|Date of birth||23 March 1986|
|Birth place||Bhambla, Himachal Pradesh, India|
Ranaut was born on 23 March 1986 at Bhambla (now Surajpur), a small town in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, into a Rajput family. Her mother, Asha Ranaut, is a school teacher, and her father, Amardeep Ranaut, is a businessman. She has an elder sister, Rangoli, who as of 2014 works as her manager and a younger brother, Akshat. Her great-grandfather, Sarju Singh Ranaut, was a Member of the Legislative Assembly and her grandfather was an officer for the Indian Administrative Service. She grew up in a joint family at their ancestral haveli (mansion) in Bhambla, and described her childhood as “simple and happy”.
According to Ranaut, she was “stubborn and rebellious” while growing up: “If my father would gift my brother a plastic gun and get a doll for me, I would not accept that. I questioned the discrimination.” She did not subscribe to the stereotypes that were expected of her and experimented with fashion from a young age, often pairing up accessories and clothes that would seem “bizarre” to her neighbours. Ranaut was educated at the DAV School in Chandigarh, where she pursued science as her core subject, remarking that she was “very studious” and “always paranoid about results”. She initially intended to become a doctor on the insistence of her parents.However, a failed unit test in chemistry during her twelfth grade led Ranaut to reconsider her career prospects and despite preparing for the All India Pre Medical Test, she did not turn up for the exam. Determined to find her “space and freedom”, she relocated to Delhi at the age of sixteen. Her decision not to pursue medicine led to constant feuding with her parents and her father refused to sponsor a pursuit he considered to be aimless
In Delhi, Ranaut was unsure which career to choose; the Elite Modelling Agency were impressed by her looks and suggested that she model for them. She took on a few modelling assignments, but generally disliked the career as she found “no scope for creativity”. Ranaut decided to shift focus towards acting and joined the Asmita Theatre Group, where she trained under the theatre director Arvind Gaur. She participated in Gaur’s theatre workshop at the India Habitat Centre, acting in several of his plays, including the Girish Karnad-scripted Taledanda. During a performance, when one of the male actors went missing, Ranaut played his part along with her original role of a woman. A positive reaction from the audience prompted her to relocate to Mumbai to pursue a career in film and she enrolled herself for a four-month acting course in Asha Chandra’s drama school.
Ranaut struggled with her meager earnings during this period, eating only “bread and aachar (pickle)”. Refusing her father’s financial assistance led to a rift in their relationship which she later regretted. Her relatives were unhappy with her decision to enter the film-making industry, and they did not correspond with her for several years. She reconciled with them after the release of Life in a… Metro in 2007.