“The darkest and deepest corners of the human soul have always been feminine. They offer the only way to penetrate the darkness—not anger or aggressive masculine emotions,” said Kangana Ranaut, speaking at the Women in the World Summit in London on Friday.
Since her feature film debut in 2006, Bollywood star Kangana has become infamous for her brazen honesty and confidence, and for redefining the Bollywood heroine. But her life was not always so glamorous.
Having grown up in the small Indian town of Bhambla, Kangana stressed that as a girl she was at odds with Indian culture, viewed as a “liability.”
“Perhaps the only expectation is that you grow up as a presentable young woman and get a decent spouse.” Kangana, said. She had other ideas, however. “I was a pain, not the kind of child an Indian parent would like to have.” Kangana felt she was worth just as much as her brothers, and struggling against her father’s wishes for her to go to medical school, she decided to run away on a “quest to understand her own self, to be allowed to be more than people thought she was.”
Without parental funds, she left for the bright lights of Mumbai. Asked if it was easy to find success, she quipped: “I have struggled for the last 10 years.” Pressed for details by her interviewer, BBC News reporter Shabnam Mahmood, she confessed: “It was no fairytale. I was nothing like I am today – I couldn’t speak a word of English. In England, people might be understanding of that, but in Bombay if you don’t speak English, people would ask ‘How does she expect to work in Hindi films?’”
The London audience responded with generous laughter but, in fact, Kangana was making light of a desperate period she spent without food, sleeping on pavements.
She was dismissed as a nobody, “a village woman with a weird accent,” she said, but Kangana stuck to her guns, her sense of self worth carrying her through. “Today I am who I am because my understanding of myself never changed.”
Despite having the utmost confidence in womankind, Kangana is strikingly pessimistic about India becoming a safer place for women any time soon. “I don’t think that’s achievable. I think that’s a little impractical to hope [for].”
Asked by Mahmood how Indian actresses can assure that they are taken seriously, Kangana replied: “As women we shouldn’t hope to get our due — we need to get up and get it ourselves.”
Watch the full interview here.