By the early 2000s, Rani Mukerji was comfortably placed as Bollywood’s reigning queen, having been part of back-to-back hits. She even went on to pick up the riskiest role of that time, Black (2005) and gave the performance of a lifetime. Since then, Rani has been effortlessly daring in her film choices.
As she revels in the success of her latest release Hichki which marks her comeback to the movies after four years, Rani Mukerji, in an interaction with indianexpress.com, calls out Bollywood’s double-standards against married actresses and its convenient show of respect to actors that changes with every Friday.
Q. How happy are your right now? Is the glow on your face due to the film’s success?
The glow is thanks to my daughter. But yes, the happiness is also because Hichki is a success. Success this time meant a lot because there are basic prejudices that come with married actresses and those who are mothers. How we are a dead commodity. We don’t sell and that no one wants to see us. Then to actually have an audience that showers so much love on you and tells you, ‘We don’t care you are married or a mother. We just want to see you on screen.’ That validation matters a lot because as a professional, I am the same girl.
Just because I got married and had a baby, nothing changed in me. I am the same actor. I don’t know why this stigma has been attached to actresses that once we want to have a life of our own, we have to give up on our other love. Actors don’t get this. They have a successful career and parallelly lead their normal lives. Only actresses are made to choose marriage late in their lives because they feel our commodity dies once we are married.
Q. Does that mean that when female actors are making a comeback they have to compensate more than their male counterparts?
In an interview before, I said these are the questions which are thrown at us. So, I don’t know if these are the questions that the audience is asking. Are these the pre-conceived notions or what they (journalists) believe in. However, the audience has validated that they don’t care. So, I don’t know why this question is repeatedly asked or written about when an actor makes a comeback.
Q. It is being asked because these things have happened in the past and your opinion on them matters.
See, my opinion wouldn’t have mattered had Hichki not been a success. So, the opinion of the audience matters. It’s never the actor. It’s the audience because as an actor I will always give my 100 per cent like I gave before I became a mother.
Q. So, is there a gap between how the producers think and what the audience wants?
Yes. And luckily with Hichki, the perception is going to change for the better.
Q. Were you advised against it when you decided to tie the knot?
No. This was never the thing because my parents were very different. The fact that I never wanted to be an actor and my mom said, ‘If you don’t like it, don’t do it,’ goes to show there was no pressure on me. It was only when I found love in acting and I felt it came natural to me that I continued. Then I waited for love to happen because I was always a hopeless romantic and that’s why I have done so many romantic films.
So, it was important for me to get married to someone I love and respect. Being an achiever in acting profession, you seldom get people you can respect. You get people whom you can love, but respect is far and rare. These were two of my criteria and Adi has been someone I have always respected. He is a great entrepreneur and leader who is very encouraging and loyal to his people. These are the things rare in the industry because in a place where people respect you for a Friday. His respect for you is for your craft regardless of the success.
Q. Over the years, you have become choosy and that has resulted in long breaks between films. The longest break came after Mardaani (2014). Were there moments of insecurity that the audience didn’t want to see you?
No, that’s what people want you to believe. That this is how you should be and this is how insecure you should be because in our profession they are more people to tell you these things than encourage you. There are very few people to encourage you which is sad. But I have always believed in my instinct.
Q. Do you remember that moment when you fell in love with acting?
I think it was after Mujhse Dosti Karoge and Saathiya. Till then it was a job for me because I hadn’t fallen in love with acting. I was just doing my job and coming home. But then the fan letters I used to get made me feel I need to give more. I felt this profession was more serious than I imagined it to be.
I realised I needed to be more thoughtful while choosing my roles, love my characters and play modern-Indian woman in its true from. That’s when my makeover as an actor happened.
Q. What was it about these two films that brought the change?
It was the first time I got bound scripts. I could see the whole film in front of me. I could understand my character and know how to graph it. Before that, it was about coming on set, getting your lines and moving from one film shoot to another. For the first time, I knew what to do with my role and how to look the part. Until then, it was about wearing pretty clothes and doing hair well. Finally, the transformation happened and I understood what it is to be an actor.
Q. From being cautious and holding back while expressing your views to being fiercely opinionated, you have come a long way. Do you feel at change?
Yes. It’s also because today, people are more accepting of you. They don’t keep you on a pedestal. You are not unhuman. Everyone’s looking at you as a normal person. That’s also the persona you want to project that yes, we are stars but we are also attainable and we can make mistakes. Even if I have an opinion that doesn’t mean it has to be everyone else’s. No one’s going to take it so seriously that they will change their lives. And if they do, then great but they are aware that Rani also has flaws.