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This article was first published 11 years ago

Rani Mukerji: Every girl lusts after a man

Last updated on: October 10, 2012 12:30 IST

Image: Rani Mukerji in Aiyya
Ankur Pathak in Mumbai

Sometimes, films create an image for a star that is far removed from the person in real life.

Rani Mukerji is one of those stars in Bollywood. She's played some of the most flambouyant and cheerful characters on screen but in real life, she talks in measured words and is extremely secretive about her personal life.

Having worked with top directors under big banners and romanced the top actors of her time, Rani is currently promoting her new film Aiyyaa, where she is paired opposite the formidable force from South India, Prithviraj, who's making his Bollywood debut with the film.

In this interview, she tells Ankur Pathak about the quirky theme of the film and also about gender bias in Bollywood.

What was going on in your mind when you did the Dreamum Wakeuppam song in Aiyyaa? It's quite a departure from your screen image.

(Laughs) Nothing, really! Every girl lusts after a man. It is not new. It is just that they don't talk about it openly.

I guess all women will identify with it. I don't portray characters that are not connected with reality.

When Sachin Kundalkar (director, Aiyyaa) came to me, he told me that in every Bollywood film, the woman is always the object of desire. So why not a man? Why does a woman have to be ashamed of even acknowledging her fantasies? He said he wanted to change that notion with this film. I felt if younger directors are coming with such unique concepts, it is the responsibility of actors like us to encourage them.

'Aiyyaa is a real concept but sounds strange'

Image: Rani Mukerji in Aiyyaa

So the idea of a girl falling for a man because of the way he smells prompted you to sign the film?

Yes, absolutely!

A girl falling in love with a man because of his smell is a very unique concept. I have done countless romantic films but nobody ever came up to me with such a different story.

If you watch it, you'll realise it is a very realistic concept. Smell plays an important role in our day-to-day lives but we don't think about it so much.

From using air-freshners in our rooms to not wanting to sit next to the person who has body odour, we are acutely aware of smells around us. When there is a person who smells nice, you want to be in their company. So I feel, Aiyyaa is a very real concept but it sounds a bit strange.


'Dreamum Wakeupam is a tribute to all South Indian songs'

Image: Prithviraj and Rani Mukerji in Aiyyaa

Was it a challenge for you to get into the South Indian touch of elaborate costumes and over-the-top dance routines?

Actually, it was easy. As an actor, nothing should be difficult for me. It is my job to act and be very good at it. There should be no awkwardness. If there is, I wouldn't do it in the first place.

This film is a beautiful love story between a Maharashtrian girl and a South Indian man. The song Dreamum Wakeupam is a tribute to all South Indian songs. All of us are fans of this song as it has energetic, mind-pulsating dance sequences.

'The entire notion of women-centric films taking centerstage now is just a myth'

Image: A scene from Aiyyaa

Do you feel this is particularly a great phase for a film like Aiyyaa to be made and released?

See, our industry is coming from an era where Shammi Kapoor(ji) and Raj Kapoor(ji) have been icons of good looks.

They've been the objects of our collective desires. So we aren't really going anywhere but revisiting what we already had.

The entire notion of women-centric films taking centerstage now is just a myth. We have had films like Bandini, Sujata, Mother India before. It's all been happening all this while.

'The youth has always been the biggest target audience'

Image: Rani Mukerji in Aiyyaa

So you don't think the industry has seen a transformation of any kind?

It has. A boy who saw Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as a four year old isn't four anymore. He has grown up. His tastes have changed.

The youth changes with every passing year and they have always been the biggest target audience. They are the reason why multiplex films are being made.

Having said that, we have also become more accepting as an audience which explains why even the single screens are running houseful along with the multiplexes. People are reacting to all kind of films, irrespective of the genres.


'I believe in keeping my audience waiting for my next film'

Image: A scene from Aiyyaa

Do you feel Bollywood is inherently a sexist industry?

Depends upon who you ask.

I don't really feel there is segregation of that kind.  As actors, it is our responsibility to fit in any kind of roles, look younger than our age and do extremely well, and also keep a sense of mystique around.

I believe in keeping my audience waiting for my next film. I don't think there is any actress' personal agenda against any other.
Every producer wants to pick the best bet for the film. If today, I'm a part of Aiyyaa, it is because the producers felt I was perfect for it. If you believe in the cliche of injustice towards heroines, there is some kind of bullshit going on in your head.

Tags: Aiyyaa

'I don't choose films with an agenda, but for what they are worth'

Image: A scene from Aiyyaa

Having spent nearly 17 years in Bollywood, how do you go about picking roles? Do you particularly favour author-backed roles?

If I were to pick every film that came my way, you wouldn't be asking me why I am making a comeback.

Everybody goes through a phase in their career where they classify their choices. I pick the best of the lot. I always ask myself if I'll enjoy a certain film as an audience. Is this character challenging me enough? Is it interesting enough? Or is this a role that I have done in the past? That'd be damn boring so I won't touch it at all. I don't choose films with an agenda, but for what they are worth.

The only agenda is that the audience who is waiting for my film shouldn't be disappointed. I have to invest 100 to 150 days of my life in a film. In a year, I can't manage more than two.

Tags: Bollywood

'How can you call this a comeback when I've been constantly working?'

Image: A scene from Aiyyaa

You have reportedly been angry by the way Aiyyaa has been written about as a comeback vehicle for you.

What is a comeback?

For an actress, it is doing a film after a very long hiatus, mostly after marriage and kids.

How can you call this a comeback when I haven't gone anywhere and have been constantly working?

It doesn't make sense. Do you ask this question to Aamir Khan, who disappears for a couple of years before every release?


'People know that I am here to stay'

Image: A scene from Aiyyaa

But the audience loyalty tends to shift with the entry of younger heroines like Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma etc. Don't you think your disappearing act works against you?

People know I've been around. It is a certain section of media that writes such stories and readers, for lack of better sense, get carried away. If you ask people, they very much know that Rani Mukerji hasn't gone anywhere and is here to stay.

If you believe a perception, that breeds more perception of the same kind. But if you are using your own intelligence, you wouldn't ask me this question in the first place.

'I really do like men who smell good'

Image: A scene from Aiyyaa

In reality, what kind of men attract you?

I really do like men who smell good. Besides that, they should have a great sense of humour because I do. These factors make for an attractive personality.

Poeple have comparted you with Vidya Balan in context of the kind of films you are choosing.

I don't want to say anything.