Mumbai: Kangana Ranaut on the new man in her life, scaling Bollywood’s ‘Great Wal’, and why Majid Majidi’s film was a no-go for her. Her latest screen avatar is Julia, a 1940s diva -beautiful, spirited, ambitious, tempestuous, her own woman.
But Kangana Ranaut, who’s been living with Julia for a while now, insists her public persona is a facade. “Everyone believes Julia is a daredevil because she does her own stunts and celebrates her courage. But deep down, she’s vulnerable and insecure, dependent on her mentor Rusi Billimoria (the film producer in Rangoon, played by Saif Ali Khan). One Can see her in the beginning of the film in get-up, single-handedly beating up goons for the camera. And at the end she’s in the same get-up, doing something significant. Rangoon is her journey towards finding the ‘jaanbaaz’ Julia,” points out the National Award winner, admitting that given her non-filmy background and her struggles to fit in, there are similarities between Jwala Devi aka Julia and her… And differences too.
To start with, Julia sweeps everything embarrassing under the rug as she tries to mold herself into a perfect companion for the rich, royal and anglicised Rusi. “As a girl from the hills who’d naively believed in the equality of the human race, I’ve faced my share of public humiliation which can be heart-breaking, but I did not denounce my background or lose my identity. I picked my own battles,” she asserts.
Kangana admits she groomed herself, learning to dress and do her own make, to command respect while travelling first class, thereby popularising the ‘airport look’ among stars. She learnt English to address a larger audience. But some things which were typically her, she retained, like her often ridiculed sing-song pahadi accent. “I’ve met Mexicans and Italians on travels abroad, whose peculiar English accents carry their lineage. So does mine. I used to be embarrassed when I was younger, but now as a mature woman, I’m proud of my peculiar accent,” she smiles.
In this world, love was so intense that the sight of your beloved could give you nervous cramps, love letters took months to frame, when, if you fell in love with someone while committed to another, you didn’t dismiss it with a whats-app, ‘Dude, it just happened!’ and break-ups didn’t happen over cappuccino. Growing up in the hills in the 80s, Kangana herself remembers how the sight of a senior she had a crush on during school assembly would give her goose-flesh but then they’d go their separate ways, with one reliving the moment and the other, blissfully unaware. “Once, on Valentine’s Day, I bought a card and wrote a few lines of a love song in it, but couldn’t muster the courage to hand it over, afraid that if others got to know, it would lead to a scandal in our small community. The senior the card was intended for is still clueless I once had feelings for him,” she laughs.
He doesn’t know, but another man, whose name she won’t divulge, knows just how much she loves him. Admitting that she needs to feel love, craves its warmth even if it comes from her mother or sister to drive away the cold of the world outside, she says, “Just when my faith in love, relationships and people was shaken to the extent where I was about to give up on it, this man came my way. He knows what my life has been like, all that I’ve been through, and still thinks of me as a hero. That means the world to me. Now, I don’t mind having gone through so much ugliness to find something so beautiful. And I can tell others that no matter what, it’s important to believe in love and invest in relationships,” she says.
Of late, there’s been plenty of speculation about her doing Majid Majidi’s next film, Beyond the Clouds. Kangana admits she was approached for it, but it’s a brother-sister story. “And the brother is the one doing all the fighting. Since I’m jumping straight into Ketan Mehta’s Jhansi Ki Rani, who was an iconic heroine, why would I want to take on such a submissive role?”