Ever since Kangana Ranaut started dominating television news debates and commenting on sociopolitical issues, questions are being asked about the future her film career.
This year, the actress was slated to play the former screen idol-turned-politician J Jayalalithaa in a bilingual biopic, but other than there hasn’t been much talk about her films.
Ironically, most commentators are convinced that this is the end of the road as far as regular Bollywood goes for Kangana and her political posturing, too, had only fuelled such speculation.
In addition to playing the reel-version of Jayalalithaa, Kangana has also said that she would be making films on Ayodhya and Kashmir. Once again, these subjects aren’t what one could label typical Bollywood but then Kangana has been known to swim against the tide.
While carving a niche for herself within the realm of popular films, Kangana Ranaut also managed to create a brand that much like a cat falling on its feet no matter what, ends up appearing a part of the system. In the first half of her career Kangana featured in more ‘mainstream’ films but these roles — Gangster, Woh Lamhe, Fashion, Life in a Metro, were unlike traditional lead or supporting roles.
The films that established her dominance at the box office - both Tanu Weds Manu and its sequel, as well as Queen - seemed the ‘different’ variety, at least on paper, but enjoyed wider acceptance than anticipated.
The success of Queen and the Tanu Weds Manu sequel established Kangana Ranaut as someone who was in a league of her own. This was also because she was probably the only post-1990s female star who did not work with the reigning male superstars of the era on her way to the top.
Kangana Ranaut famously refused films opposite the Khan trio - Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh - as well as others top male stars and yet managed to become one of the highest-paid actors in the industry.
She is said to have refused Sultan opposite Salman Khan even though the producer, Aditya Chopra, reportedly offered her a carte blanc in terms of her remuneration and other things. He was said to have offered to produce two more films of her choice if she agreed to feature in Sultan.
Although it seems a distant possibility that the actress would do something standard Bollywood but having said that, Bollywood itself appears to be at a point where it’s redefining what was standard. A combination of the post-COVID-19 world along with the emergence of OTT platforms have led Bollywood to think of themes and ideas that would suit the times and the mood better.
In this aspect, Kangana is a near trailblazer in more ways than one. Take for instance a film like Simran that was directed by Hansal Mehta. Although the film did not do well, and its production was also marred by controversy regarding sharing the writing credit, it was a film that could work just fine for the new post-COVID-19 world.
A definitive character-driven film, Simran is in the same mould as an Ab Tak Chappan and the more recent Class of 83. This is also the kind of narrative that one would see more on OTT platforms in the months to come.
More than actors such as Kangana Ranaut changing to adapt to the ways of Bollywood, it is also becoming clear that Bollywood, as it existed, would need to change.
Post-Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and the CBI investigation into the matter, the arrival of Narcotics Control Bureau and investigations of all kinds have made it clear that general public might not accept things to go back to business as usual.
The way Kangana Ranaut is leading the charge of sorts when it comes to demarcating a ‘before’ and ‘after’ phase in Bollywood also hints at how the actress might just define the new regular.