Rani Mukerji

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Rani Mukerji
Rani Mukerji is looking away from the camera
Mukerji at the Gr8! Women Awards in Dubai, 2013
Born (1978-03-21) 21 March 1978 (age 36)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Other names Rani Mukherji
Rani Mukherjee
(See Mukherjee)
Alma mater SNDT Women's University
Occupation Actress
Years active 1997–present
Spouse(s) Aditya Chopra (m. 2014)
Relatives See Mukherjee-Samarth family
Awards Full list

Rani Mukerji (/rɑːn mʉkhər/; born 21 March 1978) is an Indian actress. Through her successful Hindi film acting career, she has become one of the most high-profile celebrities in India, winning several awards, including seven Filmfare Awards. Her film roles have been cited as a significant departure from the traditional portrayal of women in Bollywood.

Although Mukerji was born into the Mukherjee-Samarth family, in which her parents and relatives were members of the Indian film industry, she did not aspire to pursue a career in film. However, while still a teenager she dabbled with acting by playing a supporting role in her father's 1992 Bengali language film Biyer Phool, and later accepted a leading role in the 1997 social drama Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat on the insistence of her mother. The following year, she began a full-time career in film and gained recognition for a supporting role in the blockbuster romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. After this initial success in her career, Mukerji's films fared poorly at the box office for the next three years. Her career prospects improved in 2002 when Yash Raj Films cast her as the star of the critically acclaimed drama Saathiya.

By 2004, Mukerji had established herself as a leading actress of Bollywood with roles in the romantic comedy Hum Tum and the dramas Yuva and Veer-Zaara. She achieved further success for portraying a deaf, blind and mute woman in the acclaimed 2005 drama Black and an unfaithful wife in the 2006 romantic drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Mukerji then collaborated with Yash Raj Films on several unsuccessful films which led critics to criticise her for choosing poor roles and pairing with the same set of actors. The 2011 semi-biographical thriller No One Killed Jessica proved to be her first box office hit in four years, and she followed it by starring in the successful thrillers Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012) and Mardaani (2014).

In addition to acting in films, Mukerji is involved with several humanitarian causes and is vocal about issues faced by women and children. She has participated in concert tours and stage shows, and featured as a talent judge for the 2009 reality show Dance Premier League. Despite constant media speculation, she remains guarded about her personal life and is sometimes labelled a recluse by members of the media. She is married to the filmmaker Aditya Chopra.

Early life and background[edit]

Rani Mukerji was born in Mumbai on 21 March 1978.[1] Her father, Ram Mukherjee (born to the Mukherjee-Samarth family), is a former film director and one of the founders of Filmalaya Studios. Her mother, Krishna Mukherjee, is a former playback singer.[2][3] Her elder brother, Raja Mukherjee, is a film producer and director.[4] Her maternal aunt, Debashree Roy, is a Bengali film actress and her paternal cousin, Kajol, is a Hindi film actress and her contemporary.[5] Another paternal cousin, Ayan Mukerji, is a scriptwriter and film director.[6] Despite her parents and most of her relatives being members of the Indian film industry, Mukerji was disinterested in pursuing a career in film.[7] She said, "[T]here were already too many actresses at home and I wanted to be someone different".[8]

Mukerji received her education at Maneckji Cooper High School in Juhu and graduated with a degree in Home Science from SNDT Women's University.[7][9] She is a trained Odissi dancer and began learning the dance form while in the tenth grade.[10] As part of an annual tradition, the Mukherjee family celebrates the festival of Durga Puja in the suburban neighbourhood of Santacruz every year. Mukerji, a practising Hindu, takes part in the festivities with her entire family.[11][12]

