Kangana Ranaut

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Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut smiling at the camera
Ranaut at the Signature International Fashion Weekend, 2013
Born (1987-03-23) 23 March 1987 (age 27)
Bhambla, Mandi District, Himachal Pradesh, India
Other names Kangna Ranaut
Occupation Actress
Years active 2006–present

Kangana Ranaut (pronounced [kənɡənaː raːɳoːʈʰ]; born 23 March 1987) is an Indian actress. She has established a successful career in Bollywood films, and is the recipient of a National Film Award and two Filmfare Awards.

Born in Bhambla, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, Ranaut initially aspired to a career in medicine on the insistence of her parents. Adamant on building her own career path, she relocated to Delhi at age sixteen, where she briefly dabbled with modelling. After training under the theatre director Arvind Gaur, Ranaut made her feature film debut with the 2006 thriller Gangster, for which she was awarded the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut. She subsequently received praise for portraying emotionally intense characters in the dramas Woh Lamhe (2006), Life in a... Metro (2007) and Fashion (2008). For the last of these, she won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Filmfare Award in the same category.

Ranaut subsequently featured in the commercially successful films Raaz – The Mystery Continues (2009) and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (2010), though was criticised for being typecast in neurotic roles. A comic role in the 2011 box office hit Tanu Weds Manu proved to be a turning point in her career, though this was followed by a series of brief, glamorous roles in films that failed to propel her career forward. She then portrayed a superwoman in the science fiction film Krrish 3 (2013), one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time, and established herself as a leading actress of Hindi cinema with the comedy-drama Queen (2014).

Early life and background

Ranaut was born on 23 March 1987 at Bhambla (now Surajpur), a small town in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, into a Rajput family.[1][2][3] Her mother, Asha Ranaut, is a school teacher, and her father, Amardeep Ranaut, is a businessman.[4] She has an elder sister, Rangoli, who now works as her manager, and a younger brother, Akshat.[5][6] Her great-grandfather, Sarju Singh Ranaut, was a Member of the Legislative Assembly and her grandfather, was an IAS officer.[7] She grew up in a joint family at their ancestral haveli in Bhambla, and has described her childhood as "simple and happy".[6][8]

Ranaut has said that she was "stubborn and rebellious" while growing up: "If my father would gift my brother a plastic gun and get a doll for me, I would not accept that. I questioned the discrimination."[9] She didn't subscribe to the stereotypes that were expected of her, and experimented with fashion from a young age: "I would pair up accessories and clothes that, to my neighbours, would seem just bizarre."[8][9] Ranaut was educated at the DAV School in Chandigarh, where she pursued science as her core subject, remarking that she was "very studious" and "always paranoid about [...] results".[10][11] She was initially inclined to become a doctor: "I was brought up being told that medicine was a noble choice of career, that I should grow up and be a doctor so I could treat the poor for free. I believed in that, wholeheartedly because that's how kids in those days were trained to 'be good and do good'."[12] A failed unit test in chemistry during her twelfth grade led Ranaut to reconsider her career prospect, and despite preparing for the All India Pre Medical Test, she didn't turn up for the exam.[12] Determined to find her "space and freedom", she relocated to Delhi at the age of sixteen.[5][13] Her decision to not pursue medicine led to "constant arguments" with her parents and her father refused to sponsor her "aimless pursuit".[9]

In Delhi, Ranaut was unsure of what career prospect to choose; the Elite Modelling Agency were impressed by her looks and suggested that she model for them.[4][13] She took on a few modelling assignments, but generally disliked the career as she found "no scope for creativity".[4][13] Ranaut, thus, decided to shift focus towards acting, and joined the Asmita Theatre Group, where she trained under the theatre director Arvind Gaur.[14] She has said: "It's because of theatre that I'm so comfortable in films [...] Arvind was very kind. I went to him and said, I'm going to Bombay, and I need a sort of crash course in acting. So, he taught me acting specially, just for an hour everyday."[15] She participated in Gaur's theatre workshop at the India Habitat Centre, acting in several of his plays, including the Girish Karnad-scripted Taledanda.[16] During a screening, one of the male actors went missing; Ranaut who had been "observing the character from a distance and had an idea about the dialogues and body language" played the part along with her original role of a woman.[17] A positive reaction from the audience prompted her to relocate to Mumbai to pursue a career in film, and she enrolled herself for a four-month acting course from Asha Chandra's drama school.[18]

