When Rani Mukerji tells her story

Rani is meticulous about all aspects of her life

When I ran into Rani Mukerji at an award show last month, I had not watched her latest film—Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway. She spoke movingly about her role as Debika Chatterjee and its impact on her own life. I was familiar with the case, and had followed the real life saga of Sagarika Bhattacharya (the real life Debika), who had fought the government of Norway to get back the custody of her two children, forcibly taken away from her during her stay in the country. It was a high-profile case that had made international headlines and projected Sagarika as a fearless tigress defending her cubs against a powerful enemy—Norway. Thanks to the timely intervention of the late Sushma Swaraj and activist Brinda Karat, the prolonged custody battle ended on a happy note with the kids reunited with their mother.

Rani’s interpretation of Sagarika’s trauma is compelling and authentic, instantly drawing viewers into the brisk narrative that recreates the drama, with a few creative flourishes. Rani remains faithful to the character and never once loses her grip over the scene she’s playing. Though critics have singled out her courtroom monologue in which she quietly states, “Am I a good mother or a bad mother…. I don’t know. But I am ready to fight for my children… for justice in any corner of the world….” This is the money-scene that demands applause in theatres and moves mothers to tears. But, for me, Rani’s shining moment was in a scene when she comes home after a crucial meeting with the minister, only to face anger, hostility and accusations from her in-laws, who have already declared her “mad’’ and “unstable” publicly. Ignoring her enraged husband, Rani/Debika proceeds to fix her comfort food—a typically Bengali dish of ripe banana mashed into a bowl of milk—that she ravenously consumes. Not a word of dialogue is spoken by her… but my word! The defiance of her body language and those blazing eyes do all the talking.

Rani Mukerji in Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway Rani Mukerji in Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway

This is Rani at 45, intelligently choosing projects that showcase her prodigious talent. Rani could so easily play maalkin, as the queen bee in Bollywood, being the wife of Aditya Chopra, who owns Yash Raj Films that has just raked it in with Pathaan, starring Shah Rukh Khan.

Even after the critical success of Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, Rani has not gone overboard with nonstop self-promotion. Neither has she pushed herself to keep up with the other heroines of her vintage, who try a bit too hard to look ‘hot’ and trendy on assorted red carpet events. There is a quiet air of contentment about her persona that’s a sign of her confidence. She’s at ease with her position in life—an attribute that is so refreshing in showbiz where every second person displays such high levels of insecurity.

Rani always speaks to my husband in Bengali when we meet, using a formal, respectful term of address. With me, she is far more relaxed as we exchange pleasantries. The last time we met on her turf (YRF studios) was when I had approached her with a book offer, which she had politely turned down after much consideration. The timing was off, she said, as she was a new mother, focusing on baby Adira (now seven). Rani did not have the mind space for such a commitment back then.

Well, here’s the good news—she is working on a book (how do I know? We share the same publisher). Knowing how meticulous Rani is about all aspects of her life, I am sure the book will be an engrossing read, replete with Rani’s candid insights and anecdotes.

I look forward to Rani ki kahaani.