How Kangana transformed into Jayalalithaa for 'Thalaivii'

enid@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 8, 2021

The Bollywood actress takes on an iconic role in new biopic


What’s not to like about strong female characters on screen

Kangana Ranaut is no doubt a fan of the late cinestar-turned-formidable Chief Minister of Chennai, Jayalalithaa who starred in films like Suryagandhi (1973) and Izzat (1968).

“The Iron lady of India who devoted her whole life towards the betterment of her own people. She started as an actress who the masses loved and went on to become a leader who the masses looked up to. She entered the world of cinema and made it her own, she forayed into politics and became an icon. Know her inspiring story, Cinema se Chief Minister tak,” Kangana wrote on Instagram.

With her outspoken nature and social media crusade against those who have rubbed her the wrong way, Kangana seems to be the perfect actress to step into the shoes of one of India’s most powerful female political leaders.


From learning Bharatanatyam to acing the dance scenes, Kangana is on a roll

Kangana worked on her dancing skills to recreate nostalgic moves from Jayalalithaa’s old films.

“Thanks to my director Vijay’s perfection…. And magic of @neeta_lulla These recreations live up to huge expectations,” she wrote on Instagram beside a video collage of dances with actor Arvind Swamy (who plays famous Indian politician, actor and filmmaker MGR), giving a shout out to fashion designer Neeta Lulla who designed the elaborate costumes for Thalaivii.

Bollywood movies generally require actresses to dance around trees and while Kangana might not have exactly been known to be a traditional heroine in the roles she has done so far, opting for more solid performance-backed characters, from the Thalaivii trailers, it is obvious she has worked hard to replicate the steps and expressions of the original and the costumes have also worked wonders to add to the overall effect.


Putting on and losing weight for a role is never easy

In a social media post, Kangana shared how she had gained weight for her role and while the transformation was difficult, it was worth the effort for the film.

She had posted on her now defunct Twitter account, “In my 30s, I had to gain 20 kgs for Thalaivii and do Bharatanatyam, it left my back severely damaged but no bigger gratification than to play a role to perfection. Journey back to my fit body wasn’t easy, I feel good but even in seven months not able to achieve my earlier stamina and agility back and those last 5 kgs aren’t budging, there are moments of despair and then my director Vijay sir shows me Thalaivi footage and all seems fine.”

While initial footage of Kangana as Jayalalithaa may have come in for some snide comments, mainly due to the prosthetics used, which seemed plasticky in certain scenes, there’s no taking away from the fact that the real Jayalalithaa is a tough act to follow.


Working on real historic figures is always challenging

This isn’t the first time Kangana is taking on the role of a strong woman from real life.

While 2019’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi where she played the legendary queen opened to mixed reviews from critics and audiences, her performance was mostly applauded and the film no doubt pushed her career graph a few notches higher.

However, controversy followed as she had a bone to pick with critics of the film.

In an interview she accused a ‘movie mafia’ of spreading negative stories about her and Manikarnika due to jealousy. She was also accused by the original director Krish, of forcibly taking over command of the film as director.

Let’s see how the post-Thalaivii story pans out!


Bollywood spreads its wings to encompass Indian cinema

Kangana who kicked off her Bollywood career with Gangster in 2006, is making her South Indian cinema debut with Thalaivii. She had to familiarise herself with both Tamil and Bharatanatyam for her role.

She admitted to having issues learning the language, saying in an interview, “I am finding it difficult to learn Tamil. This film will be released in Hindi and Tamil, so we will do something about it. Obviously, I have to mug up those dialogues because Tamil is not an easy language. Earlier, I was trying to learn the complete Tamil language because I have learned English as well, but now I am learning Tamil as per the demand of film’s script.”

The Indian film industry is slowly moving towards pan-Indian cinema and it is great to see a lot of movies releasing simultaneously in many regional languages as well which can only result in a wider viewership.

Also read: Kangana Ranaut slams multiplex cinemas for refusing to screen 'Thalaivii'


Enid Grace Parker

A bibliophile and amateur poetry enthusiast, Enid grew up in Dubai in the 80s and loves to add a dash of nostalgia to her stories. She enjoys retro music, vintage Hollywood and Bollywood films and hanging around coffee shops and city bookstores hoping an idea for that once-in-a-lifetime best-selling novel will finally pop into her head.