At the age of fourteen, Mukerji experimented with acting by portraying a supporting role in her father's Bengali language film Biyer Phool (1992).[13] The film starred Prosenjit and Indrani Haldar in lead roles and narrates the story of two sisters; Mukerji played the younger sibling of Haldar's character. In 1994, director Salim Khan approached her to play the lead female role in his directorial, Aa Gale Lag Jaa. Her father disapproved of a full-time career in film at such a young age, so she rejected the offer.[9] When Khan approached her with another film offer to play the protagonist of the social drama Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, Mukerji accepted the role due to her mother's insistence that she pursue acting on an experimental basis.[14] Before she began work on the film, Mukerji trained at Roshan Taneja's acting institute.[15]

Career[edit]

Debut and public recognition (1997–99)[edit]

Mukerji portrayed a rape victim who is forced to marry her rapist in the 1997 film Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat. Although a commercial failure,[16] Mukerji's performance was praised, and she won a special recognition trophy at the annual Screen Awards ceremony.[2] Following the film's failure, Mukerji returned to college to complete her education. However, inspired by her cousin Kajol's success in Bollywood, she decided to pursue a full-time career in film.[8]

In 1998, Mukerji starred opposite Aamir Khan in Vikram Bhatt's Ghulam (1998), a moderate commercial success.[17] Though her role in the film was small, the song "Aati Kya Khandala" earned her widespread recognition.[18] Due to Mukerji's broken voice texture, Bhatt hired a dubbing artist with a much higher pitched voice to dub for her lines. When asked if the director's decision to not use her voice in the film affected her, she said that her voice was dubbed as it "did not suit the character".[19][20]

Later that year, Karan Johar cast Mukerji opposite Shahrukh Khan and her cousin, Kajol, in his big-budget directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The role was originally written for Twinkle Khanna, but when she rejected the role, Johar approached several leading actresses, all of whom refused the offer. He subsequently cast Mukerji after she volunteered to play the role.[21] Johar had originally intended that a dubbing artist dub Mukerji's lines in the film, but she improved her diction and eventually dubbed for her own lines.[22] She portrayed Tina Malhotra, a college student who is in a relationship with Khan's character. Writing for India Today, film critic Nandita Chowdhury considered Mukerji to be the scene-stealer and added, "Oozing oomph from every pore, she [..] proves herself an actress whose time has come."[23] Kuch Kuch Hota Hai proved a breakthrough for Mukerji; it emerged as a blockbuster in India and abroad with earnings of over INR1.03 billion (US$17 million), and won eight Filmfare Awards, including a Best Supporting Actress trophy for Mukerji.[24][25]

Following the success of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Mukerji played leading roles in the social drama Mehndi (1998) and the comedy Hello Brother (1999).[26] Both these films were critical and commercial disappointments which failed to propel her career forward.[27]

Career struggles and initial success (2000–03)[edit]

Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta stand beside one another, and face away from the camera
Mukerji with actress Preity Zinta with whom she co-starred in four films, including Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (2000) and Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001)

By 2000, Mukerji wanted to avoid being type-cast as a "standard Hindi film heroine" and thus decided to portray more challenging roles in addition to the archetypical glamorous female lead.[28] However, none of her film releases in 2000 were particularly notable. In Badal and Bichhoo, two male-centric action dramas (both featuring Bobby Deol in the lead), she played roles that were met with little acclaim from the critics.[29] A supporting role in Kamal Hassan's bilingual film Hey Ram proved more rewarding. The film was a partly fictionalised account of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination and Mukerji portrayed the character of Aparna Ram, a Bengali school teacher who is raped and murdered during communal riots in Calcutta.[30] The controversial subject matter of Hey Ram led to poor box office earnings, but the film was critically acclaimed and selected as India's official entry to the Oscars that year.[31][32] Mukerji found no success in her next two releases, the comedy Hadh Kar Di Aapne and the romance Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye. The romantic comedy Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, however, earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at Filmfare and was better received by the critics.[33][34] Padmaraj Nair of Screen found Mukerji's role to be "too meagre for her to prove herself" but added that "she is quite adequate in whatever scenes she has been given".[35]