Ranaut struggled with her meager earnings during this period, eating only "bread and aachar (pickle)";[9] her father offered to contribute financially, but she refused, later remarking that "it [was] the most damaging thing I did in my life, as it scarred my relationship with him."[7] Her decision to act in films deteriorated her relationship with her relatives;[5] her parents were "horrified", thinking that she would be exploited, her grandfather asked her to drop her surname, and they didn't correspond with her for several years.[2][6][9] Ranaut later said: "Today, I have everything one can imagine and there is nothing I want from them, although I do a lot for my family and friends today."[2]


Film debut and critical acclaim

Kangana Ranaut is smiling away from the camera
Ranaut at the 2006 Global Indian Film Awards where she won the Best Female Debut award for Gangster[19]

In 2004, the producers Ramesh Sharma and Pahlaj Nilani announced that Ranaut would make her film debut with the Deepak Shivdasani-directed I Love You Boss.[3][20] The following year, the director Anurag Basu spotted Ranaut at a coffee shop in Mumbai, and offered her a chance to audition for the lead role in the romantic thriller Gangster;[13] she was confirmed for the role after over 20 audition rounds and subsequently opted out of I Love You Boss to film Gangster.[20][21] Ranaut was cast in the central role of Simran, an alcoholic woman caught in a romantic triangle between a notorious gangster (played by Shiney Ahuja) and a sympathetic friend (played by Emraan Hashmi). Ranaut was seventeen while filming and said that she "had difficulty first in understanding and then unwinding from the character", describing her craft as "raw and immature."[22] Released in 2006, Gangster emerged as a critical and commercial success and her performance was praised.[23][24] Raja Sen of Rediff.com said that "Kangana is a remarkable find, the actress coming across with great conviction. Hers is the pivotal character, and an extremely difficult role to essay, but she manages it well [...] Kangana's nuances [of an alcoholic character] are disconcertingly realistic. From the slur to the pout, the glassy eyes to the hesitant gait, she nails the role [...] she does an impressive job, especially for a debut."[25] She won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut, along with various other debut awards.[26]

Ranaut's next role was in the Mohit Suri-directed drama Woh Lamhe (2006), a semi-biographical film based on the schizophrenic actress Parveen Babi and her relationship with the director Mahesh Bhatt.[27] She said that portraying Babi had left her emotionally drained: "I had become so close to her that I had begun to feel her desolation and loneliness."[28] Film critic Subhash K. Jha wrote that Ranaut "is the first female performer of Bollywood since Smita and Shabana who isn't scared to strip her soul naked for the camera", adding that she is "[a] hugely expressive actress with a phemomenal ability to convey torment, hurt and incredulity through the eyes".[29] Despite positive reviews, the film underperformed at the box office.[30][31]

The following year, Ranaut played a "far less troubled character", an aspiring musician, in Suneel Darshan's musical thriller Shakalaka Boom Boom, alongside Bobby Deol, Upen Patel and Celina Jaitley.[32] The film's production was marred by dispute between Ranaut and Darshan; she objected to her voice being dubbed by another artist, but Darshan insisted that he needed a particular "twang and accent" for her character.[33] India Today described the film as an "amateur mess", and the film proved to be a box office flop.[24][34] She next reunited with Anurag Basu for the ensemble drama Life in a... Metro, playing the supporting role of Neha, a shrewd socialite engaged in an affair with her married boss (played by Kay Kay Menon). Despite a poor initial at the box office, the film emerged as a profitable venture.[35] Khalid Mohamed of Hindustan Times was critical of the film, noting its lack of originality and realism,[36] though Raja Sen was more positive and reviewed that Ranaut is "refreshing [...] and manages to herd her emotions well, playing a complex role but hardly ever overreaching", however, writing that her delivery of English dialogues "makes you wince."[37] For her role, Ranaut was awarded the Stardust Award for Breakthrough Performance – Female.[26]

