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7 noteworthy roles of Kangana Ranaut – Birthday special


The actress, who turns 31 today (23 March), will next be seen as Rani Lakshmibai in Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi (2018).

Sonal Pandya

Moll. Model. Maid. In her 12-year career, Kangana Ranaut has made her mark playing independent but troubled characters who have lingered with audiences long after the credits rolled.

The fiercely outspoken actress has had an uneven career, with highs (winning the National award thrice) and lows (the box office collections of her last few films have been worrying).

Her next two projects, Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi (2018) and Mental Hai Kya (2018) could well turn the tide again. Till then, her fans can go back and revisit her best performances in these seven films listed below.

1. Gangster (2006)

At 19, Kangana Ranaut made her debut in Vishesh Films’ Gangster (2006), directed by Anurag Basu. The teenager from Himachal Pradesh had no experience of acting, apart from theatre, yet she landed the lead role in the love triangle co-starring Emraan Hashmi and Shiney Ahuja. She replaced Chitrangada Singh, who was initially cast, and essayed the part of a jaded gangster’s moll who is trapped in a foreign country, turns to the bottle, and finds herself in love with two men.

The rediff.com review by Raja Sen had stated at the time that Ranaut “is a remarkable find, the actress coming across with great conviction”. Sen praised her portrayal of an alcoholic, calling it “disconcertingly realistic”. Ranaut won the Filmfare award for Best Female Debut the next year.

2. Life In A... Metro (2007)

In only her fourth film, Kangana Ranaut again worked with Anurag Basu. The film boasted of a large ensemble cast that included artistes like Dharmendra, Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sensharma. Life In A... Metro (2007) was made of several criss-crossing stories of Mumbai’s citizens, each immersed in his or her own troubles.

Ranaut played Neha, a young woman who works at a call centre and is involved in an affair with her boss Ranjeet (Kay Kay Menon), a married man. A co-worker Rahul (Sharman Joshi) loves her from afar, but Neha keeps hoping for a future with Ranjeet. When things don’t go according to plan, Neha decides to commit suicide, and Rahul comes to help her rebuild her life.

Once again playing a self-destructive character, Ranaut held her own amongst the cast. Khan and Sensharma won most of the acclaim in the film, but Ranaut’s performance was hard to ignore.

3. Fashion (2008)

Though hers was a supporting role, Kangana Ranaut got as much praise and recognition as Fashion’s lead star Priyanka Chopra. Both won the National award and Filmfare award, Chopra for Best Actress and Ranaut for Best Supporting Actress. Chopra played an up-and-coming model Meghana, while Ranaut played Shonali, a top model unable to handle the murky rise to fame. The character was said to be based on the life of Indian model Geetanjali Nagpal.

In the film, Shonali turns to drugs and is let go of owing to her incessant drug use. Mentally disturbed, she is found homeless by Meghana. However, it’s too late to redeem her and she dies of a drug overdose. Film critic Rajeev Masand wrote in his review of the film that Ranaut “plays the eccentric superdiva with such a practised hand, it almost seems like an effortless delivery”. Ranaut pulled off the film’s fashionable wardrobe with panache, giving us a glimpse of her later status as a fashion trendsetter, even off screen.

4. Tanu Weds Manu (2011)

Playing a small-town girl from Kanpur, Kangana Ranaut won audiences over with her portrayal of the reckless Tanu. Her parents find her an NRI match from London in Manu (R Madhavan), but she turns him down, saying she is already in love with Raja (Jimmy Shergill). However, the more time Tanu and Manu spend together, the more they find themselves drawn to each other.

Ranaut’s Tanu is fearless, blunt to a fault, and wears her heart on her sleeve. The reviews of director Aanand L Rai’s film may have been mixed, but the character of Tanu has endured even now, so much so that the film got a sequel four years later.

5. Queen (2014)

Kangana Ranaut was at her best in Queen (2014), directed by Vikas Bahl, where she played the naive, jilted bride Rani who embarks alone on her European honeymoon. Her Rani was endearing yet daring, not willing to give up on her dream of travelling aboard. There she has many adorably cringeworthy moments as she meets people from around the world, navigates through Paris and Amsterdam, and gets drunk for the first time.

In the film’s finest scene, she goes on a hilarious rant from being better looking than her former fiancé Vijay (Rajkummar Rao) to following the rules, finally bursting into tears. Unsurprisingly, Ranaut went on to win National award for Best Actress and inspired many women globally to take that trip they were always dreaming of.

6. Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015)

What happens happily ever after? Both Tanu and Manu find out it’s not that easy in the sequel Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015), once again directed by Aanand L Rai. The couple separates and Manu finds himself attracted to her lookalike, Kusum aka Datto (also played by Ranaut). Datto is a determined athlete and Tanu’s opposite, which probably explains why Manu likes her. In her first double role, Ranaut played two contrasting characters with aplomb, tackled a tricky Haryanvi accent in the process, and picked up another National award for acting.

7. Simran (2017)

While Hansal Mehta’s film didn’t do as well as it was expected to at the box office, Kangana Ranaut’s performance was lauded. She played Praful Patel, a 30-something divorcee who lives with her parents and works as housekeeping staff at a hotel. Accompanying her cousin to Las Vegas, she goes gambling and wins. Soon her life unravels, however, as she finds herself heavily in debt and takes to robbing banks to pay her dues.

Praful isn’t a normal Hindi film heroine; she is flawed and vulnerable. Additionally, director Mehta and Ranaut worked to give Praful extra depth. The song 'Pinjra Tod Ke' shows Praful treating herself after winning at Vegas. She buys the dresses she has been coveting, treats herself to a good meal with champagne, and gets her hair done at the salon. As a maid, she would have been able to afford none of these. And in most films, a man would have been gifting her these, so it was nice to see a self-reliant female character for once in a mainstream film.