The year 2001 was a disappointing one for Mukerji. In a review for her first release of the year, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, a drama based on surrogate childbirth, film critic Sukanya Verma found Mukerji to be "handicapped with a role that doesn't give her much scope besides weeping and sobbing" and preferred the "meatier" role of her co-star Preity Zinta.[36] In Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai and Nayak: The Real Hero, films that failed to garner praise, Mukerji played the love interests of Abhishek Bachchan and Anil Kapoor respectively.[37] In a review for the latter, Sarita Tanwar wrote that "[Mukerji] has very little to do except being part of some magnificently picturised songs".[38]

After three consecutive years of poorly received films, Mukerji's career prospects began to improve in 2002 when Yash Raj Films, a leading production company in India, cast her for two high-profile productions: Mujhse Dosti Karoge!, a romantic comedy co-starring Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor, and Saathiya, a remake of the Tamil box office hit Alaipayuthey.[39] Mujhse Dosti Karoge! was heavily promoted before release and proved a success internationally, but failed to earn profits in India.[40][41] The romantic drama Saathiya proved a major turning point in her career, winning her a Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress in addition to a Best Actress nomination at the same ceremony.[33][42][43] Mukerji was director Shaad Ali's only choice to play the lead role; he said, "She was born to play this role. She looked the character. She looked vulnerable. She looked the right age. She was perfect".[44] The film co-starred Vivek Oberoi, and her paternal aunt Tanuja, and proved an economic success.[40] Mukerji's portrayal of Suhani Sharma, a medical student who deals with the tensions and discontent of being married at a young age, met with critical acclaim. The BBC stated that "Mukerji plays the character of a middle class girl with great conviction",[45] and Udita Jhunjhunwala of Mid Day added, "Her expressions and acting are understated in a role that fits her like a glove."[46]

In 2003, Mukerji replaced Aishwarya Rai to play the lead female role opposite Shahrukh Khan in Aziz Mirza's romance Chalte Chalte.[47] Media reports suggested that Rai was replaced after feuding with Salman Khan on the film's sets, but Shahrukh insisted that Mukerji was the first choice for the role, and was replaced after completing her previous commitments.[47][48] The film's concept was similar to Saathiya and dealt with misunderstandings between a married couple. Mukerji said, "[Unlike Saathiya], Chalte Chalte deals with a more mature and deeper form of love. It is about how a man and woman react to situations. [..] You cannot really get very different with the characters, but you can put them against a different background".[49] The film was well received by both critics and audiences, and the following year Mukerji received a second Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.[33][50] Also that year, she starred in Milan Luthria's romantic comedy Chori Chori opposite Ajay Devgan, Sudhir Mishra's suspense drama Calcutta Mail, alongside Anil Kapoor and Manisha Koirala, and J.P. Dutta's ensemble war film LOC Kargil.[51] None of these films fared well critically or commercially.[50]

Widespread success (2004–06)[edit]

Rani Mukerji is dressed in a pink saree and is laughing cheerfully
Mukerji at the 6th International Indian Film Academy Awards in Amsterdam. She won both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, for Hum Tum and Veer-Zaara respectively, at the ceremony[33]

The year 2004 marked the beginning of the most successful period in Mukerji's career. At the 50th Filmfare Awards in 2005, Mukerji won both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, becoming the only actress to win both awards in the same year.[52][53] The Best Supporting Actress win was for Mani Ratnam's Yuva (2004), a composite film that featured an ensemble cast including Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor and Esha Deol. The film narrates the story of three youngsters from different strata of society whose lives intersect by a car accident; Mukerji was cast as Shashi Biswas, a financially deprived Bengali housewife who is abused by her husband, a local goon (played by Bachchan). Taran Adarsh wrote, "Amongst the leading ladies, it is Rani Mukerji who is the best of the lot. The role demanded an actress of substance and Rani more than lives up to the expectations."[54] She won the Best Actress award for her starring role in Kunal Kohli's Hum Tum (2004), a romantic comedy about two headstrong individuals who meet at different stages of their lives. The film pitted her opposite Saif Ali Khan and proved one of the biggest commercial successes of the year.[55] The Hindu found Mukerji's portrayal of Rhea Sharma to be "self assuredly competent" and Tanmaya Kumar Nanda of Rediff.com wrote, "Rani is her usual collected self, changing into the many hues of her character with the ease of a chameleon".[56][57]

