With Rani Mukerji stepping out in a mango yellow sari, looking very Maharashtrian in her role as Meenakshi Deshpande, expect a deluge of cover stories and multi-media interviews. Aiyya, the film in which she plays Ms Deshpande, has been preponed (yes, this essentially Indian word is now accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary) by a fortnight and Rani Mukerji who has become extremely market savvy (thank you, Aditya Chopra) has hired a spanking new publicist. That the PR person has Yash Raj links is incidental, I guess.
Also expect wedding bells to peal officially for Rani and beau, Aditya Chopra, for the actress is clearly far more forthcoming about him and their relationship than ever before. So stand by for a spate of “Rani on Adi” stories too because all that was being said off the record is now happily going on record. Obviously, Adi has given Rani the green signal to finally make it official.
Perhaps the fact that she no longer has to resort to subterfuge — after all these years of enforced secrecy — has given her a new glow because she is looking absolutely smashing. When I met her at Juhu in her Krishna Ram bungalow (named after her parents), she was merrily tucking into a box of ghee and sugar-soaked sohan papdi because the enthusiastic welcome she was receiving for the first promo of Aiyya had put her in a cheerful mood.
After Aiyya will come Talaash, the film in which Rani co-stars with Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor. With two films and an Adi, there will be plenty of Ms Mukerji in the months to come, especially when her personal life is no longer a hushed secret.
Although nothing about Mahesh or Mukesh Bhatt is ever hush hush, they paradoxically own the Raaz franchise. Even if Jism is actually more up their street, the Bhatts have struck it rich with two of their earlier Raaz films, and the third too has its box office mix right. After successful outings like Haunted, Vikram Bhatt — the original horror-plus-3D man — puts it together once more in Raaz 3. While Mahesh Bhatt steers clear of anything religious, Vikram has taken the brothers down the opposite route. A few years ago, he played on the Hanuman Chalisa in the classic God vs Satan encounter for his horror film 1920 and the film struck a chord with viewers. In Raaz 3, similar religious sentiments are invoked when Evil has to stand up to the powers of Ganesha. With Ganesh Chaturthi around the corner, it is a clever move and the climax where Ganpati is emphatically introduced on the hero’s side will have its takers. Religion does pay, Mr Bhatt.
Raaz 3 which is the most expensive film the Bhatt brothers have made to date is also a silver jubilee celebration of their production banner, Vishesh Films. Mukesh Bhatt addressed a select audience at a special screening and exhorted everyone to sit back and enjoy the 3D experience (Vikram was the first Hindi film-maker to shoot in 3D, unlike most others who convert 2D into 3D). Mukesh was the one who reminded everyone that Vishesh Films had turned 25.
At the special screening, Emraan Hashmi’s wife Parveen (so unstarry, you wouldn’t guess she was a celebrity wife) sat with her husband’s sister (close cousin), Smiley Suri. So wife and sis watched Emraan go through the smooch route as he got Bipasha and Esha Gupta to pucker up for him.
Also watching it all was Mahesh Bhatt’s wife Soni Razdan who hates horror films and cockroaches. She sat through both with Raaz 3.
If you’ve seen or even read about Raaz 3, you’ll know that it’s about the intense hatred a failing superstar has for a younger girl who’s usurping her place at the top. Although Madhur Bhandarkar’s Kareena Kapoor starrer Heroine is not a 3D horror film, the backbone is startlingly similar — his heroine too goes through a messy, edgy personal life powered by her fierce insecurities.
Hmm, the old Ajnabee rivalry between Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha is raising its head again. During Ajnabee, Kareena was the chosen one, the Kapoor girl who had stardom chasing her before her debut film reached the theatres, while Bipasha was the unknown underdog and was treated like one too. Over the years, Bebo and Bips managed to bury past differences and make friendly overtures to each other.
But with Raaz 3 and Heroine pitting them in the same arena, the hugs will be put on hold for a while.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal