Kangana Ranaut – Bollywood’s Unabashed, Unapologetic and Unconventional Superstar

Kangana Ranaut - a name that sparks controversy and makes you scribble through the internet to see what has she done now? Over the years, Hindi film lovers, fans, haters, media, and even her colleagues, have labelled Kangana as the troublemaker. But what most of the time gets brushed away to the sidelines is the fact that she has also been a multi-talented achiever, trailblazer, and disruptor.

Kangana Ranaut at an event

Stepping foot in the film industry through an unconventional debut (Gangster in 2006) to igniting the conversation (which has now become an ugly verbal brawl) on nepotism in Bollywood, Kangana has never shied away from breaking the mould.

Beneath the ripples that she creates with her solid views and extreme (and often questionable) opinions, is an actress par excellence; the one who knows how to own every frame of the movie she stars in. On her birthday, we take a look at some of her best work on-screen.

Panga (2020)

Kangana Ranaut at an event for her film, 'Panga'

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s directorial venture with Nitesh Tiwari’s script is a strong testimonial to Kangana’s acting prowess. She brings the right amount of vulnerability to the role of a sportswoman, who tries to make a comeback after taking a hiatus to pursue her personal life. As Jaya Nigam, the former Kabbadi champion, Kangana switches with ease, from a young and thriving sports star to a weary mother, to a hard-working athlete seeking comeback.

Fashion (2008)

A scene from the film, 'Fashion'

Winning her first National Award (for Best Supporting Actress) in just two years after her debut, Kangana made a deep imprint on the film industry with this one. She played the role of a drug-addict supermodel with oodles of oomph and a magnetic screen presence, even while sharing screen-space with the terrific Priyanka Chopra. She had nailed not only the perfect catwalk but also the complex emotions of fading stardom in this Madhur Bhandarkar-directorial.

Queen (2013)

A milestone in Kangana’s career, Queen gave her a spot among India’s top actresses as well as another National Award (for Best Actress). As Rani, the girl-next-door who is jilted by her fiancé, Kangana’s performance was raw and poignant. Kangana co-wrote the dialogues for the film, which was not just a block-buster but also highly appreciated by critics for its originality.

Tanu Weds Manu franchise (2011 and 2015)

Official poster of the film, 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns'

The 2011 Tanu Weds Manu came at a point when Kangana had played a bunch of troubled, heavy, and complex characters in films like Gangster, Woh Lamhe, Life in a Metro, and Raaz: The Mystery Continues. But this film, by Anand L Rai, gave the audience a new Kangana –flamboyant, flawed, yet appealing and super fun. Tanuja/Tanu Trivedi is arguably her most loved character after Rani of Queen.

In the 2015 sequel of the film, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Kangana brought Tanuja Tridevi to life once again while also living Kusum/Datto with a different shade flamboyance and confidence. Kangana won her third National Award for this film.  

Rangoon (2017)

This Vishal Bharadwaj-film presented Kangana in a never-seen-before manner. How often do we see a heroine portraying the character of a stunt woman, an action queen who rides horses, runs atop of a moving train, and bashes up the baddies to save the tied-up hero in a Hindi film? Kangana’s feisty performance as Julia was arguably the most memorable part of the film.

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019)

Last year marked Kangana’s debut as a director. Her performance as the legendary warrior queen Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi was labelled as her career-best by many film critics. The movie also has the unique distinction of a special screening hosted by the President of India, Kovind Nath, after which Kangana and her crew were felicitated.

Earlier this year, Kangana announced the launch of her production house – Manikarnika Films. The coming year looks action-packed for the actress-cum-writer-cum-filmmaker with a strong line up of films like Thalaivi, the biopic on former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister P.Jayalalitaa; Tejas, where Kangana is a fighter pilot, and Dhakkad, which promises another action-packed ride.

Though Kangana’s extreme opinions on the on-going issues in the country and her now-constant calling out her colleagues from the industry is staggering, one must also agree with the intense bashing the film industry and media subjects her to. If we can call Aamir Khan a ‘perfectionist’ for over-involving himself in various aspects of filmmaking of his movies, why call Kangana Ranaut a ‘control freak’ for doing the same? If we can accept everything Salman Khan does or says as his ‘style and swag’, why reprimand Kangana for ‘speaking her mind’?

From being mocked for her ‘strange accent’ to becoming one of the most articulate speakers in the film industry, from being called ‘a witch doing black magic’ to winning, and from challenging rules of the game to becoming one of the highest paid actresses of the country - Kangana has indeed carved a niche for herself with her style, persona and talent.

Here’s wishing the Kangana a very happy birthday!


(Edited by Athira Nair)