Ranaut next portrayed a village girl in Dhaam Dhoom, a Tamil romantic thriller, opposite Jayam Ravi. Production on the film was temporarily halted when the director Jeeva died of a cardiac arrest while filming; the film was completed by the crew members and released in 2008.[38] A review carried by Post wrote that Ranaut had "little scope" in a role that did not suit her.[39] India Today described her next film, the Madhur Bhandarkar-directed drama Fashion (2008), to be a "landmark" in her career.[23] Set against the backdrop of the Indian fashion industry, the film co-starred Priyanka Chopra and Mugdha Godse, and featured Ranaut as Shonali Gujral, a substance abusing supermodel struggling to cope with her floundering career. The media speculated her role to be based on the former model Geetanjali Nagpal, which both Ranaut and Bhandarkar denied.[40] Concerned that the role was indeed based on Nagpal, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) ordered a stay on the film's release, approving only after a script narration.[a][41] With a worldwide revenue of INR600 million (US$10 million), Fashion emerged as a commercial success,[42] and was listed by Subhash K. Jha as of the best women-oriented films of the decade.[43] Ranaut's performance drew unanimous critical acclaim.[23] Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama wrote, "the real star is Kangna. Her role may not be as lengthy as that of Priyanka, but the actress pitches in an awesome performance. Her confidence at the very start is infectious and her overall performance deserves an ovation."[44] Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India labelled Ranaut as the "scene stealer", adding that she "does an exquisite metamorphosis from a wispy, high-strung, nervous child-woman to a stunning ramp diva."[45] Her portrayal earned Ranaut several awards, including the National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.[26]

Career fluctuations

The supernatural horror film Raaz – The Mystery Continues from director Mohit Suri was Ranaut's first film release of 2009, in which she played a "successful and independent" model who is possessed by a ghost.[46] The film co-starred Emraan Hashmi and Adhyayan Suman, and proved to be a financial success.[24] Subhra Gupta of The Indian Express noted that Ranaut was getting stereotyped in roles that required her to be "hysterical", adding that she needed a "radical change of image".[47] Also that year, she played the leading lady in the drama Vaada Raha and the Telugu action film Ek Niranjan, neither of which were particularly notable.[23] In a review for the latter, Rediff.com published, "[Ranaut] looks pretty but as far as performance goes, there's nothing much to write about as the script doesn't have anything for her to showcase her acting skills".[48]

Ranaut with co-star R. Madhavan at a promotional event for Tanu Weds Manu, 2011

In Anurag Basu's romantic thriller Kites (2010), Ranaut portrayed a brief role as the fiancée of Hrithik Roshan's character. She said that she felt "cheated" after watching the film, as her character proved to be much smaller than what she had initially signed on for.[49] She then portrayed Rehana, a film actress, in the Milan Luthria-directed gangster film Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. Also starring Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai, the film chronicles the rise and subsequent fall of an underworld don (played by Devgn) in the 1970s. Ranaut said that her character was "a mix" of the actress Madhubala and the gangster Haji Mastan's wife, and in preparation she observed the work of the actresses Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi.[50] The film was one of the most successful releases of the year, and garnered positive reviews from critics.[51][52] Sudish Kamath of The Hindu labelled her a "delight" and Mid Day's Sarita Tanwar praised her for being "totally convincing" in the role.[53][54] After playing a television reporter in the thriller Knock Out, Ranaut actively looked for a comedy and found the role in Anees Bazmee's No Problem; both films failed to propel her career forward.[23][55]

Bollywood Hungama published that after establishing a reputation for portraying neurotic characters, Ranaut was seeking projects that would be "less emotionally exhausting" for her.[56] Her first release of 2011 was Anand L. Rai's Tanu Weds Manu, a romantic comedy opposite R. Madhavan, which Ranaut considers a "game changer" for her.[57][58] Rai said that he cast Ranaut for the role to "showcase her in a different light" adding that it was "poles apart from life vs death roles that [she] has played in the past".[59] Critical reaction to the film was mixed, though Ranaut's performance was praised.[24][26][60] Kaveree Bamzai labelled Ranaut the "star" of the feature, and Rajeev Masand added, "Kangana Ranaut is a pleasant surprise in a cheery, upbeat part that we haven't seen her take on before. She rises to the challenge, only hampered occasionally by her mangled dialogue delivery."[61][62] Ranaut received Best Actress nominations at several award ceremonies, including Screen and Zee Cine.[63][64]

