January 24 saw the release of the Kangana Ranaut-starring Panga. It sank without a trace. The panga that got more views came on June 16, when she put out a video in which she held “the movie mafia” responsible for the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput two days earlier. And so began Ranaut’s rise as a crusader in the ‘ justice for Sushant’ movement, influencing the narrative around the case in the news and on social media. While her ire was initially reserved for what she derisively calls ‘Bollywood’, her list of targets expanded as the investigation continued, even including two powerful groups in Maharashtra: the Mumbai Police and the Shiv Sena. In her newfound role as a socio-political commentator on a range of issues from the Ram Mandir to reservations, Ranaut has been as brazen and feisty as always. The sense of persecution remains, but there’s also a flashy braggadocio on display. “I admire her guts,” says producer Ashoke Pandit, one of the few from the industry to support the actress on September 9 when the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) demolished part of her office in Mumbai’s Bandra, alleging illegal alterations to the structure. “She takes on people and issues... You may not agree [with her], but that doesn’t mean you negate and demean her. She has the right to speak out against people who have humiliated and exploited her,” he says.
Ranaut has a long list of perceived enemies, and it grows by the day. The past three months have seen her calling out many film industry figures, whether for their ‘silence’ over Rajput’s death or as enablers and beneficiaries of nepotism, as she sees it. Many of her choicest remarks were aimed at her favorite worst enemy, Karan Johar. Others singled out included Mahesh Bhatt, Aditya Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Taapsee Pannu, Ayushmann Khurrana, Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor, Ayan Mukerji, and Vicky Kaushal. Not too many have retaliated. “The problem with the film industry is that everyone thinks speaking against her is speaking against the central government,” says journalist-turned-filmmaker Vinod Kapri. “This is a spineless industry. They don’t want to get into controversies. Everyone is thinking about their interests. Bas paisa bana rahe aur PM ke saath selfie kheenchne ka mauka milta rahe (They just want to ensure the money keeps flowing and opportunities to take selfies with the PM keep coming),” he says. Among the few who responded—albeit without naming Ranaut—was Pannu who answered accusations of ganging up on Kangana by tweeting a quote that read, in part: ‘Don’t let bitter, unhappy people drag you down to their level. Use their behavior as an example of how not to behave and be grateful you are nothing like them.’
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September 21, 2020