Kangana Ranaut born 23 March 1987 is an Indian actress and filmmaker who works in Hindi film. The recipient of several awards, including three National Film Awards and four Filmfare Awards, she has featured six times in Forbs Indian‘s Celebrity 100 list. In 2020, the Government of India honoured her with the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian award.
Born in Bhambla, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, Ranaut initially aspired to become a doctor at the insistence of her parents. Determined to build her own career path, she relocated to Delhi at age sixteen, where she briefly became a model. After training under the theatre director Arvind Gaur, Ranaut made her feature film debut in the 2006 thriller Gangster, for which she was awarded the Filmfare for Best Female Debut. She received praise for portraying emotionally intense characters in the dramas Woh Lamhe(2006), Life in a Metro (2007) and Fashion (2008). For the last of these, she won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Ranaut featured in the commercially successful films Raaz: The Mystery Continues (2009) and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (2010), though she was criticised for being Typecast in neurotic roles. A comic role opposite R. Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu (2011) was well-received, though this was followed by a series of brief, glamorous roles in films that failed to propel her career forward. This changed in 2013 when she played a Mutant in the science fiction film Krrish 3, one of the Highest-grossing Indian films. Ranaut went on to win two consecutive National Film Awards for Best Actress for playing a naive woman in the comedy-drama Queen (2014) and a dual role in the comedy sequel Tanu Weds Manu: Returns (2015), which ranks as the biggest-earning female-led Hindi film. She then starred in a series of commercial failures, with the exception of her co-directorial venture, the biopic Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi(2019), in which she portrayed the Titular Warrior.
Ranaut is credited in the media as one of the most fashionable celebrities in the country, and she has launched her own clothing lines for the brand Vero Moda. Her reputation for expressing her opinions in public and her troubled personal and professional relationships have frequently sparked controversy.
Early life and background:-
Ranaut was born on 23 March 1987 at Bhambla, a small town in the of Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh into a Rajput family. Her mother, Asha Ranaut, is a school teacher, and her father, Amardeep Ranaut, is a businessman. She has an elder sister, Rangoli Chandel, who as of 2014 works as her manager and a younger brother, Akshat. Her great-grandfather, Sarju Singh Ranaut, was a Member of the Legislative Assembly and her grandfather was an officer for the Indian Administrative Service. She grew up in a Joint Family at their ancestral Haveli in Bhambla, and described her childhood as “simple and happy”.
According to Ranaut, she was “stubborn and rebellious” while growing up: “If my father would gift my brother a plastic gun and get a doll for me, I would not accept that. I questioned the discrimination. She did not subscribe to the stereotypes that were expected of her and experimented with fashion from a young age, often pairing up accessories and clothes that would seem “bizarre” to her neighbours. Ranaut was educated at the DAV School in Chandigarh, where she pursued science as her core subject, remarking that she was “very studious” and “always paranoid about results”. She initially intended to become a doctor on the insistence of her parents. However, a failed unit test in chemistry during her twelfth grade led Ranaut to reconsider her career prospects and despite preparing for the All India Pre Medical Test, she did not turn up for the exam. Determined to find her “space and freedom”, she relocated to Delhi at the age of sixteen. Her decision not to pursue medicine led to constant feuding with her parents and her father refused to sponsor a pursuit he considered to be aimless.
In Delhi, Ranaut was unsure which career to choose; the Elite Modelling Agency were impressed by her looks and suggested that she model for them. She took on a few modelling assignments, but generally disliked the career as she found “no scope for creativity”. Ranaut decided to shift focus towards acting and joined the Asmita Theatre Group, where she trained under the theatre director Arvind Gaur. She participated in Gaur’s theatre workshop at the India Habitat Centre, acting in several of his plays, including the Girish Karnad scripted Taledanda. During a performance, when one of the male actors went missing, Ranaut played his part along with her original role of a woman.A positive reaction from the audience prompted her to relocate to Mumbai to pursue a career in film and she enrolled herself for a four-month acting course in Asha Chandra’s drama school.
Ranaut struggled with her meager earnings during this period, eating only “bread and Aachar (pickle)”. Refusing her father’s financial assistance led to a rift in their relationship which she later regretted. Her relatives were unhappy with her decision to enter the film-making industry, and they did not correspond with her for several years. She reconciled with them after the release of Life in a Metro in 2007.