Later that year, Mukerji achieved further success when Yash Chopra cast her alongside Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta in his period romance Veer-Zaara. The film narrates the story of star-crossed lovers, Veer Pratap Singh (played by Khan) and a Pakistani woman, Zaara Hayaat Khan (played by Zinta); Mukerji played the role of Saamiya Siddiqui, a Pakistani lawyer embroiled in a court case involving Singh. With a worldwide gross of over INR940 million (US$15 million),[24] Veer-Zaara emerged as the highest grossing film of the year; it was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and met with critical acclaim.[41][58] Mukerji's role was praised by the critics; BBC noted, "[I]ts Rani Mukerjee who deserves praise for her acting. To act through your eyes and not using dialogue is an art. Rani for one, has perfected this."[59] She won the Best Supporting Actress trophy at the IIFA Awards ceremony, and received a nomination in the same category at Filmfare.[33]

In 2005, Outlook magazine published that Mukerji had established herself as the most successful actress of contemporary Hindi cinema.[60] Her first film role that year was opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's highly acclaimed Black, a drama about an alcoholic man who dedicates his life to teach a blind and deaf girl how to communicate. Bhansali wrote the part of the blind-deaf girl specifically for Mukerji, who was initially hesitant to take on the role due to its "challenging" subject matter.[61] Once Bhansali enforced his faith in her, she agreed and began intensely studying sign language with professionals at the Helen Keller Institute in Mumbai.[62] Black won several awards including two National Film Awards and eleven Filmfare Awards, and Richard Corliss of TIME featured it as the fifth best film of the year.[63] Mukerji's performance met with unanimous acclaim; Empire called the performance "astonishing",[64] Filmfare included her work in their listing of Indian cinema's "80 Most Iconic performances" and wrote, "Rani has left an indelible mark with this role that usually comes once in a lifetime for most".[65] She became the only actress to win both the Best Actress and Best Actress – Critics trophies at the Filmfare Awards ceremony.[33][53]

That year, Mukerji received a second Best Actress nomination at Filmfare for her work opposite Abhishek Bachchan in Bunty Aur Babli, a comedy film which marked her fifth collaboration with Yash Raj Films.[33] She played the titular character of Vimmi "Babli" Saluja, a con woman. The film was the second highest grossing film of 2005 and Mukerji's third major success in two consecutive years.[66] Film critic Namrata Joshi wrote that "Rani plays to the gallery with ease" and Taran Adarsh wrote that she "sinks her teeth into the role and comes out with flying colours".[67][68] She followed it with Amol Palekar's fantasy film Paheli, reuniting her with Shahrukh Khan. The film was a box office flop in India but was given a strong international release; it was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and was India's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 79th Academy Awards.[69] Raja Sen of Rediff.com was impressed by the film as well as Mukerji's performance which he called "another perfectly played part".[70] Mukerji's fourth and final release of the year was the highly anticipated period film Mangal Pandey: The Rising. Director Ketan Mehta initially approached her for a cameo appearance, which was developed into an "important part" after she gave her consent to star in the film.[71] Her role was that of Heera, a prostitute who forms the love interest of the titular character (played by Aamir Khan).[72] Derek Elley of Variety mentioned that Mukerji made "the most of her feisty nautch-girl," despite having "a small role for a star of her caliber."[73]

