Rani Mukherji is one of rarest female actors from the 90s who has seen success everytime she made her comeback in Bollywood in the recent times. She not only packs a punch but leaves us with a memory to be cherished forever with her cinema. Her grace and acting prowess is something that is unique to her and cannot be recreated. She’s not only knowledgeable and practical in life but grips her audiences onscreen as well with her various shades. Her recent release ‘Hichki’ directed by Siddharth P. Malhotra breaks all the stereotroyoes about the success of an actress after marriage and preganancy. Sensible cinema is her forte and it’s a delight to watch her everytime.
Celebrating the Hit status for her latest release she chatted with Cinespeaks to talk about the film, life, her friends Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan and more:
Q. How does success taste like?
Rani Mukerji: As an actor, you feel relieved. On the Friday when your film gets accepted, not only accepted but the way the audience takes back the film is more important. When we set out to make a film as a team, we think of it as being successful because we love the story. But there are Fridays that aren’t so great because the film may not get received so well. But the Friday ‘Hichki‘ released, the audiences loved the film and took back a message which we wanted to convey through the film. That’s a bigger success for us. I had a lady come up to me crying while talking about the film. Everybody student, teacher or a parent or even a colleague at someone’s workplace has taken back some scene which has hit them hard or stored something within them. So these kind of reactions leading to success are much sweeter. When film go beyond just a source of entertainment, those ones are remembered. For example, ‘Black‘ in my life, it’s talked about because people love the film, they love my work and even after 13 years people remember that film. With ‘Hichki’ they are going to feel the same. Those films which aren’t dominated by just the initial success of it being declared as a Hit, there are so many which attain that status but how many of them are remembered? I’m very happy with what’s happened with ‘Hichki’.
Q. How did you switch between being a realistic educator yet appeal the audiences of having tourettes through your ticks in your character?
Rani Mukerji: To say it in a very simple way, it’s my job. I’m an actor. If I wouldn’t know my craft, how would it be justified. Everyone’s work is difficult. Everybody has a job where there are difficulties. As an actor, my job is to make the character look believable, organic and relatable. Whatever preparation I’m doing as an actor, I don’t treat it something to glorify about where I go overboard in saying how much efforts I’ve put. It’s something I have to do anyways. I’m just happy that I’ve done a job with which people are satisfied. I work for the audience, when they give me a thumbs up it feels like a job done well where I need to pat my back. I think giving that detailed attention to my character comes naturally to me.
Q. How did you get the rocks for your character right?
Rani Mukerji: I was only playing a girl with tourettes syndrome and had to do my ticks naturally. If I would complete full sentences and then do the ticks, I wouldn’t do justice to the way it occurs. The script was actually written in a way where the ticks would appear towards the end, but if I followed that then it would have been a method which would have looked forced. It had to be something that just flew in my speech. I was just saying my lines and ticking when it felt it was right to tick being that character. My ticks were actually governed because Brad (Cohen, man on whom the film is based) told me a person ticks more when they are highly emotionally strong. There’s situation when they are feeling anxious, they tick more. When they feel excited or happy, they tick a lot. It’s much lesser then they are feeling more confident and relaxed. If you see my performance in the film. I’ve taken that graph and executed. When Naina is relaxed or excited at any given point, the ticks are according to those emotions.
Q. It took director Sidharth P Malhotra 6 actresses and some production houses to get this film made. What was your first reaction when the story was narrated to you?
