New Delhi, March 15 -- They are small-towners gone big; outsiders who busted the elite, family-members-only worlds of Mumbai cinema and Delhi politics.

Kangana Ranaut, from Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh, conquered the incestuous, insiders club that is Hindi cinema and became one of Bollywood's three highest paid actresses. Narendra Modi, from Vadnagar, Gujarat, paced himself for 13 years as that state's chief minister before he got an opportunity to redraw the fault lines of Indian politics.

Both emphasize their regional identities and speak in their home-town accents. Both have struggled with English. Ranaut has often said that the film industry made fun of her for not being able to speak the language when she first came to Mumbai. ...