Rani Mukherjee has a glow about her. It's not just the glow of success. It's her first film after twelve months. Her glow also comes from liking who she is, knowing what she wants and keeping her priorities razor-straight - Family and films. I recall the last time I met her in London. The image of Mukherjee that sticks is the one with the reluctant, limp handshake and grumpy, yawning pout, muttering to her PA, "What is this for? What are we doing?" That was then. Today the woman is knackered but confident to switch on her old charm in Dil Bole Hadippa which releases this Friday.
We bring you an exclusive excerpt from the expert on her comeback film after a year, her first day of the shoot with Aamir and SRK, the flood which destroyed her set and her being surrounded by a bunch of 'S' people - Shahid, Sherlyn and Sawant.
What was the initial reaction to the trailers?
My friends are all biased towards me and they love whenever they see my movies and my trailer but in the last few films of mine, I don't think I saw that excitement from them. With DBH, I saw excited reactions from my friends and my family.
Your experience with debutant director Anurag Singh?
Anurag is very simple by nature. He is very religious. Whenever he used to get the file of his shot division, he always had a Sai Baba photo and a Durga Mata photo in it. After seeing that, I felt that this faith of his will definitely be fruitful for all of us and DBH.
Any memorable experience while shooting for DBH?
It was my first schedule for DBH. We were shooting the song 'Bhangra Bistar' and I had this get up where I am supposed to be a man. It so happened co incidentally that SRK was shooting for RNBDJ and Aamir was shooting an ad at YRF at the same time and both of them looked at my guy avatar and they were quiet taken aback by the looks. Aamir came and helped me put my moustache. That was so sweet of him. Both SRK and Aamir were eager to see what I am doing in the song and came and gave their blessings on the sets. It was really sweet because Aamir and SRK are two very special people in my life and by them being on the set on my first day of the shoot, I just felt blessed.
So how was Shahid Kapoor?
He is extremely hard working, dedicated and a very sincere actor. By nature, he is very serious in what he does. I think that is what is going to take him a long way. He knows the medium of cinema. He is always very clued and glued on. He is really an asset to the film. Having Shahid in the film makes the film very fresh, very contemporary. He is looking so good in the film, that every time he would come on the set, I would tell him 'Oh my God Shahid, you are looking so handsome!' and he used to always get embarrassed. I think the first time I met Shahid was on a Pepsi advert that I did with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol way back in 1998. That time Shahid was one of the dancers for Shiamak. He reminded me again that the memory he has of mine is of the night when we were shooting the advert. I just came and ruffled his hair and he remembers that very fondly. I told him it's not changed. Even now I'll come and ruffle your hair. I think the entire crew of Hadippa, has worked like little kids trying to get our school project right, so that our teacher, which has to be Aditya Chopra, sees our project report and says, 'OK this project is really good'. So we are all trying to make him happy.
Another S - Sherlyn Chopra?
Sherlyn is a very good actress. I never expected that she would do so well because she was very prepared when she came on the set. I have seen her videos and she is a very good looking lady but when she shot with me, we were all very pleasantly surprised because we saw that she can do even more. This is what I studied from my seniors and the colleagues I have worked with. When I was new and I worked with Aamir and SRK, they used to inspire me to do my best. I think I did the same because I felt she needs a little motivation.
One more to go. S for Sawant...Rakhi Sawant?
Rakhi is very entertaining off and on the sets. She is basically a very entertaining person, but this time when I met her for DBH, I saw another side of her where she came across as serious, which is different from what I know of her and see on TV. She is a very nice person to work with. She is very professional. She is very hard working and of course that shows in her work. Not only Rakhi, even Vrajesh has done a nice job. He is there with me in most parts of the film, because he plays my friend. He is very funny. He used to come up with these one liners. He was also great to work with and a very good actor.
Any fond memories after pack up?
I have so many fond memories, especially the Punjab schedule because we were there for nearly two months. It was really smooth shooting in Chandigarh because the police there was really accommodating and even the people of Chandigarh. Amritsar was good too. I think Punjab is one of the best places to shoot in India because it is really very easy to shoot there. Punjab is known for its food and for its people. I think the food in Punjab is absolutely delicious. On our way back to our Hotel, we would stop at the dhabas and used to have, believe it or not, maggi noodles and masala chai. Can't get better out of Punjab, can you? It will always be the best.
