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Rani Mukerji: Queen of hearts

She is the quintessential girl-next-door who sets our hearts aflutter with her cheerful disposition and acting prowess.

Mumbai |
June 4, 2011 9:39:56 am

Rani Mukerji was the epitome of confidence and candour at the Screen Chat Room held recently. High on the success of No One Killed Jessica,she opened up on her landmark films,working with the Khan triumvirate and maintaining exclusivity as a star

She is the quintessential girl-next-door who sets our hearts aflutter with her cheerful disposition and acting prowess. So quite expectedly,when we learnt that Rani Mukerji would be visiting the Screen office,there was a palpable buzz all around. Dressed in a light blue floral top teamed with fuchsia pink harem pants and wedges,the actress was confidence personified. Like a gilt-edged entertainer,she kept us glued to our seats for an hour and a half with her wit and candour. And yet the minutes just flew by. While she remained tight-lipped about Reema Kagti’s as-yet untitled project—wherein she will be seen as Aamir Khan’s wife—saying that she will talk about the film close to its release,she was all praises for the Khan triumvirate—Aamir,Shah Rukh and Salman— with whom she has given memorable hits. The star, earlier termed reclusive,also viewed the increasing paparazzi culture as a “necessary evil” that has compelled her to be more approachable. But she still values her privacy above all else. Rani,who has been a part of the Hindi film industry since 15 years,also said that despite the success of No One… it will take some time for viewers to accept women-oriented films as we have a box-office-oriented industry. The light-eyed beauty spoke about personal equation with stars and industry trends with great intelligence. She also came across as the caring daughter,who strikes a balance between her professional and personal life,as she spoke fondly about her 80-year-old father,who is currently under the weather.

Rani Mukerji talks about industry trends,her personal equation with the Khan trio,the paparazzi culture and more:

Reema Kagti’s as-yet untitled film is your fourth movie with Aamir Khan. How does it feel to work with him again?

I am really looking forward to it. Aamir has always been somebody who I have looked up to — as a kid,I watched Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and like others,I was bitten by the Aamir Khan bug. He was so cute in that film that I would dream of romancing him. I would put myself in Juhi Chawla’s shoes and fantasise about singing and dancing with him. Later,when I was 16-17,I actually shared screen space with Aamir in Ghulam,which for me was unbelievable . I remember when we were filming the song Aankhon se toone yeh kya keh diya,each time I had to give a shot,I would look down at Aamir’s shoes. He would then pull up my chin and say,‘Look into my eyes,you are supposed to look at me in a romantic way.’ Today we share a great friendship. But now when I am acting opposite him in Reema’s film,I need to constantly remind myself that I am acting opposite Aamir,the huge star,not just a friend of more than 10 years. I respect him and the stardom that he has achieved with sheer hard work.

You also worked with Shah Rukh Khan early on in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Yes,I fell in love with him when I watched Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. And then I found myself working with him in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. When Shah Rukh and I were shooting for the song Tujhe yaad na meri aayi in Scotland,the scene demanded that he kiss me on my cheek. Whenever he would come near me,I would move away subconsciously. It happened many times and finally he gave up! But,both SRK and Aamir never made me realise that I am a newcomer. I learnt a lot from them.

What about Salman Khan?

Salman is absolutely adorable. I really love him as he is always himself. I only laugh when I am with him,he is so entertaining. He is a rockstar. When he comes on screen,not only the common man but we actors also clap and whistle for him and say,‘Star aa gaya’. He is so good looking. When he passes by,you actually stop to turn and look at him. When I saw the promos of Dabangg,I called him and both of us went completely mad. He is a cult figure. Just as the South has Rajinikanth,we have Salman!

Were newcomers star-struck by you in turn?

Of course! When I was acting opposite Shahid Kapoor in Dil Bole Hadippa,he kept on saying,‘Oh my god I am working with Rani Mukerji’. I told him that he should not be awestruck as I had to romance him in the film!

How easy is it for actors to be friends?

It is easy to be friends with your male co-actors because there is no competition the way it is with female co-stars,where because of the same gender factor,you always want to be better than the other.

Do you subscribe to the notion that two male actors can get along but two female actors cannot?

I think I have been fortunate enough to work with great female co-stars. When I read about cat-fights in the media,I wonder if they really happen as I personally have not experienced such things. I have done five films with Preity Zinta. For the world,we were pitted against each other but it was not like that. We were and are good friends.

Do you think that cinema is evolving now?

I think cinema evolves with every generation. With No One Killed Jessica,people have started accepting a heroine who is like a man. But five years ago they may not have accepted this film. Similarly,when Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna released,there was a lot of hue and cry about the infidelity shown in the film and people said that it was against Indian morality. But if it had released today,people would have been okay with it.

How have things changed after No One…?

After this film,everyone came to know that I could abuse really well and with conviction (laughs).

So which is your favourite abuse?

