VOICES PUSHPESH PANT RAJAT CHAUDHURI SHEILA KUMAR GAUTAM CHINTAMANI AMAR BHUSHAN SADHGURU JAGGI VASUDEV MAGAZINE BUFFET PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT NEW DELHI SEPTEMBER 20 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 KANGANA RANAUT India’s Most Powerful Star For Now An actor slamming the nepotism in Bollywood and the Shiv Sena is a cardinal sin in Mumbai. But Kangana Ranaut has polarised the film industry and escalated her political clout by leveraging both victimhood and aggression, thereby whipping up a storm over Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. “What I do in anger has always worked for me.” “Media has taken its love for filmi kids too far. Stop pampering mediocre work or else bar will never be raised.” “I don’t have any intention to join politics or an election campaign of a political party.” “It’s fun to be a misfit or an underdog if you acknowledge your gifts and befriend your obstacles.” “I am not fighting Karan Johar. I am fighting male chauvinism.” By SMITHA VERMA T here’s a telling scene in the movie Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. The lead actor Kangana Ranaut is embroiled in a friendly swordfight with three men. She had heard one of them mock his companion for fighting like a girl. Ranaut (read Manikarnika) jumps in to prove him wrong and takes on all three. She single-handedly defeats them and wins an elephant from Peshwa Baji Rao II, the Maratha prime minister, for her fighting prowess. After winning the prize, she remarks nonchalantly, “Who was fighting for the elephant? I was fighting for your blessings.” Many would argue Kangana Ranaut’s reel life has juxtaposed with her real life of late. Except, this time, it’s no friendly duel. Ranaut’s verbal battle with political overtones against the bigwigs in Mumbai continues unabashedly Like Manikarnika . on the battlefield, it’s raising much heat and dust. It reached Parliament. Actor and BJP MP Ravi Kishan and Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP and respected actor Jaya Bachchan waded into the Bollywood drug mafia fray Ranaut caused. But she remains unapologetic. The actor has assumed the role of the persecuted outsider who is taking on the powerful nepotism gang in the film industry She has confronted . almost every A-lister in Bollywood levelling charges against them, from nepotism to narcotics. While other actors courted political power from behind the scenes, Ranaut has no such qualms. She called the Shiv Sena-led coalition government in Maharashtra “Sonia Sena” and equated Mumbai with “PoK” (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir). In spite of various actors indulging in photo-ops with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and making sycophantic films, it is Ranaut who has real political clout. She is the first Bollywood celebrity to get Y-plus security from the Centre, which is given only to individuals who are believed to be facing a certain level of threat, though Ranaut faces no credible threats from terrorists or the drug dealers and least of all what she calls the Bollywood mafia. She has cleverly positioned herself as a binary character who is both the victim and the aggressor. Ranaut has become the most powerful film star in India. Angry Young Woman The current phase of the actor’s outbursts started in June when actor Sushant Singh Rajput, reportedly died of , suicide. She claimed that nepotism in Bollywood drove him to his death. She has contradicted herself on her own outsider status; during an award function, Ranaut told the host, “I think I am a part of Bollywood... And especially after Queen you know people have really shown so much love. So I really do not have any reason to feel like an outsider.” This time she has charged top Hindi film producers with sabotaging Rajput’s career as he was an ‘outsider’, just like her. But not everyone believes her. “Rajput had worked with top directors, his films were big hits and he was a talented actor. How could anyone, who hasn’t ever possibly met him, claim he was a victim of nepotism? What does she mean by the movie mafia?” asks Viveck Vaswani, senior actor, writer and producer. It’s a viewpoint held by many in the industry . “It’s good to call out people who meted out injustice to you. But, can you label an entire industry as movie mafia? How can you claim that your experiences in the industry are the same for others too?” asks Renuka Shahane, popular actor and theatre personality She . dismisses charges of nepotism. “Several outsiders, including Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, have made it to the top on their own. So has Ranaut. It is because they are talented,” Shahane adds. Ranaut lambasted another outsider Ayushmann Khurrana as ‘chaploos’ and ‘mediocre’ because he supported Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty Her claims of . ‘movie mafia’, ‘nepotism’, ‘Mumbai is PoK’, ‘drug addiction’ in Bollywood have united the industry which is fuming , like never before. There’s a method to Ranaut’s madness. And there’s a method to her claims. Her political