Ranaut followed the success of Tanu Weds Manu by starring in a series of brief, glamorous roles in four other films of 2011: Game, Double Dhamaal, Rascals and Miley Naa Miley Hum. With the exception of Double Dhamaal, none of these films performed well.[23][24] She later said that she did some of these films due to a dearth of film offers: "We are independent women who run their own houses and it is not necessary that you can always get the kind of work you want to do. So sitting ideal and jobless at home is not the option."[65][66] The following year, Ranaut portrayed a supporting role opposite Ajay Devgn in Priyadarshan's action thriller Tezz, another box office flop.[24]

2013 onwards

A woman looking away from the camera
Ranaut at the success party of Queen, 2014

The director Sanjay Gupta cast Ranaut in a brief role opposite John Abraham in the crime thriller Shootout at Wadala (2013) due to her ability to stand out in a predominantly male-centric film.[67] The Daily News and Analysis' Tushar Joshi wrote that her role was written "to provide the sex quotient", and critic Vinayak Chakravorty opined that she "does not get much scope [...] beyond the steamy lovemaking grind".[68][69] Commercially, the film performed moderately well.[24]

Ranaut achieved success later in 2013 for her portrayal of Kaya, a shape-shifting mutant, in Rakesh Roshan's science fiction film Krrish 3, alongside Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra and Vivek Oberoi.[70][71] When Rakesh Roshan first offered the role to her, she declined it due a disappointing prior association with him on Kites, in which Roshan had served as producer.[49] After other actresses rejected the role, Roshan approached her again, assuring her that the role would not be a minuscule one.[72][73] She accepted the offer, later saying: "The character is superb, the fight sequences are so good [...] I'm really glad I did it".[49] Critics thought that Krrish 3 "entertains but lacks originality", though Ranaut's performance garnered praise.[23][74] The critic Sarita Tanwar reviewed: "Kangana Ranaut is delightful as an alien making the weird hair and clothes work for her. She even manages to make you feel her pain. Quite an accomplishment that!"[75] With global ticket sales of INR3 billion (US$50 million), the film emerged as one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time, becoming Ranaut's most financially profitable venture.[24][76] Also that year, Ranaut played the eponymous lead in the musical drama Rajjo. The film was a critical and commercial failure and Ranaut's portrayal of a nautch girl was largely criticised.[24][77] Paloma Sharma of Rediff.com commented that "Kangana Ranaut struggles with her Mumbaiyya dialogues and is not as graceful in the dance sequences as one would have expected."[78]

In 2014, Ranaut established herself as a leading actress of contemporary Hindi cinema when she featured alongside Rajkummar Rao and Lisa Haydon in the coming-of-age dramedy Queen; she also co-wrote the dialogues with Anvita Dutt Guptan.[79][80] The film tells the story of Rani, a naive girl who embarks on her honeymoon alone after her fiancé calls off their wedding. Ranaut described the role to be one of the toughest she had played: "I have always been independent and confident, but, this girl is so unsure about her life. She is neither confident about her decisions, nor has any firm opinion on anything."[81][82] The film and Ranaut's performance received unanimous acclaim from critics.[83] Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV called the film "a sparkling little gem", adding that Ranaut "is the heart and soul of Queen and she does not strike a single false note."[84] Devesh Sharma of Filmfare wrote: "It’s Kangana’s film from frame one. The way she flits from one aspect of her character to another without breaking stride shows her maturity as an actor. Her efforts make you clap for Rani’s small and big victories, you root for her character to come up trumps and are glad about the glorious transformation at the end."[85] With a domestic total of INR600 million (US$10 million), the film also emerged as a box office hit.[24][86]