Mukerji turned down an offer from Mira Nair to star in the Hollywood film The Namesake, choosing instead to collaborate once again with her friend Karan Johar in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), an urban drama dealing with infidelity and dysfunctional relationships.[74][75] The high-profile production featured an ensemble cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta and Kirron Kher, and told the story of two unhappily married couples in New York which results in an extra-marital affair. Mukerji played Maya Talwar, a woman layered with self-doubt and question about the relationship between her husband (played by Abhishek Bachchan) and herself. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna was a popular release, emerging as a major economic success with gross earnings of over INR1.13 billion (US$19 million).[41] Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN wrote, "Rani looks a million bucks and she dives under the skin of her character to make that part one that we will remember for a long time".[76] The role won Mukerji a third consecutive IIFA Best Actress Award and among other nods, earned her a sixth Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.[33] The poorly received melodrama Baabul was her final appearance that year.[77]

Professional setback (2007–10)[edit]

Following the failure of Baabul, Yash Raj Films cast Mukerji in Siddharth Anand's family drama Ta Ra Rum Pum in the role of a popular racing driver's (played by Saif Ali Khan) wife and the mother of two. Mukerji was excited to play the part of a mother for the first time, and modelled her character after her own mother.[74] Released in 2007, the film was an economic success,[78] but received mixed reactions from the critics. Khalid Mohamed hailed Mukerji's performance as "near flawless" but Rajeev Masand thought that neither she nor Khan "are able to make much of an impression because their characters are so unidimensional and boring."[79][80] The woman's film Laaga Chunari Mein Daag from director Pradeep Sarkar was Mukerji's second release that year. She described the film as a "journey of a girl into womanhood and her sacrifices for her family".[81] Her role (which earned her a Best Actress nomination at Filmfare) was that of Vibhavari Sahay, a young girl of limited means who is forced to moonlight as a prostitute to fend for her family. Jaya Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Konkana Sen Sharma and Kunal Kapoor co-starred in the film which released to poor box office returns and little praise from the critics.[78] The Indian Express noted that Mukerji was responsible for "hold[ing] the film together, even if her part, both as the ingénue and the hooker, doesn't have freshness".[82]

Rani Mukerji is looking directly at the camera
Mukerji at a promotional event for Dil Bole Hadippa! in 2009

Mukerji played a prostitute for the third time in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Saawariya, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's White Nights, co-starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. Mukerji said, "I play very different kinds of prostitutes in Saawariya and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. The woman in Saawariya has no problem with her profession, whereas in the other film it's completely different".[83] Saawariya was her only release in three years that was not produced by Yash Raj Films. The film was a box office flop and met with polarising reactions from the critics.[78] Mukerji's performance was received favourably and she earned her second Filmfare nomination that year, this time for Best Supporting Actress. By the end of 2007, Mukerji's popularity had begun to wane.[84] Rediff.com attributed this to her "monotonous pairing" with the same set of actors; Hindustan Times published that she had become an "exclusive Yash Raj heroine" which hindered other directors to approach her for roles.[85][86]

After a series of serious roles, Mukerji sought to play a part that would be a "clutter-breaker" for her. She found the role in Kunal Kohli's Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic (2008), a children's film about an angel who comes to Earth to help four troubled kids.[87] In a particularly scathing review, Khalid Mohamed criticised Mukerji's choice of roles and wrote, "As a Geeta Poppins, she's one-dimensional, either darting full blast smiles or tetchy scowls. Her costumes, too, are uneasy-on-the-eyes".[88] The film had low box office returns and further contributed to a decline in Mukerji's career prospects.[89] An India Today article spoke of her "running out of luck at the box office" and mentioned her decline in endorsements.[90]

