Exclusive! Kangana Ranaut on 2 years of ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’: I’d rather be a director because when you are on that chair, your vision is unlimited – Eagles Vine

After leaving everyone impressed with her acting chops, actress Kangana Ranaut added an extra feather to her cap as she turned director for ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’. She not only did justice with her new role but also put in her blood and sweat as an actor, quite literally. As the film completes 2 years today, ETimes got in touch with the ‘Dhaakad’ actress who spoke at length about her directorial debut which also achieved a feat at the box office. Kangana also admitted that she loved directing more than acting in the film. Excerpts:

What are your first thoughts on 2 years of ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’?

‘Oh, is it already two years?’ (Smiles) Time is just flying, it’s probably a nice thing. When time flies that means you are having fun. So I am happy but can’t believe it’s already two years.

Do you remember your first day on set and what it was like?

Yes, it was my introduction scene. It was the fight with my three brothers and on that very day, one of my co-actors, he missed his cue and hit me on my head. The wound was very fresh and it just seemed like a normal hit because I was in the fight scene and my body was completely warm. Even though he hit me hard and it was a real sword which must be of 2 kgs, and I felt like my whole head shook. But I just wiped it off and I was like fine. But everyone started looking at me and I was not realising why they are looking at me. Initially, it takes time for the wound to start bleeding. But everyone was looking at me because my bone was exposed. And suddenly my whole face was full of blood and they gave me a towel. I couldn’t believe that my face was bleeding like that. I asked Nick (Powell) how big the wound was and he told me that it was quite big. He also told me that I will get quite a few stitches for it (laughs). Everybody makes fun of me because I was like an army commander: ‘How many stitches, how big the wound is, let’s go!’ Everyone was like, ‘omg, she’s like a proper soldier’. So I remember that was my very first day and the wound became like a big tennis ball on my head. But the director, who was there at that time, he started with some other portions and I had to wait for a month to start filming.

There was a fair share of controversy on the film especially when you took over the director’s role, in retrospect what do you make of it?

There was no controversy even when I took as a director. I took over sometime in June-July 2018, there was no controversy. There were several articles when the producer clarified that the director is busy with another film. No controversy at all. It’s only when the film became a huge success, it had a weekend, even big heroes don’t have sometimes of Rs. 45 cr. Then on a Monday, the director started to go all out and with him, many people joined in. Everybody seemed to want more than they got or they deserved. It just became so weird that just when everybody thought that the film is in dumps, nobody wanted to touch it or nobody wanted to be associated with it. When we all worked on it and made it a glorious film which is one of the best-reviewed films of 2019, everybody just went for me that I snatched the film and what not. That’s where the controversy started. I was shocked because I had taken over in June or July and the controversy happened in January on Monday, not even on Friday or Saturday. They were shocked to see the response. We were with ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ and its 3rd weekend was more than the first weekend. And still on Republic Day, ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’ was the highest single day. So obviously, many asses were burning and they made it very obvious that they are burning. Then of course the mafia joined in, they started making fun of the mechanical horse. The film was breaking records and it was breaking many people also. So that of course I spoke at length at many events. That was the day I promised everyone that now I will take their case and people must not have taken it seriously and they must have laughed at it. But then I took their case also and that is also history and it will be a prominent part of pop culture (laughs). So I kept every promise of mine. I had said that I will release Manikarnika on Republic Day when it was in dumps, and it released it. When they ganged up on me and tried to sabotage my film, then I promised them that I will show you what it is like to do this to a person or what does a person feels. I did show them and I am very proud of myself.

I think as a director, I wanted to do be doing something which I do from a scratch. It is very difficult to fit into somebody’s vision and especially when you have committed to all the budget has gone into taking all the wide shots and the money shots have been taken and you are doing 60-70% of the work. But still, everything is committed from the look of the film to visual language, clothes, everything is done. I would like to believe when I come with my solo director film, people would say that I have a great sense of aesthetics. Whether you see my houses or fashion sense, I am one of those people who have been yield for her sense of aesthetics. The idea was to do justice to the Manikarnika story and even with a lot of obstacles, i still had a lot of people on my side. From Mr. Goenka to Kamal Jain, Prasoon sir, Vijendra sir… there was a lot of support system that I had. I think we won essentially, good vs evil. In that fight, we won. Maybe there were 15-20 people who supported me, but there were hundreds of them who were against me. The audience made this a glorious success, even worldwide. It is one of the films that did exceptionally well in the NRI market. In Japan, it did exceptionally well. Even with Uri, it was unstoppable, it was like an unleashed monster… two nationalistic films, even then we did Rs.100 cr. It was an unbelievable journey and even though I had to be a director in the most unusual way, but I am glad that I took up that challenge.

What was the most challenging part of making the film?

Well, I think action with weapons gets very difficult because with the swords, pistols along with horses, you keep hurting yourself. Physically it was a very challenging film. And we also had budget constraints. There were many challenges and I had many accidents as well. So yes that was probably the most difficult part.

What did you enjoy more in Manikarnika – acting or directing?

Of course, directing! (Laughs) in a film like that where there is huge warfare, we must have shot it for 70% of the days those were consumed. We couldn’t use everything because we had lots of footage of warfare. Yes, I’d rather be a director because when you are on that chair, your vision is unlimited. But when it comes to human limitations as an actor, there are things that you can do and you cannot do. So of course being a director is much more fulfilling in any film for that matter

Best compliment you received for the film?

I received a lot of compliments for the film. Some said that you were possessed by a divine force. My toughest critics also said that you are not just the best actress, but also the best actor of this generation. This time, both the awards should be given to you. Another very cute compliment was from a friend who said that ‘from 1-10, there’s only Kangana Ranaut and 11th is number 2 heroine that starts’ (laughs). So yes, there are so many compliments. Some said that you have not only become Jhansi Ki Rani on-screen but in real life also. It’s been showering of compliments after ‘Queen’ and ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ series. I don’t think I have received so many compliments from anyone. This huge army of girl children and babies, who have become fans, keep coming on the sets and just talk about the film. I think after ‘Queen’, this film has gone very well with children and the audience.


The Times of India

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper and digital news media owned and managed by The Times Group. According to Audit Bureau of Circulations, it is ranked 9th in the world by circulation and 3rd in India.

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