It seems only yesterday that she smiled her way into filmdom but Rani Mukerji has been enthralling us for almost two decades now. With unforgettable performances in memorable films like BLACK, VEER-ZAARA, YUVA, KUCH KUCH HOTA HAIN, KABHI ALVIDA NA KEHNA and recently, MARDAANI, Rani has given the film industry some of its biggest hits and most influential female protagonists.
Born into a film family - her father Ram Mukherjee was a filmmaker - Rani didn’t aspire to act. But she made it without any recommendations or connections. In 1995, when director Salim Khan approached her to play the leading lady in his next, she relented. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1996, she had two releases within a gap of a month, a Bengali language film BIYER PHOOL and a Hindi film RAJA KI AAYEGI BARAAT. No one would have taken a small film like RAJA KI AAYEGI BARAAT seriously but Rani made a huge splash in her debut as Mala, a convincing and strong performance.
Rani’s stellar performance made immediate impact when she signed three Hindi films together. MEHENDI featured her as a woman who stands up to her rights as a wife, against her in-laws and she established herself as a rare talent. Subsequently, Rani signed two films with the big Khans - Aamir and Shah Rukh. For GHULAM, she was quickly billed as "The Khandala Girl" because of the immensely popular song Aati kya Khandala? and Karan Johar cast her as Tina in his directorial debut KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI. Even though Rani's character features only in the film’s first half, she impressed the audiences with a mint fresh performance and went on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI kick started Rani Mukerji's stint as a Bollywood actress with many films opposite popular heroes.
She then went on to play different roles in varied films and featured in a mix of both successful and not so successful projects like HELLO BROTHER, BADAL and HADH KAR DI AAPNE among others. While most of these films might have failed her, she didn't fail in the films and continued to earn the attention of accomplished filmmakers. Choosing never to disassociate from an unsuccessful film, she adheres to the belief that each and every film she has done, regardless of how it did at the box office, has added to her growth as a performer and actor.
Rani has always maintained her natural inclination towards quality parts. She opted for HEY RAM, a Kamal Hassan film where she would play a completely de-glamorized wife in a period flick.
In 2002, Rani entered the golden period of her film career. Shaad Ali's SAATHIYA, a remake of Mani Ratnam's Tamil film ALAIPAYUTHEY, showcased her acting chops with elan. Rani won the Filmfare Award again, this time for Critics Choice for Best Actress. Rani capped off box office success with CHALTE CHALTE opposite Shah Rukh Khan.
2004 is a landmark year in her career as a brilliant and versatile actor. She won accolades for her memorable performances playing three completely different characters in the star studded ensemble cast of Mani Ratnam’s YUVA as Shashi; Rhea Prakash in HUM TUM; and the fiery, no nonsense Pakistani lawyer Samiya Siddiqui in Yash Chopra’s VEER-ZAARA.
In this year, Rani swept all mainstream film awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories simultaneously. For her stellar performances in YUVA, HUM TUM and VEER-ZAARA, she always won both these top awards at every awards function. It’s a rare achievement for any actor across all generations in Hindi cinema. Each film was a major box office success, but Rani’s proven range as performer is considered a remarkable feat.
In 2005, Rani upped her game in a whole new league. Teaming up with director Shaad Ali after Saathiya in BUNTY AUR BABLI, this year featured her in her in her career best performance in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s BLACK. Playing Michelle McNally, a deaf and mute woman who is determined to accomplish her goals, Rani swept clean all mainstream and critics’ awards for her performance for BLACK.
Now in the super league as one of the greatest leading ladies of Hindi cinema, Rani would return next year as Karan Johar's leading lady in KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA, Maya Talwar. For every progressive role, she would also play the classical Indian heroine in films like Ravi Chopra’s BAABUL or TA RA RUM PUM. Her all heart performance as the beautiful courtesan Gulab in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s SAAWARIYA reflected her range yet again.
After a brief lull, Rani stormed back with NO ONE KILLED JESSICA playing a feisty TV journalist Meera Gaity with aplomb. In TALAASH, with Aamir Khan, she delivered yet another sensitive act.
In her most recent release - MARDAANI, a runaway hit and critically loved film, Rani led from the front in MARDAANI playing the tough cop Shivani Sivaji Roy who cuts through a girl child trafficking racket. In what is still a male-dominated industry Rani carried the entire film on her own shoulders and established that two decades since her debut, there's no one better when it comes to packing an acting punch on screen.
Now married to noted producer-director Aditya Chopra and a mother to their daughter Adira, Rani will continue to act in meaningful, entertaining cinema. In the course of a shining career, Rani effortlessly stepped into non-glamorous realistic roles and dazzled in high glam heroine parts with élan. When this accomplished performer and leading lady finally hangs up her boots, Hindi cinema will find a vacuum, as no one will be able to take her place as a matinee queen who won over a billion hearts.