, but it doesn’t happen in a girl’s case.
Respect for actresses: It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it can get better. The kind of characters we write for women, we reduce them to mere sex objects.
Are women taken seriously?: I have been taken seriously. A lot of money is riding on me. But I can only speak for myself. I can’t say everyone is.