Kangana Ranaut: The Rise And Decline Of The National Award-Winning Actress

Kangana Ranaut made her acting debut with Anurag Basu’s directorial Gangster in the year 2006.  The film co-starred Shiney Ahuja and Emraan Hashmi.

In this movie, she played a young woman with a traumatic past. This included falling in love with a wanted gangster and running away with him.

Gangster opened to mostly positive reviews and Kangana was praised for her performance.

On the flip side, the success of Gangster led the actress to play similar roles (troubled women) in her subsequent films — Woh Lamhe (2006), Raaz: The Mystery Continues (2009), and Fashion (2008).

35 films to date

With Chandramukhi 2 (2023) and Tejas (2023), Kangana Ranaut has done 35 films so far.

Some of her most notable performances are: Tanu weds Manu films (2011 and 2015), Queen (2013), FashionRangoon (2017), Manikarnika (2019), and Panga (2020).

Vikas Bahl’s Queen is a significant film in the Bollywood actor’s career as her role of Rani Mehra is quite a departure from the likes of Gangster and Fashion. And, the actress rightfully won her first National Award for Best Actress for this film.

The Tanu Weds Manu films are another major landmark in Kangana’s career, particularly the sequel. In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Kangana Ranaut played a double role and was hugely successful in carrying the film on her shoulders.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns did much more business than the prequel. The actress also got her second National Award for Best Actress for this film.  The other National Awards came for Manikarnika and Panga respectively.

A downward graph

After Tanu weds Manu Returns, Kangana Ranaut became a bankable star actress considered on par with heroes. But unfortunately, after that, the graph has been going downwards with every new release.

It is a combination of bad script choices coupled with her excessive rants on social media which haven’t done her any favour even with her fans.

For example, she labelled both Swara Bhasker and Taapsee Pannu as needy outsiders.

She even called Vikrant Massey a cockroach.

Her continuous attacks on Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt are something that everyone is familiar with.

Before the release of Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022), the actress went on record that crores of money would bite the dust along with the film.

She also attacked Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020) before its release.

All this has come back to haunt the actress with her latest release Tejas (2023). Fittingly, Vikrant Massey’s 12th Fail, released on the same day, has emerged as a big success.

Now, let’s focus on Kangana’s non-performing films and give an overview of why they have fared the way they have starting from Tejas.

Tejas

Tejas, debutant director Sarvesh Mewara’s Air Force thriller/drama, was a mix of patriotism coupled with women empowerment. But the filmmaker failed to succeed on both counts.

Sarvesh Mewara’s direction was dull, but having said that, Kangana Ranaut’s single-tone act made the film even more unbearable.

Irrespective of the scene that the actress was performing, there was a robotic quality to the way she was delivering her dialogues.

Ideally, the big speech about the Indian soldiers should have an emotional connection. But viewers don’t feel any connection because it comes across as more of a real-life rant that the actress is known for.

Chandramukhi 2

Rajinikanth and Jyotika-starrer Chandramukhi (2005, Tamil) is a movie that enjoys a special place in the hearts of the viewers.

It is widely considered as Jyotika’s best. Her performance as a married woman suffering from a split personality was a treat to watch.

Jyotika’s act was always going to be a tough one to match, but the extent to which Kangana Ranaut failed in Chandramukhi 2 (2023) was unimaginable.

A lot of the blame for this fiasco lied with the sketchy characterisation. But the fact that Kangana didn’t match even 5 percent of what Jyotika did in the prequel was also to be blamed.

Adding to viewers’ woes were Kangana Ranaut’s Bharatanatyam dances that generated unintentional comedy.

Thalaivi

The real-life story of Jayalalithaa is an inspiring one in many ways. She was a woman of steel with many highs and lows.

Before Thalaivi (2021), there was a web series called Queen (2019) directed by Gautham Menon and Prasanth Murugesan.

Both directors did a good job of portraying Jayalalithaa’s life. Ramya Krishna who played the title role was also solid in her performance.

But AL Vijay’s Thalaivi did not match Queen.

Vijay did a good job in the first half exploring the relationship between Jayalalithaa and MGR (Kangana Ranaut and Aravind Swamy respectively).

But in the second half, the director slipped badly and from then on it was all downhill.

The political side of Jayalalithaa was shown in a rushed manner. At certain points, it looked like AL Vijay was more interested in playing to Kangana’s real-life image rather than the story.

Another problem with the film was the characterisation of Nassar’s Karunanidhi; it was more of a caricature.

Panga

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga (2020) was a sports drama that revolved around a former kabaddi player who gave up her dreams just before a major tournament.

The movie did receive glowing reviews with Kangana receiving critical acclaim.

Kangana Ranaut’s role of Jaya was easily one of the best characters in her filmography. But, in spite of all the positive reviews, Panga was a non-starter at the box office.

A reason that could be attributed to its failure was a certain fatigue that had set in with this genre.

Manikarnika

Manikarnika co-directed by Kangana Ranaut and Krish Jagarlamudi was not an absolute disaster in comparison to the above-mentioned films.

The movie did reasonable business but wasn’t a blockbuster hit as the actress claimed.

Kangana Ranaut made for a perfect Jhansi ki rani. The ferociousness and swagger required of a Queen was very much there.

Neetu Lulla’s costumes also came in for much praise particularly the ones worn by Kangana Ranaut.

However, the big problem with Manikarnika was that it became all about Kangana alone with not much space for anyone else.

The cardboard British characters were another eyesore.

Judgemental Hai Kya

Actor-director Prakash Kovelamudi tried to do many things with Judgemental Hai Kya (2019).

On one hand, it was a dark comedy. In the second half, the film turned into a whodunit combined with commentary on mental health.

However, this khichdi of genres didn’t amalgamate into something truly memorable.

The film had solid performances from both Kangana Ranaut and Rajkumar Rao.

Of course, the actress is no stranger to playing mentally unhinged characters and she did do a good job. Rajkumar Rao also did a wonderful job in his negative role.

Just like Thalaivi, this movie too suffered from the curse of the second half. It could have been so much more but it ended up neither here nor there.

The multiplex audiences didn’t completely get it and the masses were simply not interested in it.

Katti Batti

Nikhil Advani’s Katti Batti (2015) is a concoction of many films. There was clear inspiration from Hollywood romantic movies coupled with his directorial debut Kal Ho Na Ho.

For reasons best known to Nikhil, he placed the weight of Katti Batti on the shoulders of a struggling Imran Khan.

Kangana Ranaut enters and exists as per the convenience of the screenplay, though she rated her performance in this movie on par with Tanu Weds Manu Returns.

Not surprisingly, the audiences preferred to do “Katti” with the flick!

Well, it is sad to see a good actress losing both on- and off-screen and getting embroiled in unnecessary controversies.

Wish Kangana Ranaut would refocus on her craft and deliver many more Queens and Tanus!

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