Rajeev Masand

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It’s now time to have babies: Rani

 
Rajeev Masand Reviews
 

  She is Bollywood’s big, bright star. But apart from that, Rani Mukherjee is also one of the finest actresses in the country. And the one thing that’s most certainly bringing a smile on her face is her new film Baabul, in which she co-stars with Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and John Abraham

CNN-IBN Entertainment Editor Rajeev Masand caught up with Bollywood’s queen of hearts to quiz her about films, friends and family.

Rajeev Masand: Rani, when was the first time that you saw yourself on screen and said, “Wow, I’m not bad. I’m a good actor.”

Rani Mukherjee: Black.

Rajiv Masand: Until then?

Rani Mukherjee: Not really. Because Black was the only role which I myself did not believe that there could be a role like that. Probably it was something beyond my imagination. Probably beyond any actors imagination because you don’t get up in the morning getting a role like that.

And because the role was so different that to do even one shot of the film made me feel proud of the fact that Sanjay has asked me to do a role like that.

Rajiv Masand: But until then, you felt you were just okay?

Rani Mukherjee: When you see yourself first, you don’t really start loving or praising yourself. You see yourself more as a critic. Because you think – the make-up or the hair or clothes or even the expression could have been better. You are consciously judging yourself.

Black was one such role even took me by surprise. I was surprised at what I was doing.

Rajiv Masand: Who was first person to predict that “This girl is going to be a star”? Who told you first “you’ve got a bright future girl”?

Rani Mukherjee: That’s tough. There were so many. But the first person who had that confidence in me and got the germ into my head that I could be an actor was my mother.

She was the one who actually instigated my father, who has been a producer and a director in the film industry for a really long time. He used to say, “there are sharks in the industry, so you can’t get into the industry.”
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Rajiv Masand: So he wanted to keep his little girl far away from it.

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. That was the way it was at home when my brother and I were growing up. There was no film talk happening in the house. My father’s professional life was kept out of the house. Only at times I would go with him to the studio to see my favourite stars and take their autographs. That was my only connection with films in my life at that time. Other than that, I had no clue how the film is made, how it is edited or what dialogues are.

The only other thing about films that I remember is my mother’s younger sister who is a popular actress in Kolkata. So when I used to go to Kolkata for my summer vacations, I used to be driven to the studios. I would enter the make-up room and I used to be wonderstruck.

I was in awe of her because she was the number one star at that point of time. And it was very intriguing and interesting to see how she used to do her make-up.

I never thought I had any talent to be in films so it never occurred to me that I could be an actor. But my mother felt strongly about it. And she used to joke when I was a kid that “If my daughter grows up to be beautiful, I will make her an actress.”

Rajiv Masand: What is the hardest role you have played so far?

Rani Mukherjee: That was after I did my first film. I think my struggle to get it right began when I was preparing to do my first film. That was my toughest period. Because I never thought that I belonged to this industry and that I could ever be an actor. My first screen test was with Salim uncle (Akhtar)for Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat and they made me wear Mamta Kulkarni short skirt.

Rajiv Masand: That would have been a sight.

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. Because she was supposed to play that role and she did not so they made me wear that and I just couldn’t walk because I had never worn mini skirts before. So I thought this is not what I am meant to do. Then they made me wear a sari for Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, put glycerine in my eyes and made me cry.

Rajiv Masand: You were 17 years old then?

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. I could barely open my eyes after the glycerine was put.
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Rajiv Masand: So once you did your first film and saw yourself on screen, you figured you could do this?

Rani Mukherjee: From there on God willingly it has been really good because I put my heart and my soul into acting. And I understood that acting is not something that you do mechanically. It comes form within. You have to feel every shot. You have to do it with sincerity that if you lie, the camera catches the lie.

Rajiv Masand: A lot of people say that Rani Mukherjee’s eyes are very expressive. She says as much with her eyes as much as she does with her words.

Rani Mukherjee: I don’t know.

Rajiv Masand: Very honest set of eyes?

Rani Mukherjee: Probably. Like I can lie from my mouth but I can’t lie with my eyes. If I say ‘Rajiv I really like you’ and my eyes are saying something else, you will probably catch me. I can’t deceive people with my eyes.

Rajiv Masand: So, we will be watching your eyes very closely. Rani tell me, who are the people you turn to for honest criticism?

Rani Mukherjee: Definitely my family. My family is my biggest critic and my biggest fan. After the first screening of whichever of my films is going to release, I am very nervous. I’m not worried about the fact how the film is going to fare but for that fact that my family is watching it with me for the first time makes me nervous.

Rajiv Masand: So you make sure they are there with you for your first trial?

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. And when I’m watching the film for the first time, I’m also watching their reaction. And in the interval if they love the film, they will scream and tell me because they are as transparent as me. I’m part of a mad Bengali family.

They can’t deceive because their eyes and their expression say it all. Then I wait for the end of the film because then I know I will get a complete feedback and also what they feel as part of audience about the outcome of the film.

Rajiv Masand: Are they accurate?

Rani Mukherjee: Most of the times.
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Rajiv Masand: Which of your films did they not like?

Rani Mukherjee: That’s not being fair.

Rajiv Masand: But there are certain performances that they don’t like?

Rani Mukherjee: Not performances, but some of the films they haven’t liked.

Rajiv Masand: Who are your closest and real friends in this business? And I say real because it’s easy to have acquaintances, fair-weather friends in this business.

