“If I had to make Black a hundred times, it would be with Rani each time,” director Sanjay Leela Bhansali had said about Rani Mukerji regarding the film, which is considered one of the landmarks in the actor’s career. So, it is interesting to know that the original choice for Black wasn’t Rani, it was Kareena Kapoor. Good performances often have better stories behind them, not just on screen but also off the reel, and not just Black, but Rani has been a part of many such interesting tales where she ‘happened’ to get rejected roles. On her 38th birthday, let’s take a round of all those films, which she made hers after despite not being the first choice.
1. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: This story is as popularly known as the film itself. Director Karan Johar wrote the role of Tina keeping in mind his best friend, then actor Twinkle Khanna, but she turned it down. Johar went from one actor to another, apparently the biggest in the business, but no one wanted to play second fiddle to Kajol. Finally, Tina found Rani, who was just a film old. The actor lapped it up and rest, as they say, is history. With a supporting role in the Kajol-Shah Rukh Khan-starrer, Rani had arrived. Neither the film, nor her performance as the svelte yet sweet Tina has got old till today.
2. Ghulam: Audiences would have missed the scorching chemistry of Rani and Aamir had Pooja Bhatt, the original choice for the film, been cast. Vishesh Films were perhaps keen on repeating the successful pair of Aamir-Pooja after Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, but things didn’t fall into place, and Rani was signed. Playing an emotionally vulnerable and lonely Alisha in this hard-hitting drama, which released the same year as Kuch Kuch Kuch Hota, only positioned her as an actor to watch out for.
3. Chalte Chalte: The drama around this film is well known- Aishwarya had begun shooting for it but was asked to leave the movie after her then boyfriend Salman Khan created ruckus on the sets. That’s when Rani stepped in. The film even cost the actor her friendship with Aishwarya, as it was reported the latter was upset that Rani had said yes for a film, which originally had her. But Rani got a hit and accolades for her portrayal of an emotionally independent woman in the romantic drama.
4. Black: Had Kareena not rejected the movie, it would have been a loss of both the audience and Rani. While we wouldn’t have got to see the actor exploring new dimensions of her craft, Rani would have missed on perhaps the most acclaimed performance in her career spanning two decades. As a visually and hearing impaired girl who triumphs over the challenges the world throws her way even as she struggles to understand the emotional changes within her, Rani was sensitivity and poignancy rolled into one.
5. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna: Rani’s efforts to make the complex Maya Talwar, the woman in an unhappy marriage who has an extramarital affair, got her critical acclaim and audience praise despite the film’s below average performance at the box-office. But it wouldn’t have been possible had Kajol taken up Karan Johar’s film. Johar first approached his then closest friend for the role but she chose Aamir-starrer Fanaa to make her big screen comeback. The director then went to his second-in line friend Rani, who was more than happy to be a part of his project.
6. Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat: Well, none of the said above would have happened if Mamta Kulkarni had said yes to Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, which finally became Rani’s Bollywood debut. The makers originally wanted Mamta, the star of ’90s, in the lead role but as luck would have it, things didn’t materialise and Rani got her Hindi film break. Since, then there’s no looking back for the actor, who is in her 20th year of film career, and is set to start shooting of her next movie, Hichki.