Vol. 5 Num 384 Sun. June 26, 2005  

The year of the queen -- Rani reigns
Rani Mukerji is having a great year. This year has seen her ruling the box-office with films like Black and Bunty Aur Babli. The actress will now be seen in the refreshingly offbeat Paheli, romancing two Shah Rukh Khans -- one, a spirit who is smitten by her and the other, her husband.

Here's what the reigning queen of Bollywood has to share with her fans.

On her ravishing looks in Paheli, Rani says, "I'm elated with the way I look in Paheli. Shah Rukh keeps telling me I've never looked better. The cinematography is outstanding. I believe one particular cinematographer always makes a difference to a film actress's career. Sridevi had W B Rao, Madhuri Dixit had Baba Azmi. For me it's Ravi K Chandran all the way. Look at what he has made me look like in Black and Paheli."

On the process of evolution as an actor, she shares, "It's an ongoing process. Just this year I've gone from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, to Shaad Ali's Bunty Aur Babli, to Amol Palekar's Paheli. Everytime I work with Shah Rukh, I feel I grow a bit as an actor. He constantly motivates me to give my best. His dedication and focus have shown me how to conduct my own career."

What other actors have profoundly influenced her? Rani retorts, "Both Shah Rukh and Aamir have taught me a lot. I used to be their fan. I had seen all their movies. Once I had even taken Aamir's autograph! Then all of a sudden, I was facing the camera with him! The way these two looked after me and saw me through my initial scenes is something I can never forget.

"Their feelings towards me haven't changed even now, when I did Paheli and Mangal Pandey with them."

What was it like to have Amol Palekar as the director? Rani gleams, "Amol Palekar comes from a different kind of cinema. It was a very interesting experience. I was working with a director who didn't tell me to hurry a shot, for a change! This is the second time I'd worked with an actor-turned-director. Earlier, I had worked with Kamal Haasan in Hey Ram, and that was an outstanding experience as well.

Can everyone identify with a folk film like Paheli? Rani's answer, "The film is very contemporary in thought -- for a woman to accept a ghost as her lover! I think the women will love it. Every character is noble and honest."

How does she feel after having two of this year's biggest hits? A radiant Rani hopes Paheli is the third. She says, "I hope my luck holds, not just for my sake, but also the producers, whose lives depend on the films. After Paheli, I have Mangal Pandey coming up. I haven't seen it yet. But Paheli I've seen, and I love it."

Regarding Shah Rukh calling her the 'hero' of Paheli, a giggling Rani says, "That's his love for me speaking. He is the film's hero, and nothing can take that away from him. My proudest moment was when he told me no actor including him could've done what I did in Black. I hope I've lived up to his expectations in Paheli!"


Rani Mukerji in Paheli