'The stereotype of an actress is that she's dumb, somebody who will sit on your lap, giggle on stupid jokes, come to the van when she's being called, receive a call at 3 am and come over to your house.'
'So when a girl comes along and challenges this, people get uncomfortable.'
Kangana Ranaut gets candid with Rediff.com's Ronjita Kulkarni.
Kangana Ranaut is a vision of calm.
Wearing a white strappy dress with red and pink roses, and a gajra on her hair, like a tiara, the actress acknowledges me with a nod. There is no smile yet.
The actress is currently promoting her new film Simran, where she plays a Gujarati migrant in the US, who loves gambling and is a kleptomaniac.
She is excited about the role, as she gets to play a "new age" woman, working with "new age" filmmakers, in this case, Hansal Mehta.
"Simran is about a woman with issues. New age filmmakers are breaking stereotypes," she says.
What is the stereotype, exactly?
"They were arm candy, to show the romantic side of the hero for two minutes. Then, she would come back for a song, and in the climax, she would be back for the varmala. That was the role of the Indian heroine. But it is not that she, like the hero, did not have her own conflicts," Kangana says.
Kangana seems to have broken the stereotype of a Bollywood heroine as well.
"How can an actress be intelligent?" she asks rhetorically.
"The stereotype of an actress is that she is dumb, somebody who will sit on your lap, giggle on stupid jokes, come to the van when she is being called, receive a call at 3 am and come over to your house."
"So when a girl comes along and challenges this, people get uncomfortable. They feel something is wrong with her because she doesn't entertain any kind of stupidity."
"Yes, you make mistakes when you are young, fall for married men. But you don't do that any more; you take a strong stand. You become someone with a mind of your own and that starts khatkoing (wrangling) in people's minds."
That, she feels, is the reason why writer Apurva Asrani is pointing a finger at her.
Asrani claimed he was arm-twisted into giving Kangana a co-writer credit for Simran's story.
'I finally gave into an additional writing credit, but only because they claimed their film would be stuck if I didn't do so. But I refused to give her a co-writer credit, and we signed a letter where they promised me the same,' Asrani claimed in a Facebook post.
Kangana did get credited as a co-writer, much to Asrani's annoyance.
"I don't think he had a personal agenda against me. He just wanted publicity. Everything was sorted much before he cried about it," Kangana shrugs off the simmering chai in the cup.
Hansal, dignified as always, prefers not to discuss the controversy. Asrani has been a collaborator, working on films like Chhal, Shahid, City Lights and Aligarh.
"Kangana and I were looking for a good story since 2014," he says, "but nothing materialised. When I got this idea, I told her about it and she said let's do it. She has s been involved since the script stage," Hansal says as clarification.
He is all praise for his actress, and feels her involvement in the film shows "passion", not "interference," which Kangana has been accused of in her recent films.
"If somebody interfered in my marriage, I would fight it. But for me, filmmaking is a collaborative process. We have to make sure that the collaboration goes towards one goal," Hansal explains.
"People don't like the equality that I demand and command," says Kanagana. People have told me on my face that the day an actress starts to demand money, that's the end of her career."
"You cannot even ask for how much you want!" she exclaims, wide-eyed.
"A big producer will give you what you deserve. You can't even ask for how much you want! Forget equal pay for equal work, you can't even *ask* for money!"
There seems to be a recurring theme in Kangana's recent movies -- in Queen, she was dumped at the altar, while in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, she played a woman on the verge of divorce.
In Simran, her character is divorced.
"Love life is never simple," she says with a chuckle, perhaps hinting at her turbulent relationship with Hrithik Roshan.
It is a topic she has been talking about at great length during the promotions for Simran.
Their romance apparently started on the sets of Krrish 3 and ended during the release of Kangana's blockbuster Queen in 2014.
The world discovered it two years later, when they served legal notices on each other.
The controversy appeared to have died down, but was revived -- with new vigour -- after Kangana spoke about it in detail in various interviews last month.
But why talk about him now?
"I have never ever interacted with the media apart from my films," she replies. "This is the only time I talk to the media. I never call them to my house for a meal. And there was a big question mark about that issue."
"It had been very neatly and perfectly buried. This is my character; I am above releases, endorsements and events. So I am going to clarify."
"If there is such a big question over my character, my sanity, my conduct as a woman, what do you think I should do? Should I wait for the appropriate time to come out when the world says so?"
"If someone raises a finger against my character, I will defend myself because a woman's character is her pride," she says.
