March 21 is a special day as it is the day Rani Mukerji was born. Considering her contribution towards Indian cinema, it indeed makes me feel fortunate to have been born in the time where I have got the honour to witness her work. With her recent outing, Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, the actress again proved why she is counted amongst the greats.
Rani Mukerji is no longer just a name of an actor, it is a brand of its own. But it has taken a lot of hard work and ground-breaking parts for Rani to reach here. That is something every actor aspires to do and tries their best to attain. However, one thing that sets Rani apart is that most of her characters have had something important to tell. They represent a modern, independent Indian women, who has evolved with time.
While she has done her fair part of commercial characters, Rani has balanced that with poignant stories as well. And what strikes me about Rani’s filmography is that her choice of characters have evolved with time. They have showcased women of different age groups and stratas.
The initial years of the 90s
When she did the role of a woman facing domestic violence in the greed of dowry in Mehndi, she did that in a way that related to the sensibilities of that time. With Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, she highlighted the topic of surrogacy through the film, at a time when the concept was quite alien for the country. Even though the film’s handling of the issue was controversial, the issue itself was important.
Then came an extended cameo in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Even with a small part, Rani left a mark as she showed how giving a person can be in love. She put aside her love so that two people who loved each other could be together.
The era of change from 2002
From 2002, Rani’s choices became all the more impressive. Saathiya was one of those roles that made a place in my heart. Her part as Dr Suhani depicted a girl who was deeply in love but prioritised her independence as well. And at that time, it was quite important to portray such characters.
I was left quite impressed with her role in Hum Tum. It wasn’t because of the obvious reasons. For me what set it apart was that she was in charge of her own life throughout. Be it choosing where to study, finding her husband, getting married, choosing to settle in a different country post his death and then choosing to find love again. She was in control of her life at each step. Even with voices around, she was never perturbed.
The game changing year of 2005
2005 was the year of Rani with Black, Bunty Aur Babli and Paheli. With Bunty or Babli, she showed a girl from a small town with big dreams, who chose not to succumb to anyone. But it was Paheli that left me bemused. Though her character belonged to a village, she owned that she needed love after her husband went away. And she did find that in a ghost. But she never compromised on her need for affection.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna showed that sometimes marriage does not mean you are bound to end up with your spouse. Your true love might still be out there. Laga Chunari Mein Daag depicted that prostitution can be a choice too. It might have started out of desperation for Rani’s character, but later she owned her profession as an escort in the film.
No One Killed Jessica was another strong portrayal of a modern woman who knew the distinction between right and wrong. She also knew how to fight for it. In Aiyyaa, she portrayed a woman who owned her sexuality and her desires proudly. She doesn’t fit in the norm of waiting for a man to come to her. She openly shows her affection to the man she wants.
The phase post marriage and motherhood
Rani’s post marriage and motherhood phase has been revolutionary in its own way. Each role of hers has been an incredibly important one. From portraying a righteous cop in Mardaani franchise to a loving teacher struggling with her own issues in Hichki, she has been a star in everything. Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway showed the strength of a mother and the phase that she is in real life currently, it just fits right.
Rani Mukerji is a name that will forever be etched in Indian cinematic history. She has given voice to so many stories that needed to be told. Along with being an inspiration in real life, she has never left an opportunity to do the same on screen. Here’s wishing the iconic actor a very happy birthday.