In an attempt to overcome this decline in her career, Mukerji lost weight and underwent a complete makeover.[91] In 2009, she collaborated for the ninth time with Yash Raj Films on Dil Bole Hadippa!, a romantic comedy opposite Shahid Kapoor. Mukerji had high expectations from the film in which she played a cricket-obsessed Punjabi village girl masquerading as a man; it was hugely hyped before release and had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.[92] The Economic Times critic Gaurav Malani was disappointed with the picture and wrote, "Rani Mukherjee comes up with a spirited performance but her mock sob-whine-whimper do[es] not amuse anymore. Also after a point you dislike visualizing the charming actress as the moustached male player."[93] The film was Mukerji's fourth economic failure in a row.[94] When questioned about her recent spate of flops with the Yash Raj Films banner, she stated, "An actor is here to act and pick great roles and scripts. I was getting great roles from Yash Raj at that point, roles that any actor would give an arm to do. I stand by those films regardless of their fate".[95] Later that year, she featured as a talent judge for the Sony Entertainment Television reality show Dance Premier League. She said that appearing on television would make her "more accessible" to the audiences and help her "gain visibility" when she was "not doing too many films".[96] Mukerji did not make any screen appearances in 2010.

No One Killed Jessica and beyond (2011–present)[edit]

Film critic Aniruddha Guha of Daily News and Analysis described Mukerji's performance in the 2011 film No One Killed Jessica as "one of her best performances till date".[97] The film (co-starring Vidya Balan) was Mukerji's first commercial success since Ta Ra Rum Pum, and was especially noted for being a success despite the absence of a prominent male actor.[98] The film was a semi-biographical thriller based on the Jessica Lal murder case in which Mukerji played the fictional character of Meera Gaity, a foul-mouthed television journalist who is deeply involved with the case.[99] To promote the film, she reprised the role of Gaity on the C.I.D. television series.[100] In an interview with The Telegraph she said, "It was such a different role to portray. It wasn't a role that was typical of a Hindi film heroine. Meera was more like a hero. It was a character that actually took the story forward. [..] Meera made a lot of things happen. It wasn't something that I had ever done before. I actually had to play a man!"[101] Certain critics, however, were more critical of her performance, including Anupama Chopra of NDTV, who called her role, "the fatal, false note in No One Killed Jessica," arguing that "the character is written superficially and Rani's portrayal of her is equally banal. It's all about externals. She argues a lot and proudly labels herself a bitch but her hair stays perfectly in place and in the end, she even gets to do a super-hero-like slow motion walk."[102] Nonetheless, the role earned her several awards and nominations, including a third Best Supporting Actress trophy at Filmfare.[103]

Rani Mukerji is smiling away from the camera
Mukerji at the audio release of Talaash: The Answer Lies Within in 2012

After the success of No One Killed Jessica, Mukerji accepted a leading role in Sachin Kundalkar's Aiyyaa (2012), a comedy of manners co-starring Prithviraj. She played Meenakshi Deshpande, a woman with a heightened sense of smell who develops a one-sided attraction towards Prithiviraj's character. Critically and commercially unsuccessful, Aiyyaa generated positive reviews for Mukerji's performance alone.[104][105] Rediff.com criticised her decision to star in the film, writing that she "gets no support from the way her character is written".[106] Greater success came for her portrayal of Roshni Shekhawat, a mother who loses her only child in a boating accident, in Reema Kagti's psychological thriller Talaash: The Answer Lies Within. Co-starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, the film had worldwide earnings of over INR1.74 billion (US$29 million).[107] Ronnie Schieb of Variety described Mukerji as "vivid in a quietly sympathetic role",[108][109] and she received Best Supporting Actress nominations at several award ceremonies, including Filmfare.[110]

The following year, Mukerji starred in the anthology film Bombay Talkies consisting of four short films.[111] Mukerji was part of the segment entitled Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh in which she played Gayatri, a journalist who discovers that her husband (played by Randeep Hooda) is gay; it was her fourth collaboration with director Karan Johar. The film was screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival as part of the centenary year celebrations of Indian cinema.[112] Despite poor box office returns, Bombay Talkies met with widespread critical acclaim, with praise directed to Johar's segment.[113] Tushar Joshi of Daily News and Analysis said that Mukerji was successful in "proving [that] she's the queen of subtlety when it comes to stripping off the make-up and letting herself fly".[114]

