If there is a question that Rani Mukerji hates more than “When are you getting married?”, it’s “Are you making a comeback?” Considering Aiyyaa is releasing a year-and-a-half after the critical and commercial success of No One Killed Jessica, the questions aren’t unfounded. During a car ride from one radio station in Mumbai to another, Rani is munching on diet bhel and healthy nuts while she chats with t2 about being ‘out of sight’, the advantage of working with younger directors and, yes, her not-so-favourite subject: marriage.
Where have you been?!
(Laughs) I have been here only, darling. Where will I go? And if the audience wants me, I am going to be here for decades more.
You haven’t been seen around since No One Killed Jessica...
After No One Killed Jessica released in January 2011, I started shooting for Talaash. The film was supposed to be released in November last year but it was pushed to this November due to reasons out of my control. After Talaash, I started filming Aiyyaa which is ready for release.
But one doesn’t get to see you very often even at events or parties.
I think celebrities are very accessible these days. They are either on social networking sites or are seen often at public events. I choose to go only for events that I am interested in and talk only when I want to talk but that doesn’t make me a recluse. It’s not like I am just sitting at home, meeting only my family. I have friends and I go out with them.
So, you are not worried about being ‘out of sight, out of mind’?
After all these years in the industry? Not at all. I am not insecure as an actor. I know that I have a responsibility towards my fans. I can’t do a film for the sake of doing a film. Those days are long gone.
After a dark film like No One Killed Jessica, did Aiyyaa appeal to you because it’s light and frothy?
You make it sound like coffee! (Laughs) Anurag (Kashyap, the producer of the film) was the one who had approached me with the story. I was intrigued with the concept of a woman being attracted to a man because of the way he smells. I told Anurag that I was interested, so he told Sachin (Kundalkar, the director) to write the screenplay. He got back with the script about a year later and it was unique enough for me to want to be a part of it.
No One Killed Jessica was Rajkumar Gupta’s second film, Sachin Kundalkar is a debutant and Talaash is Reema Kagti’s second release. Is there a conscious effort to work with younger filmmakers?
Absolutely. I have enjoyed making the three films. I think younger filmmakers approach me with a fresh perspective. I have been working since I was 17 and it’s important for me to take stock of my career every couple of years. I did that in 2002, when I started doing films that I wanted to see as an audience. That was the period of Saathiya and Black. In this new phase, I am hoping that these directors redefine me as an actor.
So how different is it being directed by a new director like Sachin compared to someone like Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
There is a considerable amount of comfort with someone like Bhansali who I have worked with before. They know me as a person and they know how much I can be pushed to explore the boundaries. They know my potential. Also, even if I am working with an established director for the first time, I have his earlier films as a reference. I know they are capable of beautiful work. Sachin, on the other hand, didn’t know me at all before we started working on the film. But he is a fan who has seen my previous films and wants to present me in a different light.
Sachin sure has succeeded in presenting you ‘in a different light’ — your dances in Aiyyaa have created quite a buzz!
(Laughs) I know! Everyone is saying, ‘Oh my god! Rani can dance’. It’s almost like they haven’t seen me dance all these years. I am so happy that I can still surprise my audience. With my acting being under so much focus, people seem to have forgotten that I can dance. I have put in a lot of effort for this film and learnt belly dancing and Lavani. It feels good to be appreciated for all that effort.
In the film, your character Meenakshi’s parents are desperate to marry her off...
Today, it is the biggest priority for my parents as well. It’s the only thing they want from me. I keep telling them that it’s my life and I need to be ready for marriage. I never had a timeline for marriage or babies. I have been so busy with work for the last 17 years that marriage has always been last on my list of priorities.
Talk of your marriage crops up with amazing regularity....
Yes! They never seem to leave me. I think, in the last five years, there must have been at least 100 news reports of my marriage. Recently, I read that I was already married which was a new twist. I just feel that my marriage has been written about so much that it’s become a joke. When I do get married, my wedding day would be one of the happiest days of my life.