As Kangana Ranaut continues to hog the limelight after the suicide of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput embroiling herself in a war against Shivsena-led Maharashtra government, Number13 brings you the profile of the ‘Queen’ actress.

Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut is no stranger to controversies. The three-time national award winner has been unabashedly vociferous about a lot many things under the sun – from nepotism to Narendra Modi to Shivsena to Sushant Singhs Rajput’s suicide. Kangana’s Twitter entry in August and her subsequent tweets have only added fuel to the raging fire that she set off after the young actor’s untimely demise in June. Today Kangana is many things to many people. For some she is a crusader against nepotism, for some she is the small town girl who made it big through her brilliant acting skills, for some she is a maverick who misses no opportunity to make everything about herself. So who is Kangana Ranaut?

Kangana – the outsider who made it big

Kangana was born in Bhambla, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, as the daughter of Asha Ranaut, a school teacher and Amardeep Ranaut, a businessman. Against the wishes of her parents who desired to see her as a doctor, Kangana relocated to Delhi when she was just 16. After brief stints with modelling and theatre, in 2006 she debuted in the thriller Gangster. This performance won her a lot of critical acclaim. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an easy feat for her. As an outsider to Bollywood, she had to struggle quite a bit to force her entry into the mainstream movie world. Even after proving her mettle as an actor, according to the actress, she was looked down on for her lack of English speaking skills.

In her subsequent movies such as Woh Lamhe (2006), Life in a Metro (2007) and Fashion (2008) she did praiseworthy performances, but was starting to get typecast in neurotic roles. The comedy drama Queen (2014) in which she played a naive small town girl gave her a break from that. The next year she did a dual role in Tanu weds Manu: Returns which became the highest-grossing Hindi film with a female lead. 

She also ventured into screenplay writing and direction meanwhile. Kangana who co-wrote the dialogues for Queen, also claimed that she is a co-writer of Simran. Scriptwriter Apurva Asrani rejected this claim. In 2019 she co-directed the film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. 

After winning the national film award for best supporting actress in 2008 for her role in Fashion, Kangana went on to win the awards for best actress consecutively in 2014 and 2015 for her performances in Queen and Tanu weds Manu: Returns. In 2020 she was conferred with Padma Shri. Her upcoming projects include Thalaivithe biopic of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa

Kangana – the crusader against nepotism

It was by late 2017 that Kangana plunged into a row of controversies. Her appearance in the talk-show Aap Ki Adalat in which she spoke elaborately on her ‘affair’ with Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan opened a Pandora’s box. In the days that followed she lashed out against several celebrities of Bollywood and the nepotistic tendencies of the industry. She didn’t hold back while narrating the exploitation she had to face from industry veteran Aditya Pancholi during her struggling days, nor did she mince her words against the likes of Karan Johar whom she accused of encouraging nepotism. In no time, she became that unabashed voice of change many had been yearning to hear for years. Media houses celebrated her. Kangana became the new poster girl of feminism.

Kangana – the post-truth icon

But it didn’t last. As it started coming to light that many of her controversies were timed around the release of her movies, it turned out that she was more of a clever marketeer than a staunch feminist. Her language became self righteous and intolerant, her accusations didn’t have evidence, her comments lacked depth, substance and even logic. Though many brushed it aside as narcissistic attempts to hog the limelight, the large middle-class population of India that nurtured large ambitions while not so secretly despising the ‘elites’ and ‘intellectuals,’ struck a chord with her.

She made it a point to consistently lash out against fellow artists like Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone.  Even those like Taapsee Pannu and Swara Bhasker who were outsiders like her were not spared. Journalists who wrote negative reviews about her films faced her wrath during pressmeets. Kangana’s war was no more against nepotism, but against anyone who didn’t agree with her.

Kangana, the budding Hindu nationalist

Meanwhile in her tirade, Hindu nationalist elements started surfacing. 

In 2019, after the terrorist attack in Pulwama in Kashmir, artists like Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi cancelled their participation in a two-day literature conference in Karachi. But that didn’t stop Kangana from branding Azmi an ‘anti-national.’ “People like Shabana Azmi calling for halt on cultural exchange – they are the ones who promote Bharat Tere Tukde Honge gangs,” Kangana told an entertainment website. Not satisfied with that she went on to exhort for nothing but the destruction of Pakistan. “The film industry is full of such anti-nationals who boost enemies’ morals in many ways, but right now is the time to focus on decisive actions… Pakistan ban is not the focus, Pakistan destruction is,” she said.

In this overdrive, she was joined by her sister Rangoli Chandel who had been unapologetically spewing vitriol all over social media. After the latter’s controversial tweet in April where she called for shooting ‘mullas and secular media’ dead, Twitter took down her handle. 

As Kangana, in the guise of fighting for justice for Sushant, continues to launch attacks against everyone she has a problem with, she has turned into one of the most powerful weapons of BJP against the Shivsena-led government in Maharashtra. Even the statement by the  lawyer of Sushant Singh Rajput’s father that Kangana speaking about the “general problems” in the industry was for her own and not for Sushant’s case, wouldn’t stop her. As she continued pulling up the Maharashtra government for their ‘lousy’ investigation into Sushant’s case and compared Mumbai to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,  controversies snowballed.

The Shivsena-ruled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ordered the demolition of her office in Mumbai citing illegal construction. In response to this, the actress, who has been provided with Y-plus security by the central government, compared her office to Ram Mandir and BMC to Babur. “This is not just a building for me, but Ram temple itself. Today Babur has come here to demolish it. History will repeat itself and the Ram temple will be razed again, but remember Babur, this temple will be built again. Jai Shri Ram,” she tweeted.

मणिकर्णिका फ़िल्म्ज़ में पहली फ़िल्म अयोध्या की घोषणा हुई, यह मेरे लिए एक इमारत नहीं राम मंदिर ही है, आज वहाँ बाबर आया है, आज इतिहास फिर खुद को दोहराएगा राम मंदिर फिर टूटेगा मगर याद रख बाबर यह मंदिर फिर बनेगा यह मंदिर फिर बनेगा, जय श्री राम , जय श्री राम , जय श्री राम  pic.twitter.com/KvY9T0Nkvi— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) September 9, 2020

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