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Kangana Ranaut: 'Jayalalithaa longed for a family, for a child; I share similarities with her'

Kangana Ranaut

Kangana Ranaut   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In an exclusive, the 'Thalaivi' actor who is portraying the former Tamil Nadu CM in her biopic, talks about how she was intimidated by the role, the consequent research, and draws parallels between her life and the political icon's career

Kangana Ranaut seldom breaks character. It does not matter if she does or does not have a camera trained on her.

We find an ornate Kangana, who was recently conferred with Padma Shri by the Government of India, sitting by herself on a plastic chair on the set of her upcoming trilingual, Thalaivi.

The crew has taken a brief break to re-organise camera positions in time for the next shot. Kangana, with an assistant for company, opts not to walk back to her vanity van, like most artistes, and instead stays put. She is consumed in a world of her own; her hands gliding around in symmetrical rhythm as she traces back the steps she had just learnt from the dance choreographer Gayathri Raguram.

Portraying an icon

It is unusual to find the Bollywood star in Chennai, but Thalaivi documents the life and times of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa — chronicling her transition from a movie star into a politician. So, Kangana has no better place to be in than Chennai as she hopes to bring the political icon back to life on screen.

On this day, though, the crew are filming a dance performance, the kind which requires the not-a-natural-at-dancing Kangana to step out of her comfort zone, but she appears well prepared.

“I’ve researched a lot [to play Jayalalithaa],” says the actor with a smile, as she sits down for this mid-take conversation.

Kangana Ranaut as J Jayalalithaa on the set of ‘Thalaivi’

Kangana Ranaut as J Jayalalithaa on the set of ‘Thalaivi’   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

A few months ago, Kangana underwent training in classical dance to help her prepare for this very moment.

It is one of those instances when an actor goes all out to fine-tune their craft, even if it is for something that will barely take up a couple of minutes of the film’s run time. It is perhaps why Vijay, when asked about her, tells us that Kangana is “a director’s actor”.

“I think, on the set, the director is my best friend. I don’t feel like I have to be driven around like cattle. Most actors, they need to be brought out of the [vanity] van, but I’m not that. I make myself available at the director’s disposal, and that is why I look like a completely involved person,” she remarks.

Kangana Ranaut as J Jayalalithaa on the set of ‘Thalaivi’

Kangana Ranaut as J Jayalalithaa on the set of ‘Thalaivi’   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

Her involvement as it pertains to Thalaivi goes beyond that. She has considerably brushed up on her knowledge of Jayalalithaa.

“When she was humiliated in the State Assembly, and she said that she would come back as a Chief Minister... I think that was an extremely powerful moment in her life. Until then, she was under MGR’s shadow, and she never revealed her own political aspirations. But that was a very decisive moment because for her as a woman, in a man’s world, to be beaten up and humiliated... anybody would have lost their confidence. For her to show the kind of strength of character under those circumstances... it is very powerful,” she adds.

Drawing parallels

When the offer to play Jayalalithaa arose, Kangana says she felt that “it was intimidating”.

Kangana Ranaut

Kangana Ranaut   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“She (Jayalalithaa) was a different kind of actor. She was not like me. She was a more a glamorous star... somebody like an Aishwarya Rai in Bollywood. It was a very big challenge to fit into those shoes because I’m not known as a glamorous star,” she says.

There is one common thread, though.

“I do feel that there are similarities. She was a very reluctant actor. It is the same with me. I never wanted to be an actor, and that is why we became very unusual actors. I think she always felt that she was worth much more than just being a glam doll [in films], and she became a politician. Like how I became a filmmaker because I felt that being an actress was very limiting for me. So, I think there are parallels,” she notes.

There is one aspect, she thinks, which goes beyond being just a parallel in their lives.

“I think, like every woman, she (Jayalalithaa) longed for a family, and she longed for a child. I think there was a time in my life also when I longed for a family. I think some of the married people took advantage of that... especially married actors... I will not reveal whom. There are scenes [in this film] with an actor who is married, and who promises marriage and then goes back on his word. She has to face a lot of public humiliation. I think this is what happens to a lot of the young actresses. It is not something that only we share,” she says.

Kangana Ranaut

Kangana Ranaut   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The right opportunity

However, when the first look of the film was revealed, it did lead to apprehensions if the younger Kangana would be able to pull off the older Jayalalithaa in the film.

Kangana clarifies: “They (production) assured me that the film ends when she becomes the Chief Minister for the first time. I think she was around 40 (Jayalalithaa was 43 in 1991, when her first tenure began), and I’m 32. So that is somewhere closer. But I did weigh [the pros and cons]. I decided that it is an opportunity and, if done well, it can be something very exciting,” she adds.

Thalaivi marks her return to Tamil cinema after a gap of 12 years, after working Dhaam Dhoom (2008) with Jayam Ravi.

Will she be open to more Tamil films? “Even now, I want to do the kind of scripts I do in Bollywood in Tamil. But I don’t want to play second fiddle to heroes. It is very prevalent in the South, and even in Mumbai,” she says, adding “I don’t do that even if they are big Khans or Kapoors. I don’t do that. If I do another Tamil film, it has to be an exciting character.”

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:29:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/i-share-similarities-with-jayalalithaa-kangana-ranaut/article30711820.ece

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