In 2014, Mukerji appeared in Pradeep Sarkar's crime thriller Mardaani, in which she played the lead role of Shivani Shivaji Roy, a Maharashtrian policewoman involved in a kidnapping case that leads her to uncover secrets of human trafficking in India. She took on the role "to show all girls what the reality is, what the world has come to, and how they need to protect themselves".[115] In preparation, she interacted with senior officials of Mumbai's crime branch, and learned the Israeli self-defense technique of Krav Maga.[116][117] Rajeev Masand found Mukerji to be the prime asset of the film, adding that by "investing Shivani with both physical strength and emotional courage, she gives us a hero that's hard not to root for".[118] Writing for Hindustan Times, Anupama Chopra also praised her performance, writing that she not only "imbues Shivani with steely resolve but also gives her emotional depth".[119] The film proved a box office hit as well.[120]

Personal life and off-screen work[edit]

Despite constant media attention, Mukerji remains guarded about her personal life.[86] Unlike many other celebrities, Mukerji limits her interactions with the media and is sometimes labelled a recluse; she said in a 2011 interview, "Today actors have become more open with the media. But this has posed a problem for actors like me because if I don't do that, then I end up being called reclusive. So now I have changed myself and am easily approachable."[121] Mukerji has collaborated frequently and maintained a close friendship with actors Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan, and filmmaker Karan Johar.[122][123] The nature of Mukerji's relationship with filmmaker Aditya Chopra was the topic of fervent tabloid reporting in India, though she refused to publicly talk about it.[124][125] On 21 April 2014, she married Chopra at a private ceremony in Italy.[126]

Rani Mukerji and Shahrukh Khan are seen dancing on stage
Mukerji and Shahrukh Khan perform at a concert in the Army Stadium of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Alongside her acting career, Mukerji has been actively involved with several humanitarian causes and is vocal about issues faced by women and children.[16][127] Mukerji was appointed as an ambassador by Procter & Gamble and the NGO Child Rights and You for their joint venture, Shiksha, to endorse the cause of children's education.[127] In 2011 she set up a Stroke Treatment Fund, in association with the Indian Stroke Association, to pay for the treatment of financially deprived stroke-affected patients.[128]

Mukerji has made public appearances to support other charities and causes. In March 2004, she visited the Indian army unit in Pokhran, Rajasthan to interact with the jawan troops, for the NDTV reality show Jai Jawan.[129] In February 2005, Mukerji and several other Bollywood actors participated in the 2005 HELP! Telethon Concert to raise money for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.[130] In March 2006, Mukerji celebrated her birthday with the physically challenged children of the Helen Keller Institute; she had previously worked with them while preparing for her role in Black.[131] In November 2010, she was part of a fund raising auction for the "Because I am a Girl" charity campaign.[132]

Mukerji has participated in several concert tours and televised award ceremonies. Her first concert tour, "Magnificent Five", was in 1999 in which she performed with actors Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Akshaye Khanna, and Twinkle Khanna.[133] The "Temptations 2004" concert had Mukerji perform alongside Shahrukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal, and Priyanka Chopra in nineteen stage shows worldwide.[134] The following year, she participated in the "Temptations 2005" concert in New Delhi (with Shahrukh, Fardeen Khan, Ameesha Patel, and Malaika Arora Khan); the show was organised to help raise funds for the National Centre For Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).[135] In 2010, Mukerji performed at a concert in the Army Stadium of Dhaka, Bangladesh with several Bollywood actors (including Shahrukh, Rampal, and Ishaa Koppikar).[136] For the "Temptations Reloaded" concert of 2012 in Jakarta, Mukerji performed alongside Shahrukh, Zinta, and Bipasha Basu, for the 2013 concert of the same name in Auckland, she performed with Shahrukh, Madhuri Dixit, and Jacqueline Fernandez, and in 2014 she performed in Malaysia with Shahrukh, Dixit, Yo Yo Honey Singh, and Arijit Singh.[137][138][139]

Artistry and media image[edit]