Rani Mukherjee: Karan , Aamir, Shah Rukh, Vaibhavi, Sanjay, Anil Kapoor and his wife Sunita, they have been friends with me right from the beginning, irrespective of the fact that we worked together or not, irrespective of whether I have gone through my high’s and low’s. They have been there as my support all the time.

Karan is like a phone call away from me. I can call him at an unearthly hour and I know that even if he is really busy or in any part of the world, he will put sense into my head.

Rajiv Masand: So they have the right to tell you where you went wrong?

Rani Mukherjee: Absolutely. Karan is really like my elder brother. Even Aamir for that matter. He has been with my right from my first film. He treated me like a child and taught me. I remember doing my first song with him in GhulamAankhon Se Tune Yeh Kya Keh Diya and I was so shy of looking into my favourite actor’s eye.

I was constantly looking down and he kept putting my head up and telling me to look into his eyes. He told me “You cannot feel shy when you do romantic scenes.” So there are so many things that have stayed with me for over the years. And even today, Aamir is there for me, rock solid.
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Rajiv Masand: Contrary to what the tabloids say, the person who you spend maximum time is not a man but your niece, Maisha (Brother’s daughter). You pamper her all the time.

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. She is the live doll that has come into my life and I can’t thank Jyoti (sister-in-law) enough for what she has done for my family. She is just amazing and I don’t think I’m close to anybody else as I am close to her. She is more of a sister than a sister-in-law to me.

I speak to her more over the phone than to my brother. There are times when I don’t talk to my brother for 20 days at a stretch. But I’m constantly in touch with Jyoti. She’s my strength. And I know if she is there, everything is going to be fine. She is the one who had held the family together.

And Maisha is somebody who I can’t even describe. I can give my life for her when she smiles or laughs.

Rajiv Masand: You like babies?

Rani Mukherjee: I love babies.

Rajiv Masand: You would like to have babies of your own some day?

Rani Mukherjee: Of course.

Rajiv Masand: Do you have that maternal instinct?

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. I think every girl does. Like when I was shooting for my film Ta Ra Rum Pum Pum in New York, there was a eight-year-old girl acting in the film, who was constantly mothering a toy baby. So I guess girls’ have it in them at a very young age and for me I guess it’s time now to have babies.
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Rajiv Masand: Since we are talking about babies, let’s talk about a step before that – marriage. You think you will ever have to give up acting to be a wife and a mother?

Rani Mukherjee: No I don’t think so because acting is something that makes me what I am. Acting is my being. I don’t think I can live without it. I can be away from it for sometime, but can’t give it away completely.

Rajiv Masand: So we are going to see you for a long long time.

Rani Mukherjee: Very long.

Rajiv Masand: When you were growing up, who were the actresses you used to see onscreen and say, “I want to be like her”?

Rani Mukherjee: Sridevi and Madhuri. I used to absolutely adore them then and even now. I think they were unbelievable and I don’t think there can ever be any one like them ever. They were complete actresses according to me. They did everything so well and just so right. They were so magical on screen.

Rajiv Masand: You are among the very few actors I know who enjoys acting, the process of creating characters and the whole job of acting, more than being just a star.

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. Probably because I take it as a job. Acting makes me breathe and brings joy in my life. I feel extremely happy working on my film.

Rajiv Masand: Being a star is just a part of it.

Rani Mukherjee: Yes, because you can’t take it away from you. You have to be in the limelight because there are people who want to interview you, who want to take your pictures, there are also those who want to know about your private life because that’s what people want to know about you.

And if I choose to be an actor, I have to accept other things that come with being an actor. But I enjoy being an actor more than being a star. I’m not denying that I enjoy being a star. But if you don’t love the fact that you’re an actor, I don’t think you can truly enjoy the fact that you’re a star.

Rajiv Masand: You have a new film called Baabul which is going to be released. And of the many issues that it deals with is widow remarriage. Do you believe that cinema can be used effectively to draw attention to such socially relevant issues?

Rani Mukherjee: Yes it can because I have personally had an experience with one my films before this where a radical change was seen. After I did Black, there were a lot of people who got interested in the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute and they were willing to help and do things for the institution.

The Principal herself came and told me that there were so many people taking interest. I even went for a function where I was invited by the Jet Airways people and they came out with a brochure in Braille.
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Rajiv Masand: So the film was able to bring the attention to that issue.

Rani Mukherjee: Yes. And especially when actors who can make a difference do these kinds of films, it can bring some kind of awareness in people.

Rajiv Masand: So what are you hoping that Babul will achieve?

Rani Mukherjee: Baabul will also achieve because it has Amit Uncle (Amitabh Bachchan) who is playing the father-in-law. So we already have a figure like him playing a very important role of Baabul. And he feels like a real father towards his daughter-in-law, which is very tough even in today’s day and age.

Because people can say that our daughter-in-law is like our daughter, but when it comes to following it, there is a difference between your own daughter and your daughter-in-law. So I really hope and wish that Baabul brings little awareness to those kinds of people.

I am playing the daughter-in-law so if people like me even a little, and the take the message that Ravi uncle (Ravi Chopra) is giving thorough the film, it will be very very nice.

Rajiv Masand: Best of luck. Hope you always dazzle us with your performances and we get to see a lot more of exciting work from you. Thank you for talking to us.

Rani Mukherjee: Thank you Rajiv.

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