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How Rani Mukerji has changed!

Last updated on: January 5, 2011 16:29 IST

How Rani Mukerji has changed!

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Raja Sen in Mumbai

It's been a while since we applauded Rani Mukerji in a film. But that doesn't seem to deter the actress from pouring it on very thick indeed.

Currently hardselling her latest release, No One Killed Jessica, Rani can be spotted across television channels mock-kissing a co-star, paying obeisance to a legend, or even proffering her thumb forward -- for suckling purposes.

So it's all grin, grin, giggle, giggle, which isn't in itself a major surprise considering stars these days do a lot worse to set tongues wagging. But it is one now, considering that Rani never used to be one of the shrill gigglers the industry has dozens of.

This is largely because she used to let her films, her performances do the talking. In recent times, they just haven't had much to say.


Image: Rani Mukerji mock kisses co-star Vidya Balan in public

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Rani's last hit came with 2006's Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, while 2005 saw her last watchable films, Paheli, Bunty Aur Babli and the critic-conquering Black. This was a troika of successes that showed off her versatility, box office appeal and acting chops, and Mukerji, it seemed, could do no wrong.

But she did, over and over again. Ta Ra Rum Pum -- a monstrosity about a down-on-their-dollars family starved of food but gorging on melodrama -- was the first major misstep, not counting her weepy turn in Baabul a few months before.

Then came Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, a hideous, regressive film where she played a callgirl and made it seem as legitimate a job decision for an educated woman as that of, say, joining a call centre. It was this film, I firmly believe, that first made audiences shudder, recoil and question their own taste in actresses.


Image: Rani Mukerji, Vidya Balan promote No One Killed Jessica

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To be fair, it isn't as if she hasn't tried. A gifted actress with much unconventionality dripping from her filmography, the last few years have seen Rani in reinvention overdrive.

Callgirl, courtesan, cricketer, chubby angel. Rani's tried them all -- with directors usually given to either massive hits or much critical fanfare -- but none of them fit right. And all of them made her look awful.

In a notoriously fickle industry particularly forgetful of actresses, then, her recourse has been to try and become like one of the many heroines she was always different from. Which is why Dil Bole Hadippa -- a godawful film with her as an ambidextrous Punjabi batswoman -- was marketed with stills of her in a bikini.


Image: Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan promote No One Killed Jessica

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And so we have her now, an actress clearly trying too hard. On a dance programme, she squealed with delight and dropped to her stomach as she saashtang-pranaam'd Madhuri Dixit, looking like a gleeful, pushup-happy child.

At a press conference in Delhi, she pretended to smooch fellow NOKJ actress Vidya Balan. On Karan Johar's chatshow this weekend, she'll be sticking her thumb out for Balan to suck it, a la the latter's own Ishqiya.

None of this hurts Balan, whose star is firmly on the rise. She's being the passive one, playing along while -- like Rani a few years ago -- her real bravado is saved for the screen. Rani's hyper-exuberance is a trifle embarrassing, and not least because she's promoting an ostensibly 'serious' film.


Image: Rani Mukerji's saashtang namaskar to Madhuri Dixit on the sets of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa

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