For years we’ve adored Shah Rukh Khan as an idol who came from nowhere and took Bollywood by storm, sweeping away all awards without a Godfather. But when a woman marches ahead achieving almost the same, we start digging deep. Our efforts to pull down a talent with two national awards, owing to her not so socially or politically correct past, is commendable. The truth is, it is difficult to accept that a woman has emerged as a threatening game-changer for the ever patriarchal Bollywood.
On this hypocritical note, let’s discuss Kangana Ranaut.
The recent Kangana – Hrithik war has raised many eye-balls. If you look closely, there are multiple issues creating a wall of difference not only between the stars but also in audience perceptions, as it redefines some basic concepts on the conventional gender equations of this country. This article is not meant to be a feminist ballad for Kangana Ranaut. Rather, this is an attempt to understand the experiments of a modern Indian woman with herself.
What amazes about Kangana Ranaut is her unapologetic acceptance of what she is. India is still the land where women get objectified, controlled and suppressed. What gave this small town girl the confidence and strength to represent herself so fearlessly?
Very few can stand on the fragile platform of Bollywood, claiming that the presence of the Khans doesn’t decide her choice of films, the script does. Howsoever arrogant this might sound, a survey through the past trends would confirm that Kangana is a professional ‘manglik‘! Every time she teamed up with high profile heroes, the films have tanked. So it makes sense for her to choose the script and not the brand she is working with.
Who is Kangna as a brand? A fantastic actor, self-made and successful. Period. But do we really fantasize her? How many men would call her the woman of their dreams? How many women want to be like her? India can handle a successful woman, but the country still hiccups when it comes to a bold woman. It was the year 2000 when Sushmita Sen shocked the country by adopting a girl child with no guarantee of having a husband in her near future. We celebrated her courage. But secretly, we were intimidated by her. It’s been sixteen years since. Nothing has changed.
Kangna Ranaut’s confidence is not limited to her career goals. Her relationships, that are reported and gossiped about, have mainly hovered around married men.
Does ambition make us commitment phobic? When a woman falls for a married man, she signs an unspoken treaty that her security is not dependent on her partner. Such relationships are convenienced with companionship and desire, devoid of attachment.
Are women today looking for short term pleasure that comes without responsibilities? This brings us to another fundamental question. Are we increasingly losing faith in that exclusivity of love, which brought stability and settlement? How forbidden is that confident, powerful woman who has a mysterious past with a man?
The star has gone on record to say that she did have a troubled childhood. When pushed to the corner, probably a woman turns into a rebel! Even Mallika Sherawat emerged from the same psychological restraint. Whatever path these ladies adopted is commonly called an act of desperation. So, is desperation the new language of women who wish to break boundaries? How ‘cool’ is India with these new breed of desperate women who wouldn’t stop because others want them to?
The Hrithik-Kangana war is not the act of a small town girl. It is the desperation of a rebel. Her emotions have been misused, and they are being recklessly manhandled.
Today, some love notes that Kangana Ranaut had written to her supposed lover, are mercilessly going public. It can get unnerving for many, when their weak moments become a talk of the masses, and hard earned success is evaluated with respect to one’s personal mess. But instead of giving up, till date the actor has chosen to give it back, knowing pretty well that more mud-slinging might follow. Whether she is actually the one wronged or she is the miscreant, it is clear that she has a heart of steel that won’t melt under pressure. She has her eyes fixed on her agenda. You just can’t touch her and not get affected.
In the history of Bollywood, we have heard much about clashes between actors. It is interesting to note though, that battles between male actors are usually the macho ‘brawl’, while the issues between ladies get reported as ‘cat-fights’. The Indian media and its audience today are fairly confused about the word they should use while reporting the Hrithik-Kangana case. ‘Fight’ or ‘spat’, as are terms commonly used, didn’t occur before so openly. Earlier, the ladies stayed within their limits because the men who called shots in the industry could destroy careers.
But this time, the more they scare and threaten, the more a rebel will rise.
How easy is it for a woman to misuse power today? To what lengths can a civilised man go to tame this blazing woman? Kangana Ranaut’s conduct under this case till date talks loads about the changing woman of modern India, who has built herself with a kind of ruthlessness. This new woman is desperate to make a point and say it loud. Is that ‘desperation’ a dirty word? Your call!
(Koral Dasgupta is an author, columnist, academic and Advisory Member CBFC. Twitter/@koraldasgupta)