It definitely has to be the G word that we saw in the first promo. It aroused curiosity about the film. The line comes in the flight sequence where my co-passenger talks derogatorily about the Kargil war and the Indian jawans. He actually deserved a slap but I guess I slapped him with my language.

With the success of No One…,do you think that people are now accepting women-centric films?

Women-centric films have always been a part of Indian cinema right from the 1940s. There were later movies like Bandini and Sujata. But the problem is that we have a very box-office oriented industry. Till the time audiences don’t come in large numbers to watch women-oriented films,I don’t think such movies can be made on larger scales. Good openings are necessary and once that happens,more films on women might be made on bigger scale.

Coming to your performances,especially in No One…,do you believe in method acting?

Fortunately or unfortunately,I don’t believe in method acting. For some actors it works as they prepare for a role. For me,acting has always been spontaneous. But when there is a physicality involved,I prepare for the role accordingly. For instance,when I played a differently-abled girl in Black,I did train in sign language for seven to eight months to play the role convincingly. I also had to be awkward in terms of the way I had to walk and talk,as visually-impaired people are not aware about how they look.

Have you attended workshops for any of your films?

No,never. I might just start laughing if I had to attend one,as I simply can’t act without a camera. I have a special friendship with the camera. But I do script readings with my co-stars where we work on the language,diction and tone. We have to do that as the Hindi that we speak here in Mumbai is colloquial and we have to get into the skin of different characters.

What do you think about media interactions? And the paparazzi culture?

Today actors have become more open with the media. But this has posed a problem for actors like me because if I don’t do that,then I end up being called reclusive. So now I have changed myself and am easily approachable. As for the paparazzi culture,it has become a necessary evil in my profession. But if we see it in a liberal way then I guess this is the requirement as people need to see their stars off-guard so that they can criticise them. After all,who doesn’t like to gossip? The paparazzi knows exactly what the audience wants to see. People like to comment on how we look or what we wear and say,“Dekho,kaise dikhti hai without make-up.” The paparazzi offers what they know sells.

Do you also blame the media for making celebs fashion-conscious?

(Laughs) Yes,because we cannot wear any dress more than once! Even if we repeat our footwear,they point out “Arre dekho,woh chappal phir se pehni hai! Even our accessories are noticed! So whenever we are travelling,we make it a point to concentrate on our clothes. It’s also great fun to watch some actors getting dolled up just before a flight is about to land because photographers are always waiting outside to click their snaps. So a star’s budget for outfits today is higher than that for their food or alcohol!

What is your take on gossip?

Gossip is fun. But the media needs to draw a line and understand that they should verify the information and not just feature what is being told to them. This is happening because there is so much competition among the media that everyone wants to break the news first. A few years ago while I was shooting for a film,I suddenly saw television channels stating that I was getting married. How can they carry something like that without verifying it with me? Though I didn’t take it too seriously at first,when the rumours continued they started affecting me professionally.

What is better for an actor — being in touch with fans through social networking sites or staying exclusive?

On a social networking site fans are directly in touch with stars. If there is a rumour,then stars can log on to their websites or Twitter and clarify things. That’s good. But on the flip side,there is no mystery about the star any more. Earlier if there was some news people would speculate and get curious. In my case,I think being exclusive is great. There should be a certain mystery about the star. But I do get in touch with people on the Internet when I’m promoting a film. I don’t have any Facebook or Twitter accounts as I wouldn’t want to keep people constantly updated about my personal activities. I want my privacy.

Which have been your landmark films?

The important movies of my career include Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat since it was my first film,Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Ghulam as they were my first super- hits with big stars. Hey! Ram made a lot of directors realise that I can go de-glam as well. Then there were Saathiya,Hum Tum,Yuva,Chalte Chalte,Veer-Zaara,Bunty Aur Babli,Black,Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and No One Killed Jessica.

Why do you think Paheli didn’t do well?

That’s a good question for which I don’t have any answer! If we actors could analyse that then all our movies would have been hits! It all depends on the audience. I still remember Taare Zameen Par and Welcome released on the same day and both of them did exceedingly well. The audience accepted and enjoyed both the movies that were completely diverse. Sometimes they reject the film and the genre outright. When a film flops,even a great performance goes unnoticed.

Do you think that glamour works more than the performance for an actress?

Every male who goes to see a film wants to feel good while looking at the heroine on screen so she had better have a good body. Similarly when girls watch movies,they want to feel that the hero is larger-than- life. So being glamorous is an important aspect of being a star. But yes,over a period of time,you have to prove your acting prowess too. So every actor goes through the phase of first looking good to finally being evaluated by what he or she brings to the table in terms of acting abilities.

Do you believe that heroes have a longer shelf-life than heroines?

Absolutely. You can have 40-year-old actors romance a 20-year-old girl. But the audience will accept a Rekha opposite a Shahid only if the story is believable.

What is your take on item numbers?

I love item numbers — they are so entertaining! I feel there should be item numbers in all the films. I will be doing an item number soon,but I don’t know for which film! (Laughs).

Transcribed by: Onkar Kulkarni

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