“I was in New York when I saw all the fake letters my lover had leaked. Among them was one paragraph.... One paragraph that I had written to him.” - Kangana Ranaut
She is feisty, honest and does not mince words. And, she “chose freedom over a golden cage”. On September 1, she sat down for a chat with Barkha Dutt at the Grand Ballroom of The Leela, Mumbai. The event was The Town Hall, a series of conversations hosted by THE WEEK and Mojo, supported by Federal Bank, in association with Mirror Now. This was not actor Kangana Ranaut’s first no-holds-barred conversation, of course. But, each time she took to the stage, she shook up the audience with her candour. The Town Hall went hot fast, as Ranaut mentioned names she had not earlier.
It did not matter in what form her freedom came; she always made sure to choose the open sky even if it came by sleeping on the pavement, or by going without food. She realised quite early that the ones who could make you could break you too. “You’ll have a deal, a barter of some kind [with a mentor],” she told Dutt, narrating her harrowing experience as a newcomer in Bollywood. “You will always be a puppet on strings. What’s the point of having a journey, what’s the point of leaving your father’s house in the first place if you want to be a puppet? Then be a puppet in your father’s or husband’s hands. It’s a superficial success that you get by succumbing to another’s expectations about you. It looks very easy, but then it is not true success. I did not have this clarity, but what I had was this desire to break free. You cannot keep me within four walls; I would rather be homeless.”
In an earlier interview with Dutt, the actor had confessed to being locked up and beaten up by a man who was as old as her father. He once hit her so hard that she tumbled to the floor, bleeding from her head. She said at that moment she realised she was a fighter. Given the history of Ranaut’s relationships and the police case she filed against the man, everyone on the circuit knew who it was. However, at The Town Hall, the name was out in the open when Dutt persuaded her to make a full disclosure about Aditya Pancholi.
“I am a year younger than his daughter,” Ranaut said. “I was a minor at that time. For me, it was all very new, this world that I had come into.” She recalled going to Pancholi’s wife, Zarina Wahab, for help. Wahab told her that her “greatest relief was that he [Pancholi] does not come home anymore”.
Ranaut was clueless about the next step. Going to the cops might have resulted in them sending her back to her parents. “I did not know which is worse,” she said. “Because then you are going back to the same vicious cycle of papa; the same overpowering, powerful husband. The vicious cycle never breaks.” She said the best thing she did was to go to the cops. “I want to tell young girls that it takes a lot of courage, but the right thing is to seek the help of authorities,” she said.
Hailing from a small town in Himachal Pradesh, Ranaut struggled with English. She was launched in 2006, and in her initial days in the industry she realised that at least 80 per cent of the interviews were in English. “It became a huge [struggle] for me to communicate,” she said. “I did not feel any lack of confidence, but the culture in show-business was such. Someone with an accent was appreciated even in the modelling world, where you didn’t have to speak at all!” She said she used to be surprised when someone like Upen Patel or any other NRI model would land a job on the back of accented English. “Queen’s English seemed to be the criterion,” she said.
At this point, Dutt emphasised that no matter what a successful woman did, she would be judged—for her ambition, her personal choices, for whom she chooses to marry, or not marry.... One of the worst things that Ranaut heard about herself was that she practised black magic. “It doesn’t end there—you do black magic using your menstrual blood! Isn’t that the story?” Dutt probed. Ranaut said it was absurd. “And, it was a note written by the editor [of DNA After Hrs], Sarita A. Tanwar, an educated woman,” the actor clarified. “That, how she also feared that there were laddus that she and her friends might have eaten with my blood in it. Where do we live? In medieval ages? It’s horrible.” Ranaut said women are failing other women when they make such statements.
Ranaut’s life has been a roller-coaster ride, and one of the most talked about events has been her relationship with Hrithik Roshan. The talk around it began almost one and a half years ago, when she referred to a “silly ex” in an interview. Hrithik slapped her with a legal notice, and claimed she was having email interactions with an imposter. She hit back with a suit. Eventually, the cyber cell clarified that there was no imposter. There was silence around the issue for some time, and Ranaut was busy shooting for Simran. So, people assumed the case had died a natural death. Ranaut did not want to give that impression.
“The case has gone in circles and circles. I am here to simplify it,” said Ranaut. “He sent me a notice saying, ‘I am the silly ex that you are talking about and you should apologise to me publicly because it has caused great damage to my public image’. He also said that if I failed to do so, he would ‘leak some of my private images and videos’.”
She said she replied that first he would have to prove that he was the silly ex, and, two, he could not blackmail her as it carried a seven-year sentence. “He was shocked that I had hired a lawyer and was not scared. He didn’t believe that people from villages also have money to hire lawyers,” jested the actor.
The evening ended with a Q&A session. Among others, blogger Malini Agarwal of MissMalini.com posed a question sent to her by a Ranaut fan: What would she do if she turned into Hrithik for one day? “I would admit to all my mistakes, and apologise,” the actor replied, light-heartedly.
And, then, before the crowd broke up and the cocktails were poured, there was a moment of pain. Dutt asked her for her saddest moment ever. Ranaut said, “I was in New York when I saw all the fake letters my lover had leaked. Among them was one paragraph.... One paragraph that I had written to him.”
Mirror Now will air The Town Hall at 3:30pm on September 16, and 4:30pm on September 17.