While Hrithik is getting some love -- his former wife Sussanne Khan Instagramed her support -- Kangana seems to barely have any supporters in the movie industry.
"That is not true," Kangana says emphatically.
"Sanjukta Basu has written a beautiful piece about me (In an open letter to singer Sona Mohapatra who accused Kangana of cleaning her dirty linen in public, Basu wrote on Huffington Post that 'Kangana deserves applause for talking about her life without being apologetic about it'). She is a scholar in feminism. It is not that people are not supporting me."
In a series of tweets to Mohapatra, Rangoli Chandel, Kangana's sister, posted, 'When some one bares her soul don't call it a circus, you are a black spot on womanhood. Shame on you Sona Mohapatra.'
'Humble journeys can't be measured in pre release and post release parameters, your empathy and wisdom is a slave to movie release calendar.'
'People like you try and milk publicity from everything. Please take several seats, your two minutes of fame are up.'
"Rangoli is four years older. She gives me all the information, like what married life is like. Now she is expecting, she tells me about what it's like... I tell her you are hormonal right now, you should hold back. I did not like the fact that... she was a little harsh. I called her and told her, don't say anything to Farah (Khan)."
"It's such a beautiful time in her (Rangoli's) life, she should enjoy this phase. She is delivering in the first week of November. This time will not come back. She is working on her next project -- she and her husband are getting into the hospitality business. They will open a hotel in Manali."
Farah, seemingly a Hrithik supporter, had said 'You are playing the woman card,' without taking any names.
"Farah has apologised," Kangana says, clearly keeping a keen ear on all the buzz about her.
What about her parents? Are they supportive?
"My father is more supportive now. He shows a lot of faith in me. I don't know if he pretends or if he actually means it, but he does show a lot of faith. He never tells me to back out or step back. On the other hand, my mother gets very scared. She will always tell me to step back, to be calm," Kangana says.
Does she have any friends left in the industry?
"Yes. The people I work with are much older so we don't have a back-slapping relationship. I can't have beer with them. The gender also comes in; if I was a boy, I would hang out with my boyfriends."
"The actresses of my age group, I find them very gossipy. I can't handle that. I don't like to waste my time on that."
"Yes, there are some like-minded people, but the people (the movie folk she encounters) are too interested in other people's lives. My interest level in other people's lives is zero! I have so much going on in my own life," she adds.
Doesn't it get lonely sometimes?
Kangana shakes her head, and says, "Luckily, I am very close to my sister and my brother (Akshit) who is a year younger than me. We go out, watch movies."
"My parents are not from the industry, so they talk about everything but films."
Does she feel unlucky in love, like her movie characters?
'It does feel I am unlucky in love because I didn't end up with the man I wanted to be with. But I thank my stars!" she exclaims.
"When I was 16, I wanted to get married to someone. There is no shame in longing for someone. You long to get married to your love interest, and you feel, 'Who needs parents? Who needs the world?' But when that doesn't work, there is a lot of pain and agony."
"When I look back, I thought I would think I was unlucky in love but actually I am very lucky in love. I just dodged a bullet."
Would she change anything in her life if she could?
"I don't want to be subjected to the extreme circumstances when I was young, like the physical violence, being stuck in a dirty situation where you are treated badly. The heartbreaks, I don't mind," she says.
Kangana has two films lined up after Simran: Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi and her directorial debut Teju.
"It is a great opportunity to play that woman (Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi in Manikarnika). She was the greatest warrior history has seen and to play a warrior queen, we have rarely seen that in India."
"There is a lot of talent pumping in the industry. I am working with great talent so it will be a world cinematic experience," she says.
Kangana has launched her production house, and Teju will be its first film. Going forward, direction will be her priority.
How important is Simran's success to her career, at this point in her life?
"I don't calculate it like that. I know one thing, the journey I had set out on, I have achieved a lot more than that. I am a National Award-winning actress, the highest paid actress, who has shattered box office records."
"I have a life ahead of me. I want to do a lot of things in my life. I don't feel bogged down or feel ab mera kya hoga (what will happen to me). There is a world outside the film industry."
"I have built a beautiful house in Manali. I love the fireplace, the beautiful wine I have stocked, the mountains... I would be more than happy to just chill rather than fight these battles."
"I am really tired (of fighting). But to my credit, I am too young, and have lived on the edge for too long."
"If I stay, it's good for the industry, if I don't, it's good for me," Kangana says with a laugh.