The Agony Of Separating The Art From The Artist In Kangana Ranaut's Case

The ground between Kangana Ranaut's on-screen performances and her press interactions, is slowly shrinking. Her recent choices have reduced her to a 'type'.

Walking out of Prakash Kovelamudi’s Judgementall Hai Kya, no one can blame you for not having an immediate ‘take’ on the film. Did you like it? Hate it? Why? It’s fine, take your time, take a deep breath. Take it all in (and it surely is a lot). Just like Kangana Ranaut’s recent films, you can sense there was a good film in there… somewhere. Yes, in spite of your strong feelings around her erratic behaviour recently. In spite of the infuriating numerology-adhering title, typical of producer Ekta Kapoor. Even Ranaut’s most committed haters might find it difficult to fully dismiss Judgementall Hai Kya and her performance as Bobby in it.

Honestly, how does one objectively engage with a Kangana Ranaut performance given her recent (senseless and vile) attacks on members of the media? Does it make sense for us to take the higher road and uphold the integrity our profession? Or should we also stoop to her (recent) lows and obliterate any discourse around her films. To teach her a lesson, perhaps? Ranaut’s latest film comes shrouded in controversy after she picked a (many would say pointless) fight during a press conference, during which she said some nasty things to members of the press. And later, echoed some nationalist sentiments around #presstitutes & #libtards through a video. Is it possible to separate the art of the artist in the case of Kangana Ranaut?

As Bobby descends into a downward spiral, there’s a sense of déjà vu around Ranaut’s latest performance as it’s directly reminiscent of her role in Hansal Mehta’s Simran. The neurotic stares, the tentative stutters, the violent meltdown… the unravelling. The living, breathing manifestation of the QUIRKY heroine.

Kangana Ranaut in Simran,

While her co-star in the film, Rajkummar Rao, exercises the efficiency of a scalpel, Ranaut wildly slashes at her scenes with a machete. The stark difference in the styles would have been more interesting if Ranaut seemed more in control of the chaos.

The downfall of her character, Bobby, is the sheer emphasis on her ‘illness’ (via a CGI cockroach) and Ranaut’s no-punches-pulled enactment of it in most scenes. It takes away some of her ‘humanity’ – treating her either as a mortal threat or a punchline.

Ranaut’s performance here, just like in Rangoon or Simran, is committed. It’s visible that she puts in thought for her character, but a lot of it also seems misguided and scattered. It centres around ‘showing’, instead of making us feel.

Think back to those electric scenes in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon where Ranaut effortlessly conveyed Julia’s divided loyalties, the acting has seen a steady decline since. In Simran, Ranaut swings between moments of pure magic and outright caricature. Manikarnika allows her to embody the ‘Telugu mass superstar’ with a rarely-before-seen conviction, but her saffron press interactions ensure that we don’t miss the historical film’s agenda in the midst of contemporary politics.

The ground between Ranaut’s on-screen performances and her press interactions, is slowly shrinking. Her recent choices have reduced her to a ‘type’. There’s an air around Ranaut’s recent performances that ask us to manage our expectations, because she will ‘do her thing’ whether we like it or not. The promising actor has now become a star who confuses constructive criticism with trolling. And yet, as one watches her in Judgementall Hai Kya, it’s impossible to dismiss ‘what could have been’. There are glimpses of the old actor struggling to cope with the star, who unabashedly plays to the gallery.

There are few things as agonising as objectively reviewing a Kangana Ranaut performance in this day and age.