He was born in Rajasthan. Started his advertising career in Delhi.
Many ad films later, Bombay soon beckoned. And Rajat Mukherjee was powerless to resist the calling. He worked his way into becoming Ramgopal Varma's assistant director.
Now, Rajat Mukherjee has directed his first feature film, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, starring Fardeen Khan, Urmila Matondkar and Sonali Kulkarni.
This, Ronjita Das discovers, is the story of how he made it:
How did Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya happen?
I came to Bombay to make feature films.
I had been chasing Ramu (Ramgopal Varma) for almost six or seven months. He finally called me towards the end of the making of Mast. He asked me what I wanted to do, to which I replied that I wanted to make a film. Then he asked me if I had a story. I did.
I told him the story; he loved it so much that he wanted to direct the film himself! But it had to be me or no one else. So he decided to produce it instead. When he said that, I was totally zapped, because he hardly knew me! That's how the film happened.
On what basis did you select your cast?
Completely on the basis of the story.
The first person that came to my mind for Rhea's character was Urmila. There was no doubt about that. But I was sceptical about whether she would agree to act in my film. She loved the role.
Fardeen was working in Jungle by the time I started selecting the cast. I knew him very well and thought he was ideal for the role.
But the role of Geeta took some time to finalise. I did some video tests and, finally, it boiled down to Sonali Kulkarni.
But Neha was first considered for Geeta's role...
Yes, she was considered for the role, but that doesn't mean she had it. We took video tests of a lot of people.
I think the blame lies more on me for not taking her. She's an excellent actress. But somehow, I was not too happy about her body language. Maybe I could have corrected it. Since this is my first film, I didn't want to take chances. I wasn't very confident about whether I could correct her the way I wanted.
She's also a very good friend of mine. In fact, that's the reason why I couldn't take a quick decision. I was constantly searching for another actress. She was never confirmed for the role.
Sonali seemed perfect for the role after she went through the video tests.
There were rumours that Neha wasn't selected because her boyfriend actor Manoj Bajpai and Ramgopal Varma couldn't get along...
Well, there were rumours that Manoj was going to be in my film, too. People read between the lines too much! Why can't they believe that the director, who is a newcomer, might look for more options?
I was also getting confident by meeting and talking to a lot of people. If you simply talk about a role, people assume they are getting that role. Neha thought that she had gotten that role. But I had always told her that I was very uncomfortable with her body language.
I am really sorry that she didn't get the role and I wish her all the best.
What is it like working with Urmila?
All the praises that I say for her will be less than what I really feel. She's one of the most professional actresses I've ever met. She's very punctual with absolutely no airs about her. She's totally committed to her profession, and has contributed a lot to this film.
In fact, she had asked me whether short hair would suit the role better. When I said yes, she immediately cut her hair.
What is it like working with Fardeen and Sonali?
Fardeen, Sonali, even Urmila, never made me feel like a first-time director. We were like family.
They used to ask me lots of questions about their roles. I find that admirable, because it shows that you really want to do your best. I had no problem with any one of them.
Tell me about the first scene you shot.
It was with Urmila. She is standing in the rain.
Her father enters and asks her what she's doing in the rain. There is a brief argument between father and daughter, as Rhea (Urmila) feels she is doing nothing wrong.
Rhea is the kind of girl who is in her own world. She doesn't care about people. She has her own perception of things.
When I called the first 'cut', I was extremely excited! I was wondering if this was a dream or whether I was actually doing it! It was a very unrealistic feeling for the first few moments.
What would be your favourite scene in the film?
All scenes are my favourites.
But I'm completely astounded by Urmila's performance in the climax. I never thought a scene that I shot could move me! It made me get goose pimples. But I can't tell you what the scene is!
Tell me something about the music in your film.
I knew Sandeep (Chowta) since the time of Mast, and I had always liked his music. So when Ramuji asked me who I would like to have as my music director, I immediately said Sandeep.
And he has done a great job -- I love the songs. He is a blessing to my film.
Which is your favourite song in the film?
Well, again, I love all the songs. But I love listening to Kumbakth ishq.
Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya is said to be a remake of Fatal Attraction...
No, it's not.
If you call any film which has two women and one man, human relationships and intense drama, a remake of Fatal Attraction, then it is! But there were ten films made before Fatal Attraction which had the same three ingredients.
So, no, I don't think I can say that Fatal Attraction inspired me.
Of course, I have seen the film a long time ago. While writing the story of Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya, I don't know whether Fatal Attraction or Rush or any theatre has inspired me. Obviously, those films do remain in your head. But if you say that my film is a remake of any film, it is not!
What are your expectations from this film?
I want it to be a hit, naturally.