THE ENIGMA THAT IS KANGANA

Clad in an off-white, floral saree, reflective sunglasses and an N95 mask Kangana Ranaut walked out of Mumbai airport, a week back, with a level of confidence usually reserved for victorious Generals surveying the land they’ve conquered. Having been given Y-Plus security, thanks to orders from the very top of the Indian government, her trip to Mumbai came in the wake of Shiv Sena member, Sanjay Raut threatening her never to come back to the city or suffer the consequences. Security guards locked hands, making a human shield around the actress while she briskly walked on, with her sister Rangoli in tow. The scene could not have been better directed if it were part of a Dharma Production film. There was something electrifying, unexplainable, even majestic about it all. Never before in the history of our nation has a Bollywood actor found themselves at the centre of a political battle of this magnitude. 

On the one hand, you have the Shiv Sena and on the other, the BJP, fighting, gloves off, in a mud-slinging war the results of which are unknown to even the most astute strategic think-tanks. And there, in the eye of the storm is Kangana Ranaut, fighting a moral battle, while at the same time receiving the best publicity of her life… no number of hits, no magazine covers, no accolades from the masses could give her the attention she is getting right now, whatever the reason behind it may be. This leads one to analyze how it is that Kangana found herself embroiled in this brouhaha. As an actress, she has long been a vociferous critic of the way things are run in Bollywood, bringing to parlance the infamous terms ‘Bollywood mafia,’ and ‘nepotism,’ long before these became public issues post-Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide/death. 

Then there was that affair she had with Hrithik Roshan, something that she felt she deserved closure and justice for, to top that off she’s confessed to having once been a consumer of the very drugs she’s currently waging war against. All that and given her mental history, make Kangana and the BJP very strange bedfellows. A party that is fervently trying to celebrate the old ways, with a more traditional political agenda can hardly stomach the colourful past that shadows Kangana. 

Born to a Rajput family in Himachal, Ranaut has literally strived her whole life to be where she is. She’s singlehandedly fought a patriarchal system to emerge as a successful actress in Bollywood. Sure, she’s had her fair share of hits and misses, there have been critically acclaimed movies like Tanu Weds Manu and Fashion, but there have also been a long list of duds like Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, which is perfectly acceptable for an actress in the industry with no Khan or Kapoor’s backing or a sugar daddy’s patronage. As a support system, Kangana has surrounded herself with die-hard team-Kangana fans. There’s her elder sister, Rangoli, who has been her eyes and ears since 2014, working behind the scenes as her manager, then there’s a small group of filmmakers and influencers who support her wholeheartedly. Shobhaa De has been a long term advisor to the actress as well. Then there’s Kalyani Saha Chawla, the lady behind Dior India who has always put Kangana first, often flying her down for the brand’s fashion show front-row appearances in Paris and beyond. Entire wardrobes for A-list appearances and red-carpet photo-ops have been leant by Dior to the actress.

This little team of spin-doctors and mentors have helped Kangana ‘polish up,’ over the years. That lispy English has been replaced by a crisper, more confident oratory ability, the clothes and styling are on point and her opinions, though fiercely independent, have been fleshed out to bring coherence and a broader logic behind them. She’s also become a surgeon with Twitter, cutting to pieces her most venomous critics and championing the cause of our current government. This leads one to assume that the actress might just be thinking of a career in politics. Her great grandfather was an MLA, and her grandfather was in the IAS, so holding public office isn’t something alien to the Ranaut’s. The idea has been thrown around by Shiv Sena workers and others in Mumbai as well, who say that all this is a publicity stunt being orchestrated by the BJP. Whatever the Machiavellian mechanism behind it all might be, the truth is, its all played out beautifully for the centre. Udhav Thackeray has come off as a tyrant of sorts, using the offices run by the Shiv Sena led BMC to plough down part of Ranaut’s property, at a time when there are hundreds, if not thousands of illegal constructions of far more importance to the civic needs of Mumbai than this one. He’s also put his foot in his mouth by trying to get a Maharashtra-wide ban on Republic TV, a channel that is openly supportive of BJP and anti-Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena alliance.

At the time of writing this, Kangana took a flight back out of Mumbai to Chandigarh, after having spent five days in the city and meeting the Governor of the State, Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Members of the Shiv Sena waved black flags outside the airport, while members of the Karni Sena shouted slogans in support of the actress. Memes of the grand old Maharashtrian party along with Udhav Thackeray have flooded the internet; people are questioning his son Aaditya’s involvement in the curious case of Sushant Rajput’s death, the Mumbai police’s handling of the investigation and the high handed nature of the party. It’s almost as if Diwali came early for the BJP… with the brightest patakaa being the rocket that is Kangana.            – Vishwaveer