Over the last few years, though, Ranaut has emerged as a bizarre celebrity putting out bizarre opinions. Many critics say her public statements, be it on traditional or social media platforms, show clear allegiance to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many, including prominent opposition politicians, have filed police complaints against her for using foul language.
Ranaut’s contributions are many, one would say, a recent one being Twitter banning her for violating its hate speech and abusive behaviour rules.
Ranaut also has a way of keeping herself in the news, Verma added, initially by giving “devastating responses” to entertainment journalists, which would send the “clickbait journalism” space into a tizzy. “The few entertainment websites, one of which even I worked for, would lap up whatever she said, most times just to create news out of nowhere,” she said. “But soon, I think, it became all about making a noise to stay relevant.”A few years ago, she famously accused many bigwigs from her own industry of nepotism, a crusade that was lauded by many. Very soon, her tweets and media statements started generating controversy rather than conversations. In 2018, at a public event in Mumbai, Ranaut said that if “a certain religion” worships cows, we shouldn’t be eating their meat. This instantly turned into a hot item in Hindu-majority India where Hindu nationalists masquerading as protectors of cows have been known to lynch minorities such as Muslims, who trade cattle and eat beef.
“Ranaut took on these damaged character tropes and was considered a remarkable actor. That’s how she broke into, and even stole, the scene. It was a nice thing to see.”
Ranaut’s journey also falls in line with the so-called taming of Bollywood by the government, with an increasing number of films showcasing nationalistic themes and pushing the government’s narrative. A critic said Manikarnika, a film Ranaut directed and starred in, was “[ticking] all the nationalistic boxes.” A senior fashion magazine editor in Mumbai, who requested anonymity because of the controversial status of Ranaut, told VICE that while Ranaut’s great style and innate flair put her on some of the top fashion magazines in India a few years ago, her online behaviour has led some of those magazines to distance themselves from her.
“Back when she was doing well in films, we would notice Ranaut taking on trolls who made fun of her. But as she grew more toxic, she turned into an internet troll herself.”
Earlier this year, two young Indian designers Rimzim Dadu and Anand Bhushan announced on social media that they would never work with Ranaut after she made the statement that got her banned from Twitter. Ranaut’s rabble-rousing also has a chilling effect, as witnessed in 2019, when she infamously confronted an entertainment journalist at a press event, and slammed him for critiquing one of her films and calling her a jingoist. In turn, the journalist responded, saying, “This is not the right way to intimidate a journalist just because you’re in such a position of power.”The Press Club of India put out a statement, expressing shock at Ranaut’s “uncivilised, uncultured, filthy and abusive language against the media persons.” The Entertainment Journalists’ Guild of India declared a ban on Ranaut, demanding she apologises to the journalist.
“When she started to make herself quotidian, a rebel without a cause, defined by her newly self-styled patriotism, magazines withdrew their support.”
One editorial piece called her statement a testament to the “quid pro quo arrangement” between the current government and “its pets”, wherein the BJP gains every time such “diversions” steer the public’s attention away from actual problems in the country. The Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) demanded that Ranaut’s Padma Shri be cancelled. Swati Maliwal, the DCW chief, added in her letter to the President that Ranaut “habitually spews venom against people of her own country and has repeatedly used vile language to attack those she does not agree with."
“Her thoughts give legitimacy to a specific kind of thinking which, a few years ago, people would feel embarrassed even talking about in private, let alone articulating them publicly.”