2004–2008: Film debut and critical acclaim:-
In 2004, the producers Ramesh Sharma and Pahlaj Nilani announced that Ranaut would make her film debut with the Deepak Shivdasani-directed I Love You Boss. The following year, an agent took her to the office of the producer Mahesh Batt, where she interacted with the director Anurang Basu and auditioned for the lead role in the romantic thriller Gangster. Bhatt felt that she was too young for the role and signed Chitangada Singh instead. However, Singh was later unavailable to do the film and Ranaut was contracted as a replacement for Gangster,opting out of I Love You Boss. She was cast in the central role of Simran, an alcoholic woman caught in a romantic triangle between a notorious gangster and a sympathetic friend played by Emraan Hashmi. Ranaut was only seventeen while filming and said that she “had difficulty first in understanding and then unwinding from the character”, describing her craft as “raw and immature”. Released in 2006, Gangster emerged as a critical and commercial success and her performance was praised. Raja Sen of Rediff.com said that “Kangana is a remarkable find, the actress coming across with great conviction. Hers is the pivotal character and an extremely difficult role to essay, but she manages it well Kangana’s nuances are disconcertingly realistic.” She won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut, along with various other debut awards.
Ranaut’s next role was in the Mohit Suri directed drama Woh Lamhe (2006), a semi-biographical film based on the schizophrenic actress Parveen Babi and her relationship with the director Mahesh Bhatt. She said that portraying Babi had left her emotionally drained, as she had begun to “feel her desolation and loneliness.” Film critic Subhash K. Jha wrote that Ranaut “is the first female performer of Bollywood since Smita and Shabana who isn’t scared to strip her soul naked for the camera”, adding that she is a “hugely expressive actress with a phenomenal ability to convey torment, hurt and incredulity through the eyes”. Despite positive reviews, the film underperformed at the box office.
The following year, Ranaut portrayed an aspiring musician in Suneel Darshan’s musical thriller Shakalaka Boom Boom, alongside Bobby Deol, Upen Patel and Celina Jaitly. The film’s production was marred by a dispute between Ranaut and Darshan; she objected to her voice being dubbed by another artist, but he insisted that he needed a particular “twang and accent” for her character.Indian Today described the film as an “amateur mess” and the film proved to be a box office flop. She next reunited with Anurag Basu for the ensemble drama Life in a… Metro, playing the supporting role of Neha, a shrewd socialite engaged in an affair with her married boss. Despite a poor initial run at the box office, the film emerged as a profitable venture. Khalid Mohamed of Hindustan Times was critical of the film, noting its lack of originality and realism. In a more positive review, Raja Sen wrote that Ranaut “is refreshing and manages to herd her emotions well, playing a complex role but hardly ever overreaching”, but criticised her delivery of English lines. For her role, Ranaut was awarded the Stardust Award for Breakthrough Performance_ Female.
Ranaut next portrayed a village girl in Dhoom Dhoom (2008), a Tamil romantic thriller, opposite Jayam Ravi. Production on the film was temporarily halted when the director, Jeeva, died of cardiac arrest and the film was completed by the crew members. A review carried by Post wrote that Ranaut had “little scope” in a role that did not suit her. India Today described her next film, the Madhur Bhandaekar directed drama Fashion(2008), as a “landmark” in her career. Set against the backdrop of the Indian fashion industry, the film co-starred Priyanka Chopra and Mugdhu Godse and featured Ranaut as Shonali Gujral, a Substance abusing supermodel struggling to cope with her foundering career. Because the media speculated that her role was based on the former model Geetanjali Nagpal (which both Ranaut and Bhandarkar denied), the Delhi Commission for Women, ordered a stay on the film’s release, approving it only after a script narration. With a worldwide revenue of 600 million Indian rupees (₹), approximately US$10 million, Fashion emerged as a commercial success, and was listed by Subhash K. Jha as one of the best films of the decade with women protagonists. Ranaut’s performance drew unanimous critical acclaim. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama praised her confident portrayal of the character and believed that she was the real star of the film, and Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India added that she “does an exquisite metamorphosis from a wispy, high-strung, nervous child-woman to a stunning ramp diva.”Ranaut’s portrayal earned her several awards, including the National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.
