By Kavita Ramesh

Rani Mukerji, highlight of BLF 2014's first day of festivities

Rani Mukerji, highlight of BLF 2014’s first day of festivities

The highlight of BLF’s first day was the arrival of the bollywood diva, Rani Mukerji. The crowd that had gathered in large numbers waited with bated breath as the “queen of hearts” arrived at the venue to address them all. There were cheers as she took to the stage and waved at her fans.

Rani’s recently released film Mardaani has garnered accolades for her portrayal as a tough female cop. Her role as Shivani Shivaji Roy broke stereotypes and was critically acclaimed. The session was a very interactive one with Rani in high spirits.

On being asked how difficult it was to play Shivani, she remarked, “I didn’t have a reference. I had to go meet Crime Branch officers to know their lives and get into character. I watched mock demos of catching criminals, observed how the officers talk to normal people and to criminals. It is difficult to work in the Crime Branch. Unlike what we think, there is no gender bias in the police.”

Discussing Mardaani with Bhawana Somaaya

Discussing Mardaani with Bhawana Somaaya

You either get recognition for your designation or your achievement, she contends. Female officers carry out their duties exactly as a male would.

Mardaani not only got audience and critical appreciation, but made lots of women want to get into police and take charge which heartens me as an actress,” Rani beamed. If parents can let their girl learn dance and music, they can also send them off to learn self defence — which is the order of the day!

On the depiction of women in cinema, Rani feels cinema is just a mode of entertainment where the viewer can choose whether to be inspired by the good or the bad.

The film also portrayed Rani in a new light, in plain clothes without any of the glamour we’re used to associating with Bollywood actresses. She felt that, today, people are accepting different cinema, allowing makers to experiment and have the liberty of painting character to the fullest.

When asked if she would continue doing socially relevant movies in the future Rani played her cards judiciously, “I am still fresh from my latest movie release. My next film might not be socially relevant in the same way but I want to tell the story of that character. I’ve met a lot of trafficked children and want to do more. Luckily, I can do one film at a time and have time thanks to my marital status.”

Expectedly the conversation honed in on marriage, which Rani feels doesn’t change much if you marry for the right reasons. It can make you happier and provide another person to love and be loved by in your life.

When asked what can make a woman have mardaani, Rani pointed to her attitude, voice, and even one look. “You don’t have to slap someone to prove it.”

Although women are taught to be soft from a young age and evolve to bearing quietly the humiliation of eve-teasing, Rani doesn’t necessarily equate aggression with empowerment. The reality is that sons and daughters are brought up differently. The mentality of people needs to change. When we have children we need to raise them properly. When a son sees a dad ill-treating mom, he learns the wrong thing. Women have to empower themselves, and stand up for themselves. “Don’t look down when they pass comments.”

Rani dismissed claims that Bollywood actresses have short shelf lives. “Shelf life? Mine has lasted 18 years. You have to grow with time, play your age, and do roles the audience will feel suit you.”

An interesting story will help and beauty can’t be relied on, especially as it doesn’t last forever.

Finally, it doesn’t look like Rani is even considering joining politics. “Being attached to politics requires dedication and you have to have it in you. I am deeply rooted in the entertainment industry. I breathe and eat films.”

The session concluded to much applause and cheers and for Rani as she indulged the audience by posing for photos.

Rani indulges fans with a photo opp

Rani indulges fans with a photo opp