‘Rani Mukerji’ in conversation with ‘Divya Solgama’ (Source – Bollywood Times)
Divya Solgama – Rani, you played a physically challenged character in ‘Black’ and now you play one in ‘Hichki’. How different were the challanges related to these roles?
Rani Mukerji – Both were challenging. When you play such sensitive characters, you have to keep in mind the sensitivity of the people who are actually having that. With Hichki, my whole thing constantly was that it could become comical at any time. A lot of people who have Tourette, people laugh at them. But in the US, a lot of people suffering from Tourette Syndrome have become standup comedians. They don’t mind people laughing at them, but pay for it so they make a career out of it. I can’t be doing that in films. I can’t make Naina Mathur a stand-up comedian. So it has to be in a sensitive way, in a way that when people see Naina Mathur, even if they begin with laughing but from there they should change and feel empathetic towards people who have the Tourette Syndrome. There are lot of complexities and sensitivity that comes with playing a role like that.
Divya Solgama – Rani, you were a student in films such as ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hain’ and ‘Black’. Now with ‘Hichki’, you have graduated yourself to a teacher. So how has the entire transformation been?
Rani Mukerji – I started my career at 16. It’s been a journey where I have actually grown in this film industry. Whatever I have learnt, experiences I have had, this journey has been wonderful. Of course there were ups and downs, which also teaches you a lot. My choice of films has also changed with the way I have grown up. Each phase in my life, whether it was early teenage years or early 20s, late 20s, early 30s, late 30s, all have been a part of my journey in the movie business. Every time I have chosen a role, it has connected to me at that point in my life. Today, the point of life in which I am, Hichki was a very special film that connected with my soul and what message I would like to give India, in a way. Or tell the world that this is the kind of films India is churning. Hichki is a special film about overcoming one’s weakness and turning them into strength. It also talks about the education system in our country and also talks about the discrimination that people face from society when they have a weakness. It talks about how students from different economic backgrounds are treated in school. The film has a lot of layers. All the things are something very close to my heart. When I was young I had a stammering issue. Had someone taken that as a weakness of mine, and if I would have made that a very strong weakness then I wouldn’t be have been actor. You don’t have an actor who has a stammering issue. It’s the first film that has been such a huge tribute to teacher in the country because there’s no other noble profession than teaching. You are actually imparting knowledge to the future of the country, who are going to make a different in the society. After you see Hichki everyone is going to call up their favourite teacher because you get to nostalgic.
Divya Solgama – Rani, how was it working with the kids in ‘Hichki’?
Rani Mukerji – Shooting with the kids has been amazing because most of them were facing the camera for the first time. They had a lot of real and organic quality in them which was great because we wanted the classroom scenes to look real. When you have kids who go to sleep in thhe middle of the take, it’s great na, so you can wake them up and say, ‘Hello, the take is going on, so get up’. Some of them were trained actors, one is from television, so they came with their set of experience. What is amazing with the kids is that they don’t have an image or a particular way of performing. They give it their all.
Divya Solgama – Rani, you mendtioned that you started your career at 16. What kind of hichkis or hurdles you faced at the inception of film career?
Rani Mukerji – Obviously, my height, my voice, those were the things.. but luckily, I had Aamir Khan opposite me. Then when I worked with Abhishek Bachchan the height became a thing but then it became very nice that I was short. We were being compared to his parents (Amitabh-Jaya Bachchan) being in films. So it kind of worked. If I had come in an era only where there were tall heroes, then it would have become a problem. I came in era where we had Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir and I looked pretty good with them, considering that I don’t have that much of height. Voice was a huge issue.
During Ghulam, Aamir, Mukesh Bhatt and Vikram Bhatt felt that my voice was not as thin as of the heroines of that time. Heroines had quite a shrill voice at that point. So, they dubbed my voice because they didn’t think my voice suited. Then when Kuch Kuch Hota Hai happened, I remember Karan (Johar) coming up to me, it was his first film, he showed lot of grace and asked me, ‘Rani, why is your voice being dubbed in Ghulam?’. I said that may be they didn’t think my voice was not correct for the film or character. So, he asked me, ‘did you dub for your first film (Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat)? I said yes and he said ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai you will dub’. I said okay. I remember Aamir calling me after seeing Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and saying, ‘Babes, I made a mistake, ya, your voice is really good. We should have dubbed it in Ghulam’.
So in life, these things happen but sometimes you have to believe in yourself, other people have to have belief. Today, my voice has become my identity.
With my height, I’ve crossed the hurdle, because you need to be tall with your achievement and not by your physical height. That is something I have worked towards. When you give flops, people will write you off. People will say ‘you are finished, you are over’. In my career of 22 years, I’ve been written off many times, but it’s the audience which has always wanted me back.
It’s the love which my audiences have for me which has kept me going.
So in spite of people writing me off or considering that I am over, I have always bounced back with a sweet, sensitive film and a good performance.
Divya Solgama – Rani, speaking about motherhood, has it changed you or influence your choice of films?
Rani Mukerji – Motherhood obviously does change you because there is a different kind of passion, a different kind of love that you feel after you become a mother and you can translate that into your work. When my father passed away, I truly understood what sadness is. Or what missing somebody in your life is, a vacuum can be by one of your parents not being there.
When I have performed those scenes in earlier films, it was probably just an aspect of my performance which I thought, hypothetically, what is it to miss a parent. I just interpreted it in the way I thought it would be. But when it actually happens to you, how it hits you, what that sadness is, you can really feel it when it happens to you. I’ve been pregnant and had babies in so many of my films, but I can never begin to explain how different it is when you actually go through the process.
Divya Solgama – Lastly, Rani with Adira now how are you balancing work and personal life?
Rani Mukerji – When I was shooting for the film, I used to go early in the morning. I used to finish 5-6 hours of work in the morning and get back home before her lunch time so that she doesn’t miss me too much. When a baby wakes up she has her whole routine. I used to make sure that before she kind of misses me I used to be back. Now, slowly, slowly we’ve started to tell her that I go for shooting. Yesterday when I came back from my promotions she said ‘mumma aap shooting pe gaye the?Makeup nikal diya’(she asked) I said ‘nikal diya’. She understands because when she sees me without make up she sees I’m completely (different). Suddenly she’ll see these things happening (makeup) and she’ll be like ‘yeh kya hai, mumma’ then I have to explain to her yeh make up hai. When I go clean she asks make up nikal diya then she’s very happy. Both her father and she have this complain that I should never be in makeup. Even my husband, when I come back first he says ‘go remove your makeup’.