Bollywood star Kangana Ranaut says being an actor is the most privileged job in India but filmmakers are not as valued as they should be.
Ranaut’s observation came while she was commenting on the controversy that erupted when she took over the directorial reigns of her 2019 release, ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’.
She was in New Delhi to promote her upcoming film ‘Panga’, directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.
“The director left the film [and] I completed it. It was just that. If I helped my producer [and] studio, toh us cheez ke liye mera sammaan hona chahiye [I should be respected for that]. People should see I am so responsible. I got many brickbats and I am shocked,” Ranaut said.
She then added: “I think being an actor on set is the most privileged job. [Being] a director, I am sorry to say, and even Ashwiny will agree with me, is not as valued as it should be. Filmmakers in our country, unlike America, are literally de-valued. This industry is of the actors.”
“There is a part of me that wants to pursue my filmmaking ambitions but if you ask me, it is a privilege to be an actor on the set — especially if your director is sorted,” she added.
‘Panga’ also features Neena Gupta, Richa Chadha and Jassie Gill. It revolves around a kabaddi player, played by Ranaut, who wants to make a comeback in the game after marriage and motherhood.
Director Tiwari has worked with actresses such as Swara Bhaskar (‘Nil Battey Sannata’) and Kriti Sanon (‘Barelly Ki Barfi’) in the past.
“When it comes to casting, I go by my gut feeling and their ability to perform. Whether it is Swara, Richa and Kangana, undoubtedly they are brilliant actresses. As a film director I see the character in them on screen, and that is important for me to get rather than what their political opinions are. If, as a director I constantly have to think about how they are as an individuals off the screen, I won’t be able to create a character and extract a performance out of them on screen,” Tiwari said.
On differences of opinion and professionalism, the filmmaker added: “Who does not have an opinion? Even in a household that we live, people can have a different opinions on regular things. That does not mean we cannot coexist. Two people from completely different political ideology can work together in a film if they believe in the story.”
Does she make a conscious effort to avoid political commentary in her films?
“There are so many people who make their comment on politics, why me? Why does a film have to do that? Also, every filmmaker has his or her way of telling a story. In my films, politics and conflicts exist in the human mind and the situation. So I create characters who have minds with conflict, takes challenges and narrate how they emerge with flying colours,” said Tiwari.
Does the tag ‘female filmmaker’ bother her? “Yes, it does. I know I am a female and that has nothing to do with what I do as a storyteller. I mean, half of the time the audiences do not even know who the director is. They go and watch the film for the stars. I am happy with that, because any filmmaker wants his or her film to be the most-watched. Earlier there were less female filmmakers, and people used to mention that fact, so it was OK. But just as these days there are many doctors or pilots who are female, it is not a surprise and it does not need a special mention that the case should be the same with film directors as well,” she replied.
Chadha said she adheres to a different political ideology from her ‘Panga’ co-star Ranaut, but they avoided discussing politics while shooting the film.
“We never discuss politics on a film set and it really does not matter as an individual which political ideology we subscribe to. I am not here to change anyone’s beliefs and what their politics are. Everyone has their own beliefs and I am vocal about things that I strongly believe in,” Chadha said.
“When it comes to ‘Panga’, we were making a film. We did that peacefully, professionally and in sync with the vision of the director. And there is no doubt about the fact that Kangana is a brilliant actress.”
For Chadha, professionalism counts.
“I am someone who has worked in films with different actors and when we actors work in a film, we all come together professionally to put our effort to make a film, tell a story. That is the intention and in ‘Panga’, too. Kangana and I came as two professionals acting in a film. It is that simple,” she explained.
Sharing an insight of her character in the film, Chadha said: “I would say that it is an important story of two female kabbadi players and their lives. My character Meenu plays from defence position and Kangana’s character Jaya is a star offender. After having a successful journey in the game of kabaddi, Jaya settles for a family life with husband and child. Meenu continues to play the game. When Jaya decides to get back to the game, Meenu encourages and pushes her to get into fitness, regular training and do everything to prepare her for the game. It is the journey of Jaya and how Meenu supports her.”
The film is a sports drama, and Chadha says they had to train in order to get the body-language right as kabaddi players.
“We trained under international coaches and it was tough. We got hurt at times but I enjoyed the process, because I am always eager to learn something new. I learnt kabaddi through ‘Panga’,” said the actress.
Working with Tiwari was refreshing, she said.
“Ashwini is a wonderful storyteller and she has her own style of filmmaking. I watched both of her films and I found ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ very unusual and interesting. Ashwini is unique in the way she writes characters in films — it is very well edged-out. I wanted to work with a female director and it was refreshing,” Chadha said.
Don’t miss it!
‘Panga’ releases in the UAE on January 23. Watch the trailer below: