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Kangana Ranaut’s Modi comment shows she is a feminist, but only for herself

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When Kangana Ranaut brushes away social discontent and trauma in India to win brownie points, she becomes complicit in the status quo.

Kangana Ranaut is the flag-bearer of pop-feminism. Her linearity of thought, lack of filters, and slick marketing combine to generate shareable memes that seem to say so much of what we struggle to articulate. It’s so easy to root for her.

So, it was a little alarming for liberal people, who appointed Kangana as their feminist icon, to hear her endorsing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the ‘rightful’ leader of the country.

It was not an unthinking comment from Kangana. When most of us agonise over collating our various sociopolitical positions without sounding sloppy, she often blazes forth with the kind of confidence and candour I wish more women would try to project. Unafraid of picking up serious cudgels, she’s the epitome of the scrappy underdog that snarls her way to the top. Maybe that’s why liberals take it particularly personally when she falters or takes a misstep – something she’s been doing a lot recently.

This comes after a series of discomfiting behaviours from her, like when she laughed along with Jim Sarbh’s rape jokes, or when she refused to support a campaign for fellow star Deepika Padukone. The reiterated message is fairly clear. Kangana is a feminist, yes, but only for herself.

Feminism, when optimised for quick consumption, loses nuance and the ability to be intersectional. In a country like India, any feminism that is not inclusive is incomplete and dangerous. When someone like Kangana shows examples of personal courage, but repeatedly makes contrived statements that serve nothing but her own marketing, she poses a difficult conundrum to anyone looking up to her.

Also read: Veere Di Wedding is an apology for feminism and doesn’t really celebrate independent women

Two questions arise: can one cherrypick good behaviours? And does it really matter what Kangana Ranaut says? I think everyone has a very personal, contextual answer to both these questions. For me, as someone who often finds herself tired after a long day of trying to be a better woman and a better feminist, it’s not enough. When people around the world are putting their hearts, minds, and souls into being better version of themselves, into learning and educating, into pushing the boundaries of inclusion to make the world a safer space for themselves and those less privileged, it’s rankling to know that someone with so much public clout simply doesn’t see the impact her words have on people.

Also read: From Kanye West to Kangana Ranaut – How to advocate a cause, not its icon

That is also why I think what Kangana says does matter. In a country that’s quick to make gospels out of paparazzi quotes, when someone with her platform brushes away the incredible amount of social discontent and trauma in this country to win a few brownie points, she’s made herself complicit in the status quo. She’s made it known that her platform, her privilege and her clout will serve only herself, and if we hope to find some kinship and solidarity with her, it’s only going to be one-sided.

This isn’t the first woke icon falling off her pedestal. She won’t be the last. The past few years have been a series of stark, uncomfortable realisations that most hashtag-friendly people we know, well, aren’t quite woke. From Aziz Ansari’s sexual misconduct, to Kanye’s Trump love, to Jim Sarbh’s rape jokes, to the tragic creative downfall of Nawazuddin Siddique – our heroes aren’t really heroic. And that hurts.

Also read: The Aziz Ansari episode reminds me of all the Indian boys who can’t say please, or thank you

It’s just human to want to find someone who glows brighter than we sometimes do. That’s why I don’t think I’d blame anyone (and this included me at one time) for expecting Kangana to be the one person who gets it. The problem, probably, is that none of us quite know what ‘it’ is. We all have our own demands from feminism, and our own contributions to it. Maybe Kangana decided she didn’t want to give back, and that left a lot of us in a lurch.

Having said that, what Kangana said about Modi might not really be a ‘misstep’ for everyone in the country. No, seriously. Just look up #KanganaRanaut on Twitter, and you’ll see a bunch of people lauding her as someone walking away from the ‘hypocrisy’ of Bollywood.

But for those of us who are feeling let down by her, coping with such betrayals isn’t easy. It implies having to accept the fact that our truths aren’t always true. But here’s the thing: no one’s a hero. We are all flawed, and by creating icons, we only set ourselves up for failure and hurt. It’s horrible because we never quite learn. Coping isn’t something you can practice. It’s a raw wound, every single time.