2009–2012: Career fluctuations:-
The supernatural horror film Raaz: The Mystery Continues from director Mohit Suri was Ranaut’s first film release of 2009, in which she played a successful model who is possessed by a ghost. The film co-starred Emraan Hashmi and Adhyayan Suman and proved to be a financial success. Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express noted that Ranaut was becoming stereotyped in roles that required her to be “hysterical”, adding that she needed a “radical change of image”. Also that year, she played the leading lady in the drama Vaada Raha and the Telugu action film Ek Niranjan, neither of which were particularly notable.
In a brief role in Anurag Basu’s romantic thriller Kites(2010), Ranaut portrayed the fiancée of Hrithik Roshan’s character. She said that she felt “cheated” after watching the film, as her role proved to be much smaller than what she had initially signed on for. She then portrayed fictional film actress Rehana in the Milan Luthria directed gangster film Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. Also starring Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Prachi Desai, the film chronicles the rise and subsequent fall of an underworld don (played by Devgn) in the 1970s. Ranaut said that her character was “a mix” of the actress Madhubala and the gangster Haji Mastan’s wife and that to prepare she observed the work of the actresses Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi. The film was one of the most successful releases of the year and garnered positive reviews from critics.Sudish Kamath of The Hindu labelled her a “delight” and Mid Day‘s Sarita Tanwar praised her for being “totally convincing” in the role. After playing a television reporter in the thriller Knock Out, Ranaut actively looked for a comedy and found the role in Anees Bazmee’s No Problem, but both films failed to propel her career forward.
According to Bollywood Hungama, after establishing a reputation for portraying Neurotic characters, Ranaut was seeking projects that would be “less emotionally exhausting” for her. Her first release of 2011 was Anand L.Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu, a romantic comedy opposite R. Madhavan, which Ranaut considers a “game changer” for her. Rai stated that he cast her for the role to illustrate that the actress was capable of playing other roles and that her character in the film was unlike any of those that she had played previously. Critical reaction to the film was mixed, though Ranaut’s performance was praised. Rajeev Masand wrote, “Kangana Ranaut is a pleasant surprise in a cheery, upbeat part that we haven’t seen her take on before. She rises to the challenge, only hampered occasionally by her mangled dialogue delivery.” Ranaut received Best Actress nominations at several award ceremonies, including Screen and Zee Cine.
2013–2015: Established actress
The director Sanjay Gupta cast Ranaut in a brief role opposite John Abraham in the crime thriller Shootout at Wadala (2013) due to her ability to stand out in a predominantly male-centric film. The Daily News and Analysis Tushar Joshi wrote that her role was written “to provide the sex quotient” and critic Vinayak Chakravorty opined that she “does not get much scope […] beyond the steamy lovemaking grind”. Commercially, the film performed moderately well.
Ranaut achieved success later in 2013 for her portrayal of Kaya, shapeshifting mutant, in Rakesh’s science fiction film Krrish 3, alongside Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra and Vivek Oberoi. When Rakesh Roshan first offered the role to her, she declined it due a disappointing prior association with him on Kites, in which Roshan had served as producer. Following Ranaut’s rejection, other actresses also turned down the role. Roshan approached her again and after assuring her that the role would not be a minuscule one, Ranaut accepted the part. Critics thought that Krrish 3 was entertaining but lacking in originality, though Ranaut’s performance garnered praise. The critic Sarita Tanwar of Daily News and Analysis said: “Kangana Ranaut is delightful as an alien making the weird hair and clothes work for her. She even manages to make you feel her pain. Quite an accomplishment that!” With global ticket sales of ₹3 billion (US$42 million), the film emerged as one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all time, becoming Ranaut’s most financially profitable venture. Also that year, Ranaut played the eponymous lead in the musical drama Rajjo. The film was a critical and commercial failure and Ranaut’s portrayal of a nautch girl was largely criticised. Paloma Sharma of Rediff.com commented that “Kangana Ranaut struggles with her Mumbaiyya dialogues and is not as graceful in the dance sequences as one would have expected.”
Ranaut followed the success of Queen by playing an aggressive politician in the black comedy Revolver Rani and a medical intern in the political drama Ungli (both 2014). Also that year, she made her production and directorial debut with an English language short film entitled The Touch, dealing with the relationship between a four-year-old boy and a dog; she co-wrote the screenplay with an Australian writer and filmed it in America.
