Rani Mukerji is basking in the success of her film Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway. The real-life story of an Indian mother who takes on the system of a foreign country when her children are forcefully taken away from her, has Rani headlining the film and walking away with most of the accolades. TT chatted with Rani about the success of the film, why she has always believed in content-driven cinema and what made her birthday this year super special.
What’s been the most memorable compliment that’s come your way so far for Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway?
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway has been special for me because in the post-pandemic world, a content-driven film like this has done well at the box office. So the success is even sweeter, though right now I am having really bitter coffee as I am speaking to you! (Laughs)
The fact that the audiences gave this film a chance and have taken out their precious time to go and watch it... it’s a very big thing for me and this is a very important film in my career. When I look back at my career, the success of Mrs Chatterjee... will be etched in golden letters. That’s because it’s come at a time when people really had no faith and belief that a film like this can work at the box office.
What do you think worked in favour of the film and pulled audiences to the theatres?
I always believed that a good film will always find its audience. In Mrs Chatterjee’s case, it’s absolutely that. As a cinema lover and as a child of cinema, I have always believed that the experience you get of watching a film in a theatre, you don’t get that at home. The fact that you make a plan and go to the theatre with your family or friends. Even if you go solo, it’s ultimately you that is connected to the film on the screen. You can cry your heart out, you can feel happy or sad, you can feel every kind of emotion and express it because you know that you are in a dark room and no one is looking at you. If you watch the same film at home, you will be conscious because the lights will be on and you will have someone looking at you. At home, you can be distracted by a phone call or you can pause the film and go to the loo.
You give respect to a film by going to the theatre, buying a ticket, watching the film... you are also giving respect to the fact that we have worked so hard in this film as opposed to going back home after a hard day’s work and then flipping between what you want to watch. That particular film or series just becomes one of the options that you have at your disposal.
I am just so happy that the audience has proven me right and has reinforced the faith I had in the film. I had always believed that Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway was fit for a theatrical experience. That the film is doing so well is the biggest blessing that I could have got.
The Mardaani films to Hichki to Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, you have made content-driven cinema work at the box office. How important is it for you to do the kind of films you have been doing over the last few years?
As an artiste, I am always looking to explore different genres. One gets a script like Mrs Chatterjee... not often in one’s career. It’s based on a real-life incident and is about a real mother. It was an important film and an important story to be told. It depicts an Indian woman’s plight in a foreign country. When I first heard about this ordeal, I was really, really angered that something like this can happen to our fellow Indian in another country. I have always believed in playing Indian women who are written very strongly on a global platform. It’s through films that one gets to know what the situation of a country is and how women are treated there at a certain point in time. I truly believe that Indian women are so special that when I portray them in their true glory — whether it’s a cop or a teacher — it’s important for me to tell the world that this is who we are. We have strong women in every sphere. My character Meera Gaity was the one who drove the story in No One Killed Jessica. She was an amalgamation of so many journalists at that time. Whatever I play, it’s very important for me to portray Indian women and their strength beautifully on screen.
Rani inMrs Chatterjee vs Norway, now playing in theatre.
Did your faith in Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway happen right at the beginning or evolve over time?
Whether a film is a winner or not is not something that most actors know at the onset. But we do need to have immense belief in the script. Otherwise, what’s the point of being part of a film? This is especially true at this point in my career where I don’t need to do a film just to be seen. I have to do a film which I believe in, which I know that my audience will enjoy watching. We all knew that Mrs Chatterjee... was an important story to tell and that’s the belief that powered us through the making of the film and also during the time of its release.
How important are box-office numbers to you?
Very important. That’s because box-office numbers indicate the number of people who have gone to watch your film. That is where I get my validation as an actor. I am not here to act for four or five people... I am here to act for an audience which has watched me for so many years now.
How far do you think the success of Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway will push others to make content-driven cinema for the big screen and not just for OTT platforms?
I do think that the success of the film has instilled a lot of faith in many film-makers. I got calls from so many people thanking me and the team and saying that they can also think of releasing their films in the theatre. Even after we had a very successful trailer, there was talk that people have loved the trailer but let’s see if the audience gives it a chance in theatres or waits for it to release on OTT. So we didn’t really know what was in store for us. But I am glad we stuck to our guns. Now we know that if it’s a good film, people will come.
A theatrical experience doesn’t always mean that the audience comes in to laugh and dance and be happy. Sometimes people want to come in to cry also. In our country, we don’t really have many people speaking to counsellors and films act as a mode of release for many people in many ways. They connect with an emotion in a film and let go. I had so many of my friends weeping and sobbing while watching Mrs Chatterjee... it was a good release for them!
Belated birthday wishes (Rani turned a year younger on March 21). What was special about this year?
My birthday this year was truly special because I visited the Kamakhya Temple (in Assam). I always believed that I would go when Kamakhya Maa calls me and it happened on my birthday and I couldn’t be happier. Not many people know that my mother prayed to Goddess Kali for a daughter before having me. My mom was extremely touched because I was born on a Tuesday and I went to Kamakhya on my birthday, which was also a Tuesday. I had my daughter and my mother with me and had such a beautiful darshan. I am very connected with all Maata temples like Kamakhya, Kalighat, Vaishno Devi.... This birthday was all about being grateful for the success of my film.