Harnidh Kaur is a poet.

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  1. Her film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019) was surrounded by controversy even before filming started after her co-actor Sonu Sood walked out of the movie post his fallout with Ranaut. Sonu and I haven t even met since the last shot with Krish (director) last year. He is busy filming Simmba. He couldn t even give us tentative dates to match combinations with other actors. The producers showed him the film and writers narrated the patchwork to him. He refused to meet me. He vehemently denied to work under a woman director, which is kind of amusing because Sonu is a dear friend and I have even launched the music of a film that he produced at his request, the actress said about her showdown with Sood. Sood reacted to the comment by saying, “Kangana is a dear friend and she will always remain one but this constant playing the woman card, the victim card and making this entire issue about male chauvinism is ridiculous. The gender of the director is not the issue. Competence is. Let s not confuse the two. I ve worked with Farah Khan who s a competent woman director and Farah and I had a great professional equation and we are still best of friends. That s all I would like to say.”

  2. Seems author is full of frustration n agenda driven article to target the supporters of good governance and nationalist.

  3. It is for everyone to see that kangana is in fact anti establishment . The Khans & people like Mahesh Bhatt with their cronies rule Bollywood (whuch is as alien to India as Hollywood) . In cahoot with Dawood Ibrahim , they have made Heroes out of people like Salman & Sanju.
    Western feminism is all about selfish interest of few individual wasting millions for unproductive issues, causing further degradation & manipulation of women , severing families ties & taking absurd, uninformed , contrary & some times views on issues like Shani temple, Sabrimala , Triple Talaq, Halala, Burqa. Western feminism in India is mum on #BanTheBurkha & become putty cat in front of Haji Ali.
    True #Swadeshi feminists like Madhu Kishwar ji thus never accepted #ForeignDonations because that meant following foreign ideology & foreign bosses which certain NGOs & journalist are doing. I support Kangana for disregarding loyal #Durbari system & walking on a separate path of #Swadeshi feminism instead of copying the #Videshi feminism.

  4. Just because she supports Modi seems to irritate you. I just don’t understand your kind of people. You all talk of intolerance but you and your ilk are the intolerant ones.

  5. Put a Like & Dislike button on your articles to see what percentage of Indians think like you. Writing your thoughts doesn’t make Bagvath Geetha. It needs more wisdom.

  6. Jim Sarabh has mentioned ad-nauseum that he enacting a play yet people choose to drag her name with that incorrect laughing at the rape comment story. This is just an agenda article. The bashing down for her comment on Modi at an event has NOTHING to do with feminism. It is her opinion. Why do people expect her to adhere to their idea of feminism?

    • Seriously, these articles are meant to find SOMETHING to pull down Kangana. Her opinion on PM Modi in the context of his journey and the event she was attending. Why write a nasty article for her views? If Modi’s journey is inspirational to her because her own journey to the top in her field has a bit of parallel, she does not need to be humiliated. How does liking the PM make you a non-feminist? Too much agenda in this article.

    • Exactly! I am sick and tired of reading Jim Sarbh’s rape jokes everywhere. Only one joke was out and it was only a part of it. It was taken out of context. They didn’t even understand it’s context and and are going around using it mindlessly.

  7. I dont understand what has feminism to do with the admiration or appreciation towards Modi’s work. U are an hardcore feminist if u hate him. Sounds stupid. Women should appreciate Modi’s steps taken in regards to triple talaq, halla, death sentence to rapists, etc if they r really feminists. Bcoz ur favourite gov had not guts to even talk about it left alone taking any steps. Even now they r mute n deaf on these issues. But still u favour them, I doubt how other feminists will cop with this betrayal from u. Miss write something that have substance. Attacking someone for their personal choices is not something worth writing for a poet or a journalist(like u, if u really are). Article with no logic, no base,full of hypocrisy exposing pseudo intellectuals like you.

