The art of acting

Once in a while I get to interview film stars, directors or talent as it is called. And it is great fun because both the craft of cinema and the world it creates fascinate me. At a Confederation of Indian Industry do, late last year after I had anchored a discussion on Indian cinema with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Anupam Kher, the offline chat was illuminating. The phenomenally talented Siddiqui who was somewhat tongue-tied on stage said later that he was petrified of being asked a “bhaari bharkam intellectual sawaal.” He admitted that the only time he was completely at ease was when the camera was on!

Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a big hit running in theatres currently, has Kangana Ranaut playing Tanu with gusto. But it is her athletic double, the Haryanvi Kusum that sparkles. She is unrecognisable as she plays the short, toothy, spunky character. How on earth did she prepare for it? File pic
Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a big hit running in theatres currently, has Kangana Ranaut playing Tanu with gusto. But it is her athletic double, the Haryanvi Kusum that sparkles. She is unrecognisable as she plays the short, toothy, spunky character. How on earth did she prepare for it? File pic

In April, just before the release of Tanu Weds Manu Returns, I spent an hour chatting with Kangana Ranaut for a profile in the Business Standard. Unlike Siddiqui, she is a hard nut to crack. She is totally disinterested in between questions, but she sparkles with wit and insight on anything to do with her work or her current success. Success, “feels good, I am being offered the work I deserve. It is like being aroused for climax, because this is what I have worked hard for.” While I am still laughing at that one, she goes ahead and cracks a few more gems.

Tanu Weds Manu, Aanand Rai’s 2011 small-town saga, is a good example of the area in which Kangana Ranaut was almost typecast. The spoilt, somewhat neurotic Tanu is in love with someone else and gives her fiancée a really hard time before falling in love with him. Its sequel Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a big hit running in theatres currently, has her playing Tanu with gusto. But it is her athletic double, the Haryanvi Kusum that sparkles. She is unrecognisable as she plays the short, toothy, spunky character. How on earth did she prepare for it? Or for Vikas Bahl’s Queen, her solo hit last year, or Sai Kabir’s cuckoo but brilliant Revolver Rani (2014).

“I can’t express the technique. But I spent 15 days roaming around in Paris in the clothes that Rani wears. For Tanu Weds Manu Returns I spent a week (in disguise) on the Delhi University campus watching how the girls behave,” she says. It is a tough job being an actor. “It is very hard to surrender, especially when you know that every pore of your skin is being watched by the camera; it is very difficult to get out of a director what his vision is for a film or a character. Many of things I do in Queen were not conveyed to me quite like that,” says she.

How on earth did a 28-year-old, who came out of Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, and who had no godfather in the incestuous world of Indian cinema, reach a stage where scripts are being written for her and the trade is willing to pick up her films. It is rare for that to happen to a female actor. The last really big female superstars were Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi. Ranaut is scathing about the gender disparity that works at “different levels” of the film industry which is full of “weak people.” Though she does admit that it has good people too, otherwise she wouldn’t be where she is.

The most fun interviews I have had however are with Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar. They enjoy their work, speak eloquently about the craft and are completely unapologetic about their approach. Johar did mention in one interview with me that he wants to change several things in his earlier films. Kashyap’s brand of self-obsessed, existential kind of films have a cult following. And that is why fans were disappointed with Bombay Velvet. But he simply said he made the film he wanted.

The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/vanitakohlik

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