Rani Mukerji: I’ve always reacted emotionally towards my roles because I feel when a script is given to me and a role is offered to me, am I Rani as a person getting attracted to it emotionally. Is it making an impact on my life and if I’m learning something from it. If I’m sure of my connection, then I know the audiences will be able to connect too. That’s my way. Sometimes it goes right and sometimes it doesn’t. The minute I read Hichki’s script and learnt that this girl has tourettes, I understood that this is not something that many people in India are aware of. For me, it was a new thing for me. There was no reference to context in this performance. It was a new act through which a lot of people would know about tourettes. The fact that this film was talking about those 15 under privileged children, and the right to education. The message in the film was so loud and clear and positive. Make your weaknesses turn into your strengths and give equal opportunities to children in the school environment. There were so many aspects which were so good. It was not done in a preachy but an entertaining way. So I thought an amalgamation of a story which is well told and not boring me, because sometimes such subjects can get very theoretical and very heavily authentic, was great. For me it was the right film to do because Naina was very special.
Q. Was Sachin Pilgaonkar’s character drawn from the book on which the film was based?
Rani Mukerji: The sequence of the father was an emotion that Brad (Cohen) had gone through. His father is not very supportive. That emotion has been taken from the book because Brad has lived that life.
Q. How did the role come to you?
Rani Mukerji: This film was actually being scripted at the time when I was pregnant. They wanted to cast me then but I obviously couldn’t do it. The film went to another actress, however, when the film came to YRF, it had a hero in it. Maneesh (Sharma – Producer) decided that we would like to go with a girl as the lead. That actress made them wait for an year. By the time the film had to go on floors, Adira was 4 months old. Since I was an earlier choice and the fact that they had to wait for an answer from another actress anyways, they came back to me.
Q. What is the best compliment that you’ve received?
Rani Mukerji: I’ve got a lot of compliments. It’s difficult to choose one. But yes, the appreciation from the teachers because we were aiming to pay a tribute to the teachers, their reaction and the fact that we wanted Naina to be an inspiration for themwas a bigger compliment. Teachers are the future builders of our society. When they take a message so positively, it’s an accomplishment.
Q. Have you interacted with Brad Cohen after the success of ‘Hichki’?
Rani Mukerji: I shall be chatting with him this week, I couldn’t because it’s been two weeks I didn’t find a chance to sit with him and chat with him. I don’t like to talk to him over the phone.
Q. Has your daughter Adira seen the film? What was her reaction?
Rani Mukerji: I took her to see the film and obviously she is just two years old and doesn’t understand. The first screening when I had gotten her into, She was scared by the loud sound and the darkness around. The second time we switched the lights on and made the sound soft. She sat on my lap for 10 minutes and said, “Ye Toh Mera Mumma Hai!”. Then she was happy seeing me, she was looking at the screen very attentively. Hopefully she grows up to explain what she went through while watching ‘Hichki’. Right now I really don’t know what she felt. After those 10 minutes, she got out of my lap and the whole theatre became her playground. She was going round and round and humming when songs came onscreen. Whenever I would come onscreen when would watch and then get busy in her own thing. By the second half we took her out because we wanted the team to watch the film peacefully. I’m also crying in the second half which I didn’t want her to watch., first half is a little happy so she enjoyed it.
Q. Everyone has a favourite teacher who teaches in a unique way that makes them special. Did you have any such teacher?
Rani Mukerji: I remember very clearly having a geography teacher Mrs. Vakil. She used to teach very well and I loved the subject because of her. There was this another teacher Mrs. Dadarkar who taught us English literature and history. Those were my two favourite subjects because of the way she taught and in life I think, a teacher whom I’ve been most inspired by is Sangeeta. She taught me my sign language during ‘Black‘. She herself is deaf and dumb.She works extensively with the blind folks. The fact that she was being able to teach and dedicate a life towards a positive thing, that’s inspiring.
Q. Is there any thing that you shall not be able to do as an actor?
Rani Mukerji: I’m an actor I should be able to do everything. I try to constantly reinvent myself for the audiences. My fans get happier when I experiment with different things. If I keep doing the same thing, people would get bored. As an actor, innovation is something that I need to do and if I stop doing that I’ll lose my audience.
Q. What’s the best part about being an actor?
Rani Mukerji: I love the fact that my voice can be reached to many and I can live different people’s lives in a month or two. The emotional experience is really cherishable.
