When we recently caught up with Rani Mukerji at a suburban hotel, the actress was in a jovial mood; cracking funny liners and having us in splits. Her latest 'Hichki' has been winning over the hearts all over and the chirpy lady basking in the success had a lot to share straight from her heart. Always 'fearless' when it comes to voicing her thoughts, the actress admits that she is very happy with all the love and adulation which she has received for her latest outing. Of course, time and again throughout the conversation, the spunky actress ddn't refrain from making candid remarks about her age!
Over to Rani,
'You Feel Relieved As An Actor When Your Film Is Accepted On A Friday'
Q. How does the success of 'Hichki' taste like?
A. As an actor, you feel relieved when your film is accepted on a Friday. The way an audience takes back a film is also equally important. When we set out to make a film as a team, we all think of making it successful because we love the story.
But there are Fridays that ain't so great because the film hasn't been well-received or the message hasn't been conveyed to them the way we want. Here with 'Hichki', the audience loved the movie and also took back the message which we wanted to convey from the film. That's a bigger success for us. Every person whether it's a student, teacher, parent or even a colleague at a work has related with some character in the film. There have all taken back something or there's something which has stirred in them. These reactions or success are much sweeter.
When a film goes beyond just entertainment, it does not become just a hit but is also remembered for a longer time, like people remember my "Black" 15 years down. I am sure 'Hichki' will be similarly remembered, because everyone connected with something or someone in it - my character, the kids, the emotions, the spirit. This film has connected across ages. I am very happy about that.
'The Success Of Hichki Is Like A Pat On My Back For A Job Well-Down'
Q. How did you manage to give such easy, free-flowing performance with the 'tics' which your character in the film suffer from?
A. It's my job as an actor to do any role. If I do not know my job, why act at all? Everybody has a job where there are difficulties. As an actor, my job is to make every character believable, relatable and organic. Whatever preparation I do as an actor, that's is something which I think isn't right to be glorified. I feel happy that I have done a job which people are satisfied with. I work for my audience, and when they give me a thumbs-up, it is like a pat on my back for a job well-done. It means that my hard work has paid off.
Q. But still, how did you manage to pull that off?
A. The script told me when to take the tics, but I did not follow that part. My performance would have become mechanical and fake if I had followed them. I knew that the spasms come to a Tourette's-afflicted person at any time, more when a person is anxious, angry, stressed and excited and less when feeling relaxed or confident. I decided to do them as per this graph rather than go "Dialogue plus tic, more dialogues plus two tics" and so on. The 'tics' are according to the emotions.
'I Have Always Reacted Emotionally To My Roles'
Q. Hichki was offered to a couple of actresses before it came your way. What was your reaction when you first heard the narration?
A. I have always reacted emotionally to my roles. When a script is given to me, I try to feel if the role is attracting me emotionally as Rani as a person. Is it emotionally making an impact on my life and am I learning something from it? If I am sure that I am getting inspired then I know the audience will be able to connect with it too. That's my way. Sometimes it goes right, sometimes it doesn't.
The minute I heard Hichki's script and learnt that the girl suffers from Tourette's syndrome, I understood that not many people are aware about this syndrome. There was no reference to context in this film. Also, the film was talking about these 14 under-privileged children and the right to education. The message in the film was so positive, loud and clear. It spoke about turning your weaknesses to your strengths and give equal opportunities to children to blossom in the school environment. It wasn't done in a preachy way. I thought it was a great amalgamation of a story which is well told and isn't boring. I thought for me, it was the right film to do because Naina is very special.
'Hichki Was Originally Written For A Male Actor'
Q. How did the role come to you?
A. Hichki was in the scripting stage when I was pregnant. Even if they wanted to cast me, I couldn't take it up because of the pregancy. The film then went to another actress. Originally when the film was offered to YRF, it had a hero in it. Maneesh Sharma (who produced the film for Yash Raj Films) liked (director-co-writer) Siddharth Malhotra's script but asked him to rework it with a female protagonist. They went to another actress who made them wait for a year. By the time she finally said she will not do it, Adira was four months old and the film was offered to me. (laughs)
'Adira Sat On My Lap For 10 Minutes & Then She Said, 'Woh Toh Meri Mumma Hai'
Q. Adira is too small to understand Hichki but has she seen the film?
A. She has seen the film as well. I took her to see the film and she is just 2 years old, so obviously she does not understand. Before this when I had brought her to the Yash Raj screening, she heard the loud sound and dark thing, so she got a little scared. This time I switched on the lights, made the sound soft and I made her see ‘Hichki'.