What about your fitness regime?
It was quite a health conscious unit. Shahid is a lot into workout. I was also working out because I was playing this character in the film who had to look physically fit. Then there was Shudeep da who was doing his cardio regularly. I also introduced Vaibhavi to Yoga at that point in time. The only fact that remained constant was that Anurag never came to the gym. We never saw him in the gym. He never came to look after his health even once. He was only eating and eating and shooting and eating. But he has promised that by the next film he will lose all his weight and is going to gym with us, if we are there in his next movie.
Tell us a little about the set getting destroyed.
I remember that twice we had a problem during the shooting of the songs. I don't know why but we were destined to have problems when were shooting the songs. Probably because Anurag was making us work really hard and was not giving us any break, so may be it was God's way of giving us a break and of course we can't fight against nature, can we? When 'Discowale Khisko' was being shot, we were all very geared up for the next day's shoot and early in the morning I got a call from Bhushan, who is the Production Executive saying that please don't leave for shooting because the set we had created for 'Bhangra Bistar' has got flooded. We discovered that at three in the morning, Anurag woke up hearing the storm and called Bhushan to go and check if everything was ok on the set that we created, but unfortunately the whole place was flooded. Vaibhavi was very sure that she wanted a dry set because it was a dance song and none of the dancers or the actors would be able to dance in wet conditions. While shooting for 'Ishq Hi Hai Rab', we were tortured by heavy rainfall.
Which character of yours was more fun to play?
For me, playing Veer was very challenging because it's something that I have not played before. I am playing another gender in the film. I play a man, something new for me. I enjoyed it a lot more than playing Veera because Veera is like playing my character again, or something I have done before. Even Veera's character is challenging but if I had to choose between the two, I would choose Veer. And strangely, even unit members used to behave very friendly with me when I was Veer, and when I used to become Veera , they will again be very respectful and in control. I really enjoyed being a boy on Hadippa - it was really fun because Jay and Aparajita who are the writers have etched out the character of Veer really well. This is a character which I am going to cherish throughout my career.
Are you ready to join the cricket team with the extensive training?
No, I am not ready to join the cricket team because that's not happening for me. I think, I can just about hit the ball with my bat and that is my achievement. It is something I wanted to do very sincerely because we have made a film for a cricket loving nation. I was really sure that whoever watches me play cricket on screen should not say that I hit a shot badly. I am hoping that the hard work that I have put in all my practice sessions for cricket supersede my fears of people not accepting me as a cricketer.
How much did you prepare for the role?
I think acting comes naturally to me. I don't know how but I think its God's gift to me. The only thing I worked on is on my cricket because that was one territory which I didn't know well. I didn't know how to hold a bat correctly, I didn't know how my stance should be as a cricketer, I didn't know to walk with the pads on. All this required a lot of training. It required me to learn the sport.
Was getting into Veer's look time consuming?
I used to get really sick and terrified when I used to get up in the morning and play Veer because I knew there will be glue on my face and there is going to be something stuck on my face and being a girl I am not used facial hair or something sticking to our face or upper lip. So that was the only thing that made me so uncomfortable. The stress would start during pack up time. It is a more extensive process to remove the beard than to put. For removing you have to put those weird smelly lotions that you can't breathe with. I used to literally stop my breath till the time they used to remove the beard from my face. That was the most painful moment. But I guess, there is no gain without pain.
What should the audience expect from Dil Bole Hadippa?
I feel this movie is an effort from our sides where we have put in all our love, hard work, and creativity and have made this film like little babies. I just feel they should not come with expectations; they should just come to enjoy the film. I am coming out with a movie after a year. My last release was Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. I am extremely close, extremely emotional about this movie. I have not done any film in this time. I have put in all my energy and hard work for this movie. It was a difficult film to do, to be a boy, to play cricket. I have done a lot to prepare for this role. I hope when they come to see my film after a year, they are not disappointed and shouldn't go unsatisfied.