  8. What did nawazzudin do? Creative downfall because he played gaitonde, a right wing Hindu character? I’m confused, what does HK mean?

  9. Apna hi mjak banwa lia is writer ne….
    And Deepika ko support Nhi Kia Cz she didn’t support her Infct nobody support her in Bollywood except few people… Kangana is also human being…tit for tat me Koi burayi Nhi h… Jo insaan jaisa kartA h waisa bhartA h…and Bollywood me without khan and johar n roshan survive Karna sabko pta h Kitna Mushkil h but she did it on her own talent n capabilities
    Aaj Kangana ki ek huge fan following h jo Unke liye jati h movie dekhne… I m so proud f her I m a guy but she is my role model… She is so strong despite being an Indian lady… Indian lady pe main jor Dena chahuga… Indian lady… U silly writer

  10. Harnidh Kaur, what happened to the FIR you were gonna initiate against your dear friend Shamir Reuben? Think public memory is as flimsy as Kangana Ranaut’s commitment to feminism?

  11. Soon you good for nothing haters will fade into irrelevance due to the sheer stupidity of your thoughts. The “incredible amount of social discontent and trauma” in the country is for you armchair activists whose hypocrisy and a warped idea of feminism and freedom of speech are not only getting exposed but thoroughly rejected by Indian masses now.
    First you support and idolise her and put her on a pedestal just for hurling all kinds of accusations against her co-star breaking the sanctity of an alleged relationship. Then the minute she supports a person YOU don’t agree with, she becomes selfish, garners brownie points, makes wrong decisions and supposedly falls off the pedestal !!
    Teenager kids are more mature than that. No wonder you get tired trying to become a better feminist, because what you practice is hypocrisy !

  12. Few of your points make sense but girl oh ! Girl ! You are writing an article , it’s not a kitty party where your opinion , stated, must be appreciated, as of some general gesture. You don’t like modi ? Fine. Someone likes modi. Fine. You can’t appreciate him. Good. Someone appreciates him. Good ! Why would you even on earth insert feminism in everything. Get feminism right. For me, as of now, you are a great poet. Great writer . Misheaded feminist and a Judgemental Pen holder who thinks, pen is mightier than sword so I can write anything that bakes my cake. Sad ! it doesn’t.

  13. I can almost taste the teenage angst, entitlement, pusedo wisdom and intellect. And I commend that theprint backs such soulless and self-praising article. What’s next the great article? You should like the smell of author’s fart because she loves it.

  14. The author is clearly stupid, butthurt. Targeting Kangana for her personal views because they aren’t in alignment with her political beliefs.

  15. The Print has no right to make comments on someone’s personal choice and making judgemental remarks on others without javinv complete knowledge. She is also free to express her opinion.The author of this article does not have any authority to decide what does ‘feminism’ actually mean. Atleast this government made triple talaq illegal and provided sone respite to the Muslim women, which the previous ‘liberal’ government could not do.Miss Kaur, I will pity for you and your narrow minded think.

  16. All your ire against Kangana is because she has publicly supported Narendar Modi. This is the face of semi educated India which is on both sides of the fence and judges everyone from their own balcony with finality.

  17. Now Kangana will be elevated to a national scene. Soon she will wear a long tilak and orange sari but she is forgetting, she got into that box and nailing the lid herself. None can help her anymore. Poor bhakts can’t see her as a goddess nor masturbate.

  18. What a logic . You need a big salute . Mam love u . Go and start ur own political party I will make sure that I will not give u vote. Just kidding.

  19. Mrs. Kaur is doing more damage to her cause than anything. If you imply that you can only be a feminist if you oppose modi, then you are seriously biased and perhaps retarded.

    Perhaps The print should reconsider what kind of articles are they pushing out in the name of “journalism”, you are peddling lies and propaganda.

  20. No feminist worth a dime should support what she has. Does not mean one should oppose every now and then. What is worth knowing is that is it a smooth transition or suddenly jumped as soon as other actress quit which created vaccum ????

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