Women’s Day Special: Rani Mukerji – I’m attracted to strong female characters – Rani Mukerji has several memorable roles to her credit. Whether it’s playing a tough cop fighting against flesh trade in Mardaani or a teacher battling all odds in Hichki, Rani has admittedly “veered towards powerful” characters on screen. Ask her about it and she smiles, “Maybe, it’s because I’m very strong-willed.” On that note, we begin our chat with the actress. She talks about why it’s important for actors to be conscious of the roles that they take up…
In the last decade, your choices have evolved…
Bengali women are strong-willed. From the time we are born, tags like ‘Maa’, ‘Lakshmi’, and ‘Durga’ are attached to us. What happens is that all of us get enamoured by strength. So, projects in which the role of the female protagonist has been strong have always attracted me. It feels unnatural for me to play weak characters.
Do you think a lot is left to be desired when it comes to roles for married actresses who return to films after a hiatus?
There is a hurdle in the industry for sure. But the mindset towards married women with babies is changing. In the West, there have been instances where whether you’re a female or a male actor, there has been no discrimination. Both individuals have led their own lives, had children, and probably married even four times (laughs)! And people have been okay with that. They are accepted as actors. We need to separate a person’s personal life from their artistic talent. It’s about how you present yourself in front of the audience. If you’re looking great, I don’t think there should be any problem.
Today, it’s said that married actresses not getting work has become a thing of the past. Comment.
I don’t completely agree with this. Yes, cinema is definitely changing. But this whole thing about actresses taking lead now is not absolutely correct. Actresses have taken the lead since the ’50s. There were actresses like Nutan and Meena Kumari doing some wonderful films even then. In fact, there were some male actors, who debuted with these heroines and later went on to become huge stars. There was Dharamji (Dharmendra) and even Amit uncle (Amitabh Bachchan) whose first film was with Jaya aunty (Jaya Bhaduri) who was a star at that time. It has been happening all along, so how can we suddenly say that we have started doing it now? It’s mostly one phase where things were different. But strong women characters and roles have been played on screen from the very beginning.
Does age become a factor when roles are offered to you or the choices that you make?
Not at all. Why should it be? What determines it is your ability to play the character and how you justify the role. Whether you look convincing as the character is all that matters. Look at Amit uncle — he played the role of a child in Paa and you can’t question it. It’s not about someone’s real age, it’s more about how convincingly you can play the part.
What influences your movie choices these days?
Today, films have a different impact on the youth and the audience of the country. First, movies were only looked upon as entertainment. Now, people also look at the messages that are put forth through them. So, I think it’s very important to be part of subjects which don’t lead the youth in a wrong direction. An actor has to have some responsibility towards the kind of roles or thoughts he/she is sharing with an audience. I will always want to be associated with a film which gives out a really powerful message. If I am doing a movie which is purely in the entertainment format, I will do it thinking of it within that sphere. But if there’s a film with a social message, then I’d definitely want to do it in a responsible manner.