The following year, Ranaut starred in Tanu Weds Manu: Returns (2015), a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu, in which she portrayed dual roles—she reprised the character of Tanuja from the original and also portrayed an aspiring athlete in it. In preparation for the latter role, she interacted with students of the University of Delhi in disguise; in addition, she attended workshops to learn the Haryanvi Language and trained in the sport of trip jump. The film received positive reviews from critics and Ranaut’s performance was considered its prime asset. Sweta Kaushal of Hindustan Times praised her for perfecting the body languages and accents of the two women, and Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV wrote that she “fleshes out this pair of distinct individuals with such energy and finesse that it becomes difficult at times to tell that it is the same actress playing the two roles”. Tanu Weds Manu Returns earned over ₹2.4 billion (US$34 million) worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing Bollywood film featuring a female protagonist. Ranaut won a Filmfare Critics Award and a second consecutive National Film Award for Best Actress, and received an additional Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.
Also in 2015, Ranaut appeared in the romantic comedies I Love NY (a production delayed since 2013) and Nikhil Advani’s Katti Batti, both of which failed at the box office. The latter saw her play opposite Imran Khan as a cancer patient, a role that critic Uday Bhatia of Mint thought “lack[ed] the sort of definition she’s had in her last few roles”.
2017–present: Setback, controversies, and professional expansion
After a year-long absence from the screen, Ranaut starred as Julia, a 1940s heroine and stunt-woman in Vishal Bhardwaj’s romance Rangoon (2017), opposite Saif Ali Khan and Shaid Kapoor. Modelled on the actress Fearless Nadia, Ranaut played the part as an “amalgamation of many characters” from that era, and was particularly drawn towards the “fierceness and sensuality” she found in her. She learned horse-riding and sword fighting and performed her own stunts. Media reports suggested a feud between Ranaut and Kapoor, and although they denied these, both stars publicly commented against the other. Rangoon received mixed reviews but Ranaut’s performance was picked up for praise; in a typical review, Rohit Vats of Hindustan Times labelled Ranaut as “terrific”, believing that the “poor script never lets Julia reach her pinnacle but [Ranaut] steals the show even with small scenes”. The film failed to find a wide audience. In the same year, Ranaut starred in Simran, a crime comedy from the director Hansal Mehta, in which she played a Gujarati immigrant in America involved in criminal activities. She shared the screenwriting credit with Apurva Asrani for improvising several dialogues on set, but Asrani accused Ranaut and Mehta for not valuing his contributions to the script. Once again, the film received mixed reviews and failed commercially.
Ranaut began the new decade with Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s sports film Panga(2020). She played a young mother and homemaker who trains to stage a comeback in Kabaddi. Rachel Saltz of The New York Times wrote that the actress “elevates the movie, putting the story across better than the script can”. It did not perform well commercially. Ranaut will next portray the politician Jayalalithaa in the trilingual biopic Thalaivi and star in the action film Dhaakad.
Ranaut has stated that her initial years in the film industry were marred with difficulties as she was unprepared to be an actress. She was conscious of her poor command of the English language and struggled to “fit in”. In a 2013 interview with Daily News and Analysis, Ranaut recollected:
“People in the industry treated me like I didn’t deserve to be spoken to and I was some unwanted object. I couldn’t speak English fluently and people made fun of me for that. So dealing with rejection became a part of life. … All that has taken a toll, I guess. I find it hard to deal with praise. Today, when people say that I have made it and made it on my own, I feel like locking up myself somewhere … It scares me.”
During the struggle, Ranaut found support in the actor Aditya Pancholi and his wife Zarina Wahab and considered them her “family away from home”. She became embroiled in a well publicised scandal when the media speculated on the nature of her relationship with Pancholi. She declined to speak about it openly, although she made several public appearances with him. In 2007 it was reported that Ranaut had filed a police complaint against Pancholi for physically assaulting her under the influence of alcohol. The following year Pancholi confirmed the affair in an interview, saying that he had been cohabiting with Ranaut in the past and accused her of owing him ₹2.5 million (US$35,000). In response, Ranaut’s spokesperson said that “after physically assaulting her in the middle of a road, he has no right to expect anything from her”, adding that she had “already given ₹5 million (US$70,000) to [him] as a goodwill gesture”. Ranaut later said that the incident had left her “physically and mentally” damaged.