A poster girl for dark and edgy roles. A tragedy queen. An unconventional actress. A wild child, and currently the Queen of B-town. But as we go over the 26-year-old curly headed Kangana Ranaut’s film-o-graph we discover the perfect spot to slot her in.

In 2006, out of nowhere, a small film titled Gangster had cine buffs surprisingly pleased with an engaging drama and impressive performances by two newbie actors. While the hero was bestowed with most shining reviews, the heroine wasn’t overlooked and got a decent share in the pie of fame despite bad dialogue delivery. Then 17-year-old Kangana Ranaut’s interpretation of a grief-stricken alcoholic woman, who is caught between her gangster boyfriend and a well-meaning friend, was raw and real. It was nothing like the caricaturised portrayal of a drunk and disturbed woman.

Yet, it was too soon to put her on the pedestal for fabulous actors. Kangana could have had beginner’s luck on her side. Fortunately the Bhambla-born babe followed it up with the act of another intense character – a schizophrenic star actress Sana Azim – in Woh Lamhe. The breakdown scenes, her altercations with her sensitive director-turned-boyfriend and her effective communication of hurt and torment through those glassy eyes affirmed that she had the skills to make her audience cry, smile and laugh with her.

Then came Life In A…Metro, a tale about urban men and women by filmmaker Anurag Basu. He had discovered Kangana at a café and gave her her first film. Again, the director pulled the right chords to make his prodigy shine in the realistic role of a young executive at a call centre company who plays the ugly games to climb the corporate ladder. She stood tall alongside co-stars like Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, Konkona Sen Sharma, Sharman Joshi et al in the film, thus confirming her acting prowess.

But after the successful and impressive portrayals of the three complex characters (of an alcoholic, a schizophrenic or a conniving woman), Kangana became the top choice of directors who wanted an unconventional actress. She became a poster girl for dark and edgy roles, a hatke heroine and many glorifying phrases were attached to her name. However her next role – drug addict ex-supermodel in Fashion – was an ultimate disturbed character. Despite the over-the-top dialogues and melodrama in the script, the requisite madness she projected in Shonali Gujral touched people’s hearts. And it won her the coveted National Award for the Best Supporting Actress.

Though, thereafter the cookie started to crumble. Probably high on the national veneration, a long queue of filmmakers outside her doorstep and natural desire to be part of big-budget blockbuster films, Kangana made a few hazardous career choices. Like the girl who’s bored with her unique curls goes in for a hair-straightening treatment, she said ‘yes’ to conventional roles. She dressed, danced and turned into exquisite ornament in films like Vaada Raha, Kites, No Problem, Knock Out, Double Dhamaal, Rascals, etc. These weak and unadventurous roles did great harm to the actress’s image. Too make matters worse, she strutted a two-piece in Rascals like her contemporaries. Remember? While her well-toned body made an attention-grabbing imagery, she failed to sparkle in the trite comedy. And soon Kangana’s choices of roles and career aspirations were being questioned.

During that period though she managed to be part of box-office hits like Raaz – The Mystery Continues and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. Mr Moneybags who pump the moolah for these movies were grinning from ear to ear, but neither of the films elevated Kangana’s acting graph.

In a recent interview to a leading daily, she recalled those tough times. “I have been through phases. I would be lying if I say that I have always been clear about what I wanted to sign. There have been times when I have done a particular movie for the glamour factor or the money that was offered.”

Before she was declared history, Kangana returned to doing what she did best – be as quirky as her springy curls. Tanuja of Tanu Weds Manu wasn’t as deranged like Simran, Sana or Shonali, but had a certain amount of madness attached to it. The small-town girl was somewhere between silly and stupid, but the actress’s high energy and chirpiness won over her sullen fans. To make it better, Kangana grabbed the role that many other leading ladies had refused – of an antagonist in Krrish 3. And like the earlier times, she turned the tide in her favour with this role too. As the sexy shape-shifting ‘maanwar’ Kaya, she left an impact as an actor.

But Queen – a film that has been talked and written about the most in recent times – has proved that Kangana has the prowess to leave behind the unconventionality, the craziness and the histrionics. The restraint and rawness she projected through the simple and innocent Rani from Rajouri signifies that Kanganahas come-of-age as an actress. Clearly, she’s come far away from where she started.

That makes me believe it’s time to bid adieu to the old glorifications. The latest should be – Queen the new hero in B-town! Rani, who will tot a Revolver in her next film, hopefully hits the bull’s eye one more time and eases into the new found spot.

– By Rachana Parekh

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