Q. What have you taken back after the release of the film?
Rani Mukerji: I’ve taken back a lot of love from this film. As an actor, I live for this adulation. We work hard and work behind a particular scene, the way I process and get involved in a film, when it is well received and people love my work, I take that back with me. Millions of people who are wishing me through social media or mobiles. The love that is pouring in is very very happening. As Rani what I took back is the wonderful fact that Naina is a wonderfully spirited being, she has a lot of hope and is very positive. She fights back at situations thrown on her and I love the fact that she never gives up on anyone. We all go through ups and downs but the beautiful part is that since I’m a mother today, it’s important for me to be able to give that kind of positivity to a child. In every situation she should always feel happy and think that my mother is behind me and have a positive attitude.
Q. Were you fearful of making an impactful comeback with Hichki’?
Rani Mukerji: Nervousness and anxiety comes to every actor with the opening Friday. It’s bound to happen but to what extend it is, cannot be measured. Every Friday an actor gets a new update on their position and standing.
Q. Do you keep a tab on the box office collections?
Rani Mukerji: My husband is a producer. Even if i don’t track the numbers, I’ll get to hear about it.
Q. Did it bother you that Raid was releasing a week prior and Baaghi 2 was releasing a week later?
Rani Mukerji: Every film has its own space and audience. For me, what films come before me or after me should not matter as long as my film does well. The fact that the audience has given so much love to our film, infact Singham came a week before Mardaani and this time Raid came a week before Hichki, so I told Ajay why does your film always come a week prior to mine. Both the films in both of those years did well.
Q. Are there any actors in Bollywood who inspire you even today?
Rani Mukerji: Be it Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Sridevi or Madhuri Dixit, name any of my seniors in this industry, even Kamal Hassan, they are all people I’ve learnt from. Iif not working with them, maybe for how they have worked. They will always remain my inspirations because the kind if success they have achieved in life requires a lot of hardwork, perseverance, and relevance to stay superstars for such a long period of time. For the films that they do and the way they’ve conducted themselves.
Q. The men of the 90s are still dominating the industry while the heroines of the 90s are making their comeback. How do you see this scenario?
Rani Mukerji: Be it films, audiences or journalists, it’s a triangle. What the audience wants is made by filmmakers and what filmmakers do reaches the journalists and their content is consumed by the audiences. The age of the actor onscreen should be believable. If I choose to play a character that is 60 years old which is 20 years older to my current age, I should be convincing in that part. If I am playing a 25 or 30 year old, then also I should look that part. When I am looking a certain way and the role is demanding me to look younger, that’s when the problem happens. As long as that goes side by side, I think it’ll be a very happy situation.
Q. Was there something more essential then just playing the role for you through this character?
Rani Mukerji: What was very important for me to do as an actor especially with this role was to instill the fact that Brad is a guy with a lot of spunk and that was my aim with Naina’s character.
Q. Were you prepared for ‘Hichki’ to not work at the box office?
Rani Mukerji: I cannot speak on everybody else’s behalf but as actors I think all of us are mentally prepared for failure. We have to be very realistic, it isn’t going to be the same for every actor. Even Salman Khan doesn’t have all his Fridays successful. Iit’ll be foolish to live with a notion that a certain film will definitely work. We have to be honest to our craft and our film.
Q. Since the release of the film, have you experienced an awareness regarding tourettes syndrome among the people?
Rani Mukerji: The awareness has definitely multiplied, everyone talks about it when I meet them.
Q. Does it bother you that there are no female superstrs from the 90s who are actively working in films today?
Rani Mukerji: When I talk about Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, I will always talk about them with respect. They have literally started my career. They have been here for so many years. They have given us such wonderful films and roles. They are role models and people who who I look upto. For me it’s a matter of pride when I associate with them. They are worshipped, loved by millions and talked about all over the world. They hold a special place in my life.