Friday, 2 May 2014

Kangana Ranaut at Indian Film Festival Melbourne press conference, 2 May 2014

Call it kismet.

After yesterday's brush with godlike Amitabh Bachchan, today offered a more subdued Indian Film Festival of Melbourne press conference. Smaller room, fewer cameras, no government officials. Even Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange was absent (though her excuse -- accompanying Mr Bachchan to LaTrobe University to present an Indian student with a $200K scholarship in Mr Bachchan's honour -- was incredible). Today's 'presser' was to announce the winner of IFFM's annual short film contest. One of the judges, Vijay Acarya, is the writer/director of 'Dhoom 3', the highest grossing film in Indian cinema history. One of the most powerful figures in Indian cinema humbly answered questions about the winning film entries, 'Makeover' and 'Chasni', which will be formally announced at tonight's awards ceremony.

Vijay was answering a question when a quiet rustling rose from the back of the room. It signalled the entrance of perhaps India's most admired actress of the moment, Kananga Ranaut. She strode to the front of the room and took a seat.

Believe me, you could hear air being sucked into lungs. And kept there.

Kangana is dazzling. I drag my ass off a long-distance flight looking like a mechanised corpse. Kangana flies into Melbourne at who knows what time and arrives at a noon press conference exuding a quiet glamour that a handful of humans can pull off. Unsurprisingly, most of the remaining questions were for her. Her work in 'Queen' garnered a Best Actress nomination at tonight's first IFFM Awards Night and is collecting accolades worldwide. My wife Aradhna and I saw it two weeks ago in the wilds of Dandenong and spent the 40-minute ride home raving about her performance.

Most of the questions from the Indian-dominated press were of the you-can-Google-the-bloody-answer variety but I was lucky to ask the final question. Some morning coffee web-surfing revealed Kangana's reticence to attend award ceremonies, which are as common in Mumbai as monsoons, so I asked why she'd flown all the way to Melbourne to attend the IFFM awards. She smiled (good god help me) and said that eight years ago, at the start of her acting career, she'd meant to travel to Australia for a role that fell through. Ever since she'd seen the world but had never made it to Australia. She also mentioned having heard about the IFFM from Simi Garewal, whose discussion at Melbourne University was one of the 2013 IFFM's highlights, and was excited to hear Amitabh Bachchan was to be in attendance.

The biggest star in Indian cinema at the moment addressing a group of small-time reporters in a Melbourne CBD Sofitel the day after Amitabh Bachchan opened this year's film festival. I left spellbound.

Here's Kangana responding to a question about preparing for the wildly disparate characters she portrays in 'Queen' and recently released (though not in Australia) 'Revolver Rani':

Indian cinema powerhouses: Vijay Krishna Acarya and Kangana Ranaut.

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