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'Internet or TV can't turn you into a monster'

By RONJITA KULKARNI
December 16, 2019 09:40 IST

IMAGE: Rani Mukerji in Mardaani 2.
 

"Picture kaisi lagi?" Rani Mukerji asks a theatre full of police women who have just watched her latest film, Mardaani 2.

"Kadak!" they shout out.

The response brings a twinkle to her eyes and a dazzling smile to her lips. She punches the air with her fist.

But an actress of Rani's calibre is not easily convinced.

So she asks again.

"Did I look like a policewoman?"

"Did I hit like a policewoman?"

"Did I do it well?"

Yes, yes and YES!

Such praise is probably all in a day's work for Rani, but she admits that such a response is indeed gratifying.

"More than anything, they are women first, and then policewomen. They react emotionally as a woman first and then an officer. It's really gratifying because at the end of the day, we are women and we feel for our cause even more strongly," she says.

Mardaani 2 deals with rape, a gruesome crime that leads the headlines almost every day.

And like the rest of our nation, Rani has strong views about it too.

"There is an anger simmering in a few people whose mindsets are neck deep in tradition. They are simmering because they feel how is it that she's able to educate herself? How is it that she's allowed to talk over me? How is it that she's allowed to do what she wants to do? This is coming out in these crimes," Rani tells Ronjita Kulkarni/Rediff.com

IMAGE: Rani Mukerji praise from policewomen.

Mardaani was made in 2014. Why did the sequel take five years to release?

Because there was no script!

But when Gopi (Puthran, director) wrote the script, we got charged and said, let's do it!

He took about four years to write the script.

He wanted to write about a relevant topic again after Mardaani, which dealt with child trafficking.

We needed to talk about an equally important topic, plaguing our society today.

We wanted to send an important message across.

That's when Gopi came up with this because such crimes have not stopped in our country.

I think that inspired him to write the story.

Also, the topic of juvenile criminals was heavily the reason why this film was made.

IMAGE: Rani Mukerji in Mardaani 2.

Was it inspired by the Nirbhaya case?

Nirbhaya was the reason why the first film was made -- because we all wanted to have a voice.

We wanted to somewhere channelise our anger in a way that we could send a message out to empower women because that was the need of the hour.

How much of Mardaani is your voice?

As citizens, all we can do is raise our voices and have conversations.

What else can we do?

As an actor, I'm able to raise my voice and do something about the current situation by putting myself in a place where I can physically, mentally, emotionally do a subject or a character where I can say these things.

When you see the film, you'll know that the voice inside me is exactly the same that we all have.

IMAGE: Rani Mukerji in Mardaani 2.

How did you make sure rape was sensitively handled?

Gopi and Adi (Rani's husband Aditya Chopra, who heads Yash Raj Films) are the creative people on the film, and they have single-handedly taken that responsibility.

If you've taken up a socially relevant film, it is to talk about that cause and, of course, to empower women at the same time and create awareness.

How do you switch off from a film that has so much brutality and go home to your young daughter Adira?

Aren't we going through that every day when we read the newspapers?

So what is so different when I go to shoot a film?

I'm reading about it every day in the papers and I'm still going back to my daughter.

That is how, unfortunately, life has become.

We read about a horrific case, but from there, it's back to your life.

But somewhere, because these things stay with you, it has stayed with me, the pain has stayed with me, and I wanted to put that across through a film.

As a mother to a daughter, what are your worries?

I want Adira to grow up in an environment where there's equal respect for men and women.

I don't want anybody to ever tell her -- because I can't be with her constantly -- that she is lesser than any man or less powerful because that's the training I am giving her.

I make her believe that she's most powerful.

I keep talking to her, 'Darling, you're the most courageous. You have more muscles than Papa as well! And when you box, oh my God, that's really powerful!'

So I'm already inculcating that in her.

I don't want her to ever think that boys can do a certain thing and girls cannot.

I don't want that upbringing for Adira and I don't want anybody around her to say things like that. Because when you're living in a society, you do face these kinds of things. You might see it in your friends or somewhere.

I want a collective change in our country where the mindset and the belief systems change.

We are going through this transition time, that's why you are seeing more crimes taking place because it's not about just that crime, it is about the mindset of the man who believes that women are getting to speak their minds, that women are getting to do what they want to do.

There is an anger simmering in a few people whose mindsets are neck deep in tradition.

They are simmering because they feel, how is it that she's able to educate herself? How is it that she's allowed to talk over me? How is it that she's allowed to do what she wants to do?

This is coming out in these crimes.

Otherwise, how else do you explain a child getting brutally killed and raped?

IMAGE: Rani Mukerji meets a women's night patrol police team. Photograph: Kind courtesy Yash Raj Films/Instagram

Do you feel the Internet and cheap mobile plans are responsible for the rape epidemic?

I wouldn't say that.

There are a lot of other factors involved.

First comes the mindset and the upbringing because no amount of television or content anywhere can turn you into a monster.

I think it all starts at home, the kind of education you get from your peers, your family, the people you are growing up with.

Content will be everywhere.

There will be all kinds of content.

How you view the content depends upon your mind.

From Mardaani's Shivani Shivaji Roy to Simmba and Chulbul Pandey, how do you view the different interpretations of police in Bollywood?

I would not like to compare.

But Shivani Shivaji Roy is the truest sense of what I have seen and met in my research work.


Ronjita Kulkarni has been writing about the movies for 20 years.
You can read her features at http://www.rediff.com/movies/ronjita-kulkarni.html
You can contact her at ronjitad@rediff-inc.com


RONJITA KULKARNI / Rediff.com
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