I Am A Ranian
I remember seeing Rani Mukherjee for the first time in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, a drama that explores a theme you rarely see in Hindi cinema, adultery. After the movie was finished I was depressed. I cried and my throat was dry, which rarely happens to me. I could really feel her immense guilt throughout the movie. What struck me most about Rani Mukherjee were her eyes, which are the gateways to someone's soul. They were almost transparant, I felt the 'humanness' emanating from them. She has a smile that could light up your day. I think Rani Mukherjee knows how to communicate with an Indian audience in an Indian way. If you look at ancient, traditional Indian theatrical performances, the actors always face the audience. They perform for the audience with utmost respect and with the intent of uplifting the spectators to a greater reality. The fundamental purpose of any performance is to lift the audience from the micro to the macro.So before I knew it, I was neck deep in Rani's movies for weeks. Although some of them were quite ridiculous, she never was. Somehow she seemed to transcend, from my viewpoint as a Westerner I might add, the weird and sometimes infuriating plotlines.
Reading her backstory I was surprised to learn that she wasn't considered 'Bollywood heroine' material. She was referred to as the successful moviestar Kajol's poor (second) cousin and was written off by the critics for being plump, short and for not having a fair enough skin. Not to mention her distinctive husky voice that sets her apart from her contemporaries. When director Karan Johar finally cast Rani Mukherjee as Tina in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai he wasn't really that keen on her (many actresses had already said no to the role), but he signed her on the insistence of Shah Rukh Khan and producer/director Aditya Chopra who had both seen her in a promo for Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat. In his biography An Unsuitable Boy he writes about their first meeting: "I rang the doorbell and it was opened by a five-foot-nothing little girl. She hadn't looked so short in the promo. I narrated the first half of the film to her. She said she'd take two days to think it over. I thought, even she's going to say no. But if that were so, I would be happy because she was a little dumpy. I also thought she was not right for the film.'' Kuch Kuch Hota Hai proved a breaktrough for Rani, it emerged as a blockbuster in India and she won a Best Supporting Actress trophy. The rest is history, so they say.
But what really matters is that Rani has made me believe that things don't always have to add up - that you could be badass, yet vulnerable. Playful, yet responsible. Sexy, yet klutzy. Quiet, yet be able to summon the super strenght of a goddess. That there is no one way to be a woman. Her die-hard fans call themselves 'Ranians', I have become one too!