To Kangana Ranaut, Birthday Girl – Bollywood May Not Be Listening, But We Are
Gitanjali Roy,NEW DELHI: It’s Kangana Ranaut’s birthday – you wouldn’t know it from looking at Twitter, which is usually choked with trending hashtags and wishes from other celebrities on a star’s birthday. Today, there is no ‘Happy Birthday Kangana Ranaut’ among the trends list on the micro-blogging site and none of Kangana’s Bollywood colleagues have posted a birthday message. This could be because she’s very emphatically not on social media – but Kareena Kapoor, a Bollywood ‘insider’ if ever there was one, isn’t either and that never stops her celebrity friends from tweeting on her birthday and special occasions, like the birth of Kareena’s son. So, celebrity friends? Kangana Ranaut, 30 today, has few, and refreshingly doesn’t appear to want or need any. In the complex and interlinked equations that comprise Bollywood, Kangana is a free radical.
In the weeks that have passed since she prompted a furious debate on nepotism in Bollywood, Kangana has found herself increasingly isolated in film circles. On the chat show Koffee With Karan, she told host Karan Johar that he would be cast as the ‘flag-bearer of nepotism’ in a biopic of herself, were one ever to be made. Other actors have rushed to distance themselves from the idea that nepotism might have elevated many celebs. Anushka Sharma who, like Kangana, does not belong to a Bollywood family , has cited herself as an example of how to achieve stardom without family connections – and it is true that both she and Kangana (a three-time National Awardee) have been rewarded for their talent. But when Anushka says, as she did to news agency IANS, that “if you are good at your work, people will show interest to collaborate with you, irrespective of your background,” she’s being naive at best, obtuse at worst, as Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who languished for years in bit parts before finally being finally acknowledged and given almost equal screen time as the Khans, might attest to if asked.
Those actors who do belong to Bollywood dynasties have dismissed Kangana’s words – Aamir Khan, who said it’s “a normal human tendency to try and help people you love and care for,” was relatively measured; Sonam Kapoor, speaking on NDTV Spotlight, said she finds Kangana ‘entertaining’ and described her comments as ‘great bathroom reading’; Alia Bhatt told IANS, “We are talking too much about it, we need to stop;” Varun Dhawan, speaking of general charges of nepotism and not Kangana’s in particular, told NDTV, “If fathers won’t do this for their sons then who will? They are acting as if their fathers didn’t buy them a pencil box also.”
Kangana, then, is the sole celebrity voice on one side of an unequal debate – and this is unlikely to make the famously outspoken actress squirm. All of last year, she conducted a very public feud with actor Hrithik Roshan over an alleged romance that she says happened, he says didn’t. He had his supporters, Kangana had hers, and thereby hangs a separate tale. But surely she deserves admiration for being an equal participant, for not flinching when so many in her place might have backed down without a fight. She has similarly spoken her mind at other times and now appears to be held at an arm’s length by much of the film industry.
And so, on Kangana Ranaut’s birthday, here’s a toast to her singular brand of courage. We might not always agree with what she says but we’re always, always listening, especially when Bollywood is not.
(Gitanjali Roy is Lifestyle Editor, NDTV Convergence)