Rani Mukerji is smiling away from the camera
Mukerji in 2010

Mukerji has been described by the critics as one of the most accomplished actresses of Bollywood.[60] As part of a career analysis, Sukanya Verma noted that Mukerji made a "rather unconventional debut in films" (she played a rape victim in Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat), and after a few years of oscillating between success and failure, she "achieved the status of a star, performer and showgirl".[140] Indo-Asian News Service reported that during her initial years in the industry, Mukerji was referred to as the successful Kajol's poor cousin and was written off by the critics for being "plump" and "short".[22] Raja Sen added that despite the odds being against her, Mukerji "slogged her way with grit" and emerged as "the most powerful leading lady in Bollywood".[141] Film critic Bhardwaj Rangam of the New Sunday Express writes that Mukerji's unusual "sandpaper-scratchy, I'm-recovering-from-a-bad-cold" voice sets her apart from her contemporaries and The Times of India has credited her for breaking the "fairness myth" of Bollywood.[60][142]

Reema Kagti (the director of Talaash: The Answer Lies Within) said of Mukerji's craft, "Rani likes to prepare a lot. She gets obsessive about the role and wants to know everything about her character. What's her character's back-story, what is going on in her head at a specific point".[143] In an interview with Daily News and Analysis, Mukerji described her approach to acting:

"A month before I start shooting, I sit with my director, try to understand how he has visualised the character on the screen and take notes. Then I start working on the most basic thing — the look. It's very important that the physical appearance of the character gets decided because if I look the character, it makes it all the more believable. Once that is achieved, I go into the finer nuances of what the girl is like, her background. And then from there [..] I have to get the accent right".[144]

Rani Mukerji is smiling with her hands clutched
Mukerji at the Lonely Planet Awards, 2012

To avoid getting "saturated", Mukerji prefers portraying "drastically different roles", and is credited in the media as "one of the most versatile actresses" of Bollywood.[145][146] She has played roles in both high-profile mainstream productions and lesser-publicised films of independent filmmakers; Hindustan Times published that Mukerji has made this progression so "natural[ly] [..] that its gone virtually unnoticed".[147] Namrata Joshi of Outlook adds that she is unafraid to take risks and portray roles that "none of her contemporaries have been able to do".[60] Mukerji has garnered a reputation for playing roles that are a significant departure from the traditional portrayal of women in mainstream Indian cinema; in Hum Tum she played a widow who engages in pre-marital sex, in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna she is involved in an extra-marital affair with a married man, and in Bichhoo and No One Killed Jessica she smokes, drinks, and utters expletives.[28][148][149][150]

Mukerji is one of the best-known and most high-profile celebrities in India; at the peak of her career she was frequently listed as one of the most popular and attractive Indian celebrities, was one of the highest paid actresses in Bollywood, and the brand ambassador for a number of products.[60] Filmfare featured her in their listing of the "Ten Most Powerful Names of Bollywood" for two consecutive years (2005–2006).[151] In 2006, Eastern Eye ranked her as one of "Asia's Sexiest Women".[152] Mukerji ranked first on Box Office India's '"Top Actresses" listing for two consecutive years (2005–2006).[39] She topped Rediff.com's annual listing of the "Top Bollywood Actresses" for three consecutive years (2004–2006); in 2007, she held the fifth position.[153][154][155][156] She was also featured by Rediff.com in their listing of "Bollywood's Best Actresses Ever", "Bollywood's Most Beautiful Actresses", and "Bollywood's Best Dressed Women".[141][157][158] Since 2007, Mukerji's popularity was on a decline and she lost out on her brand endorsements to a number of younger actresses.[85][159] In 2013, the American Embassy in India honoured her with a special trophy for her contributions to Indian cinema.[160]

Filmography and awards[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

For her roles in the films Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Yuva (2004), and No One Killed Jessica (2011), Mukerji won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress for her roles in Saathiya (2002) and Black (2005), and received the Filmfare Award for Best Actress for her roles in Hum Tum (2004) and Black (2005).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]