Upcoming projects

Ranaut has several upcoming projects in various stages of development. She has completed work on two films that are scheduled for a 2014 release—the black comedy Revolver Rani with Vir Das, and the Karan Johar-produced drama Ungli alongside Emraan Hashmi, Sanjay Dutt and Randeep Hooda.[87][88] She has also completed work on I Love New Year, a romantic comedy with Sunny Deol, which after numerous delays is awaiting release.[89] Ranaut will be making her production and directorial debut with an English language short film entitled The Touch, dealing with the relationship between a four-year old boy and a dog; she co-wrote the screenplay with an Australian writer and completed principal photography in America.[90][91] Ranaut has also signed on for a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu, where she will feature in a double role, and Sujoy Ghosh's thriller Durga Rani Singh in which she will play a 35-year old mother to a paralytic teenage girl.[92][93]

Personal life

Kangana Ranaut is walking the ramp
Ranaut at the 2011 Femina Miss India ceremony

Ranaut has said that her initial years in the film industry were marked with difficulties as she was unprepared to be an actress: "I didn't understand anything. The camera would be somewhere and I would be standing somewhere else".[22] She was conscious of her poor command of the English language, and struggled to "fit in":[22]

"People in the industry treated me like I didn’t deserve to be spoken to and I was some unwanted object. I couldn't speak English fluently and people made fun of me for that. So dealing with rejection became a part of life. [...] All that has taken a toll, I guess. I find it hard to deal with praise. Today, when people say that I have made it and made it on my own, I feel like locking up myself somewhere... It scares me."[94]

Ranaut found support in the actor Aditya Pancholi and his wife Zarina Wahab, and considered them her "family away from home".[94] She was embroiled in a well publicised scandal when the media speculated on the nature of her relationship with Pancholi.[95] She declined to speak about it openly, though made several public appearances with him.[96] In 2007 it was reported that Ranaut had filed a police complaint against Pancholi for physically assaulting her under the influence of alcohol.[97][98] The following year Pancholi confirmed the affair in an interview, saying that he had been cohabiting with Ranaut in the past, and accused her of owing him money worth INR2.5 million (US$42,000).[99] In response, Ranaut's spokesperson said that "[a]fter physically assaulting her in the middle of a road, he has no right to expect anything from her", adding that she had "already given INR5 million (US$84,000) to [him] as a goodwill gesture".[99] Ranaut later said that "[d]ating a married man was a mistake" and that the incident had left her "physically and mentally" damaged.[9][100]

While filming Raaz – The Mystery Continues in 2008, Ranaut began a romantic relationship with co-star Adhyayan Suman.[101] On Suman's insistence that he focus on his professional career, the couple had an "amicable" separation the following year.[102] From 2010 to 2012, Ranaut was involved in a long-distance romance with Nicholas Lafferty, an English doctor;[103][104] she described the relationship as "the most normal" she ever had, deciding to split because she wasn't ready for marriage, but has said that they remained on good terms.[22][94] She has since maintained that she will never get married,[22][103] and has said that being in a relationship was no longer a priority for her: "I want to do some other things. I want to go [...] trekking and learn French cooking and more about wines."[105]

Ranaut has maintained a strong connect, and makes yearly visits to her hometown of Bhambla.[9] She lives in Mumbai with her sister Rangoli, who had been a victim of an acid attack in 2006.[106] A practicing Hindu, Ranaut follows the teachings of the spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda and considers meditation to be "the highest form of worshipping God".[107] She practices vegetarianism and was listed as "India's hottest vegetarian" in a poll conducted by PETA in 2013.[108] Since 2009 Ranaut has been studying the dance form of kathak from the Nateshwar Nritya Kala Mandir.[109] She has said that the technical process of filmmaking is of tremendous interest to her,[110] and to better her understanding of it Ranaut enrolled for a two-month screenplay writing course at the New York Film Academy in 2014.[111][112] In an interview with Filmfare she said that despite her stardom, she wants to lead a normal life: "I don’t want to lose my rights as a common person to learn and grow".[65]

Filmography, awards and nominations

Ranaut has been the recipient of a National Film Award in the Best Supporting Actress category for Fashion (2008), and two Filmfare Awards: Best Female Debut for Gangster (2006) and Best Supporting Actress for Fashion.[26]

See also


  1. ^ Geetanjali Nagpal was a controversial model in the 1990's whose substance abuse led her to the streets of Delhi. The DCW, who had represented her during court proceedings and helped her recovery through rehabilitation, was concerned that a negative depiction of her life would "affect her physical or mental health adversely".[113]


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