You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain
Hailing from a small town in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, Kangana Ranaut has not long ago become a leading actor in Bollywood - an industry notoriously run by a handful of influential families. Known for her unconventional fashion sense and distinctly pahari accent, Kangana has gradually solidified her position as a staunch voice against nepotism and patriarchy in the Indian film industry.
Lauded for her willingness to readily call out injustice as she sees fit without fearing any repercussions, Kangana is one of the few actors who have had both critical and commercial success with her female-led films. It seems the 33-year old and three-time National Film Award-winning actor has earned her right, through sheer talent and hard work, to be opinionated.
You don’t want to mess with her!
But that being said, if you do, these days she just might launch into a no-holds-barred tirade and call you anti-national, unpatriotic and, last but not least, Hinduphobic.
Harvey Dent once said, foreshadowing his own tragic fate, ‘you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.’ Is the Queen actor similarly approaching her fall from grace like a moth to the flame? And if that is the case, how long can she conceal these opportunistic tactics under the thin layer of her already well-worn heroism?
It has been three years since Ranaut called Karan Johar the ‘flag-bearer of nepotism,’ a statement that instantly established her as the rebellious outsider and feisty feminist icon that Bollywood had until then suffered an absence of.
However, in 2020, the actor seems to be thriving on fellow actor’s suicide by shifting the overall narrative and furthering her own agenda, viciously going after female co-stars, belittling mental illness and India’s caste problem, demonizing minorities, spreading fake news, and so on.
On June 14, Sushant Singh Rajput, 34 years old, committed suicide at his Mumbai residence. One would expect that a meaningful discussion with regard to mental health would finally take place across the board in the wake of his tragic death. Instead, Sushant’s suicide brought everything that is wrong with the social media age to the fore.
And in the midst of it stood an indignant Kangana Ranaut, who despite having never known the late Kai Po Che actor personally, shifted the national conversation to nepotism and tirelessly pushed one conspiracy theory after another.
Ironically, Kangana tried to discredit another Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone in recent days, mocking her for struggling with depression and clinical anxiety by alleging that the Piku actor is upset over a breakup that happened ‘eight years ago.’
Kangana tweeted: “This illness has no diagnosis based on blood reports or body scans, anyone can gather a bloodthirsty mob and declare one a psycho and get them lynched, stop using mental illness so loosely.”
Not only hers is a woefully poor understanding of mental illness, but also only a small instance of the actor's well-documented tendency to weaponize the issue of mental health whenever it suits her own interests.
What’s more, Sushant's family lawyer has recently condemned the Queen star for her transparent, self-serving tactics, saying, "She is on her own trip, trying to settle her own scores."
After the release of her latest war drama Manikarnika, Kangana did not even spare journalists and film critics for having dared criticize her 'patriotic' film . In a public melt-down, she called Indian journalists “termites”, “pseudo-liberals”, and “treacherous.”
In the past, Kangana’s sister Rangoli’s account was suspended by Twitter after she asked for ‘mullas + secular media’ to be shot dead. At the time, Kangana had vigorously defended her sister's words. What does that tell us?
Last week, the Bollywood star shared a fake interview of PK actor Aamir Khan and accused him of being an ‘extremist.’ In the fake interview, Aamir said, his children would have to follow Islam despite having a Hindu mother. In today’s India, the danger of spreading such hateful rhetoric from a position of power without any verification is hopefully lost on none.
Moreover, Kangana, an upper caste Indian, was lately seen on Twitter boldly claiming that the caste system is a thing of the past, a mere incongruity with modern India with no basis in fact.
She wrote, "Caste system has been rejected by modern Indians. In small towns everyone knows it’s not acceptable anymore by law and order, it's nothing more than a sadistic pleasure for few, only our constitution is holding on to it in terms of reservations."
A fan of the Modi government which reserves 10 per cent quota for the upper castes, she even went on to argue that India’s brain drain is caused by reservations in the educational and job sector.
"Especially in professions like doctors, engineers, pilots, most deserving people suffer reservations, we as a nation suffer mediocrity and brilliance finds a reluctant escape to the United States. Shame!"
Her tweets came at a time when the US media is widely reporting on Silicon Valley’s ‘caste-discrimination problem.’ Around 250 Dalits in Silicon Valley have already reported ‘discrimination, bullying, ostracization, and even sexual harassment’ by upper caste Indian colleagues. To contend that India is casteless is ridiculous, worse yet, malicious.
Kangana, who calls female co-stars ‘B grade actresses’ and openly compares them on the basis of their looks, once had strong words against entrenched patriarchal mindset and advocated for women's empowerment. Despite opposing reservation and waging a fight against nepotism, in the past she has openly defended star kids in Bollywood after admitting that she herself had benefited from the quota system in the educational field. The Queen star makes fun of fellow celebrities for their mental illness, however asks why no one cared for Sushant Singh Rajput’s mental health.
In an increasingly intolerant world, Kangana Ranaut might be the aspiring BJP politician people deserve, but is she the hero they need right now? We think not.