She sat on my lap for 10 minutes and she said ‘woh toh mera mumma hai'. She reacted like that. She was very happy seeing me; she was looking at me and looking on the screen. When she grows up she will be able to explain what she went through while watching ‘Hichki'. After 10 minutes, she got down from my lap and then the whole screening became her playground. She went round and round around the mixing table, when the songs came she started singing and dancing looking at the screen.
In the interval, I took her out because I wanted her nurse and nannies, my staff and everybody to watch the film, and they shouldn't be disturbed. So, in the second half I took her out because in the second half I am crying and I didn't want her to watch those things. These are the memories that I am taking in my life.
'I Constantly Reinvent Myself For The Audience'
Q. You have been in the industry for a really long time. Reaching this stage in career, is there anything which you feel you won't be able to do on-screen ?
A. As an actor, I should be able to do everything and constantly reinvent myself for the audience. My fans get happy when I keep experimenting. If I keep repeating myself then they too will get bored. I feel if I stop innovating as an actor then I will lose my audience.
Q. What's the best thing about being an actor?
A. I love the fact that I can live different people's lives for a month or two, experience the emotions and then move on to another.
Q. What was your biggest take-away from Hichki?
A. I have taken back a lot of love from this film. As an actor, I live for this adulation. The way how I process and get involved in a film while working, when it is well-received and people love my work, that is something which I take back from this film. As Rani what I took back is the wonderful fact that Naina is very spirited, she is very positive and full of hope. She fights back the situations thrown at her. I love the fact that she never gives up on anyone. We all go through ups and downs in our life. The beautiful part is since I am a mother today, it is important for me to give that positivity to my child. She should always feel happy in every situation and think that her mother is always there for her with a positive attitude.
Q. Were you nervous during the pre-release period?
A. 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. An actor gets a new update on their standing and position every Friday.
Q. Do you keep a tab on box office numbers?
A. My husband is a producer. Even if I don't want to track the numbers, I will still get to hear about it. (laughs)
'Ajay Is My Lucky Mascot'
Q. Were you anxious when Baaghi 2 was releasing the next week?
A. Every film has its own space and audience. For me what films are coming before or after mine shouldn't matter as long as my film does well. If my film hadn't done well, then these factors could probably cropped up. The audience has given so much love to a film. Strangely, Singham released a week before Mardaani. A similar thing happened with Hichki; Raid released a week before. Both the films did well. Probably, Ajay is my lucky mascot. (laughs)
'It Isn't Easy In Our Country To Remain Superstars For A Long Period'
Q. Are you still inspired by any actors in Bollywood?
A. For me whether it is Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Sridevi or Madhuri Dixit, name any of my seniors from the industry even Kamal Haasan, they are all the people whom I learnt from. If not by working with them then maybe for how they worked. They will always remain my inspiration because it requires a lot of hard work, perseverance to achieve that kind of success. It isn't easy in our country to remain superstars for such a long period of time and still sustain. This itself is an achievement. They will always remain my inspirations with the kind of films that they do and the way they have conducted themselves.
Q. With 22 years in film industry, is there anything which excites you as an actor?
A.The same which excited me then - experiencing different characters' lives and moving on to the next. And age is not important for me. I should be able to play my age, someone 10 years younger or 20 years older convincingly, that is the only relevant thing for an actor.
'As An Actor, I Am Prepared For Failures'
Q. Now that Hichki has been termed a hit, were you ever prepared that it could have failed?
A. I think every actor is, na? At least, I am, because every Friday cannot be a ‘good' Friday. We have to go very realistic about it. Even Salman Khan doesn't have all his Fridays successful. It will be foolish of us to always live with a belief that our film will definitely work. We have to be only honest to our craft and give the film to the audience to the truest form and then hope for the best.
'Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan & Aamir Khan Are Like Our 'Bharat Ratnas'
Q. Finally, there are a few actresses who have made some stirring comments in the past that they don't need a Khan...
A. I have immense love for Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir Khan. I have learnt a lot from them. They are people from whom I get my inspiration from. They are the people who started my career. I will always speak about them with respect. They have been in the industry for so many years. They have given us such wonderful films and roles. They are our role models. They are people who I look up to. I will do anything for them. For me, it is always a matter of pride when I am associated with them.
If today I am known in this country, it's because of the films I have done with them. I am proud that I am being able to associate myself with them. A person is a superstar because he is loved by millions of people. They are like our 'Bharat Ratnas' because they are known in the world. People love and worship them. It isn't an easy feat. They are in the industry for more than 25 years. They have given their entire lives to the entertainment industry. So we talk about them, it's respect, love and lot of gratitude.
I have a lot to thank them for. My second film was with Aamir, my third film was with Shahrukh and my fourth film was with Salman. I never felt that they were behaving like superstars when I was working with them even during my early years.
For me, they will always be special in my life and they are someone whom I love and adore and they are my friends.