instincts, timing and leveraging social media have Bollywood baffled. “It’s uncomfortable and sad,” says actor and model Dipannita Sharma. “I don’t know if all her claims make her a powerful star or not. But, surely this whole issue has , become a circus. We aren’t behaving in a civilised manner,” she says. Sharma criticises Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut who had used unparliamentary language against Ranaut. Her retaliation stunned Mumbai. She took on Uddhav Thackeray , calling him ‘tu’ instead of the usual respectful address ‘aap’. She used Twitter to portray Chakraborty as the fallen “I am done with Kangana playing the victim card. You cannot be this victim at every given time... Who is forcing you to be in the movies? Leave. Do something else.” KARAN JOHAR, Filmmaker woman and drug peddler who corrupted an innocent Rajput. The media frenzy that followed was stoked the most with fervent support from television channels. She has turned herself into a campaign smartly portraying herself as a middleclass Hindu icon. She wears her saffron shining bright. Last year, she built a temple in her hometown and posted a picture of herself praying on her Instagram account. “I need maximum tweets,” she demands from her followers of whatever hashtag she is promoting for the moment. On social media, Ranaut named film director Anubhav Sinha as not worthy enough to be attending high-profile parties. Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah caustically noted, “Nobody is interested to hear the opinions of a half-educated starlet who has taken it upon herself to get justice for Sushant.” Sinha, the Article 15 director, refuses to engage with her anymore. “These issues have gone way beyond my comprehension,” he says. She snapped back at Shah who has been vocal about the troubles of being a Muslim in today’s India, “Naseeruddin Shah... is angry because I praised Modiji and Hinduism and because I am proud of my religion and background, rather than being ashamed of these.” Sinha isn’t alone. At the outset, many in the industry— from Prakash Raj, Taapsee Pannu to Swara Bhasker—had retaliated. Now few are ready to counter her allegations. “You cannot find purpose in people who say illogical things. They can say one thing today and say something else tomorrow, without any qualms. You can’t argue with that,” concurs Shahane. Ranaut’s most ardent supporters feel hurt by her ‘drugs in Bollywood’ comment. She denied any involvement with drugs. However, she once was a self-confessed junkie herself who was forced to take drugs because she “fell into the hands of such people and all of this happened while I was still a teenager. Imagine how dangerous I am.” (She said it on video.) In a 2016 media interview, her former boyfriend Adhyayan Suman recalled getting into a brawl with Ranaut for refusing to do cocaine at her birthday party in March 2008 at a five-star hotel. They had previously smoked hash together which, he claimed, made him sick. “What she says could be based on her own experiences. The few people she named do not own the industry even though they try to , make others feel so. There are lakhs of people working here. I am a teetotaler and know many people like myself from the industry So the drug allegations . are far-stretched,” says Ashoke Pandit, filmmaker and activist, who supported the actor. Ranaut has little love left for Bollywood. Controversy’s Favourite Child Bollywood has little love for her either. For a small-town girl from Manali coming from a strict Rajput family where nobody spoke English, Ranaut wanted to break into the big bad world of glamour. Despite her obvious talent, she wasn’t accepted by the powerful families, which controlled Hindi cinema. Her English language skills and pronunciation were derided by people like filmmaker Karan Johar. She decided to learn English and speak correctly by hiring a teacher on the sets. When the elitist Johar called Ranaut on his show, he asked her whether she would prefer to be poor and in love or rich without love. She remarked that Johar’s concept of poverty and hers was different and that he was the “flagbearer of nepotism”. Her fans hailed her for her “guts” but the industry made fun of her. In a country where most stars , live in ivory towers honing their Insta looks, Ranaut could have become the voice against injustices meted out to ‘outsiders’ in Bollywood. But Ranaut, one of the highest-paid actors in the industry has chosen to play , the interloper card to her benefit instead. “During the promotions of Manikarnika, none of the big film reviewers or her colleagues praised her work. She was hurt that Alia Bhatt didn’t praise Manikarnika the way Ranaut had appreciated her work. She spoke how she felt like a child who was being bullied by the entire class. Systematically she , started giving it back,” observes Karan Bhardwaj, an online entertainment journalist. Some tinsel town personalities believe that there is substance to some of Ranaut’s statements. Producer Pritish Nandy for one, , Turn to page 2
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