Rani Mukerji (/ /; born 21 March 1978) is an Indian film actress. She has established a successful career in Hindi language films of Bollywood and has been described in the media as one of the most popular celebrities in India. Mukerji has received seven Filmfare Awards from fourteen nominations, and her film roles have been cited as a significant departure from the traditional portrayal of women in mainstream Hindi cinema.
Born to the Mukherjee-Samarth family, where her parents and relatives were members of the Indian film industry, Mukerji did not aspire to a career in film. While in school, she experimented with acting by playing a supporting role in her father's Bengali-language film Biyer Phool (1992). While studying Home Science at SNDT Women's University, Mukerji 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 widespread public recognition for a supporting role in the blockbuster romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Following this initial success in her career, Mukerji's films fared poorly at the box-office for the next three years. Her career prospects improved when Yash Raj Films cast her as the star of the critically acclaimed relationship drama Saathiya (2002).
By the year 2004, Mukerji had established herself as a leading actress of Bollywood with a primary role in the romantic comedy Hum Tum and supporting roles in the dramas Yuva and Veer-Zaara. She received further success for portraying a deaf, blind and mute woman in the highly-acclaimed 2005 drama Black and an unfaithful wife in the 2006 box-office hit Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Mukerji's popularity declined from 2007 onwards, when she collaborated with Yash Raj Films on several commercially unsuccessful films. Critics attributed this to her her poor choice of roles and her "monotonous pairing" with the same set of actors. The 2011 semi-biographical thriller No One Killed Jessica proved Mukerji's first commercial success in three years, and she followed it with a critically acclaimed performance in the 2012 supernatural thriller Talaash: The Answer Lies Within.
In addition to acting in films, Mukerji has been actively involved with several humanitarian causes and is vocal about issues faced by women and children. She has participated in concert tours, performed on stage for televised award ceremonies, and featured as a talent judge for the 2009 reality show Dance Premier League. Despite constant speculation, she remains guarded about her personal life and is sometimes labelled a recluse by members of the media.
Early life and backgroundEdit
Mukerji was born on 21 March 1978 to Bengali Brahmin parents in Mumbai. 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. Her elder brother, Raja Mukherjee, is a film producer and director. Her maternal aunt, Debashree Roy, is a Bengali film actress and her paternal cousin, Kajol, is a Hindi film actress and her contemporary. Another paternal cousin, Ayan Mukerji is a scriptwriter and film director. Despite her parents and most of her relatives being members of the Indian film industry, Mukerji was disinterested to pursue a career in film.She said, "[T]there were already too many actresses at home and I wanted to be someone different"
Mukerji was schooled at Maneckji Cooper High School in Juhu, and graduated from SNDT Women's University in the field of Home Science. She is a trained Odissi dancer and began learning the dance form while in the tenth grade.As part of an annual tradition, the Mukherjee family celebrates the festival of Durga Puja at the suburban neighbourhood of Santacruz every year. Mukerji, a practising Hindu, takes part in the festivities with her entire family.
At the age of fourteen, Mukerji experimented with acting by portraying a supporting role in her father's Bengali language film Biyer Phool (1992). 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 and hence, she turned down the offer. 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. Before she began work on the film, Mukerji trained at Roshan Taneja's acting institute.
Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, which tells the story of a rape victim (played by Mukerji) who is forced to marry her rapist, released in 1997 and proved a critical and commercial failure. Positive reviews, however, were directed at Mukerji's performance and she won a special recognition trophy at the annual Screen Awards ceremony. Following the film's commercial 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.
Mukerji's second film role was opposite Aamir Khan in Vikram Bhatt's box office hit Ghulam (1998). Though her role in the film was small, the song "Aati Kya Khandala" earned her widespread public recognition. 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".
Later that year, Karan Johar noticed Mukerji's performance in Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat and cast her opposite Shahrukh Khan and her cousin, Kajol, in his big-budget directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The role was originally written forTwinkle Khanna, who turned down the offer, following which Johar approached several leading actresses before casting Mukerji for the role. Initially Johar too wanted a dubbing artist to dub for Mukerji's lines in the film, but this time around she improved on her diction and eventually dubbed for her own lines. In the story, she portrayed Tina Malhotra, a sophisticated teenage girl 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." Kuch Kuch Hota Hai proved a breakthrough for Mukerji; it emerged as a blockbuster in India and abroad, with an adjusted worldwide gross of 1.82 billion (US$31 million), and won eight Filmfare Awards, including a Best Supporting Actress trophy for Mukerji.
Following the success of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Mukerji played leading roles in the social drama Mehndi (1998) and the comedy Hello Brother (1999). Both these films were critical and commercial disappointments which failed to propel her career forward.
By the beginning of the new decade, Mukerji wanted to avoid being categorised as a "standard Hindi film heroine" and thus decided to portray more challenging roles in addition to the archetypical glamorous female lead. However, none of her film releases in the year 2000 was 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. 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 devoted Bengali school teacher who is raped and murdered during communal riots in Calcutta. 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. 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 slightly better received by the critics; 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".
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. In Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai and Nayak: The Real Hero, films that failed to find an audience, Mukerji played the love interests of Abhishek Bachchan and Anil Kapoor respectively; in a review for the latter Sarita Tanwar wrote that "[Mukerji] has very little to do except being part of some magnificently picturised songs".
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 andKareena Kapoor , and Saathiya, a remake of the Tamil box-office hit Alaipayuthey Mujhe Dosti Karoge! was heavily promoted before release and proved a success internationally, but failed to earn profits in India. 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. Mukerji was director Shaad Ali's only choice to play the lead role of Suhani Sharma (a character played by Shalini in the original film); he said, "She was born to play this role. She looked the character. She looked vulnerable. She looked the right age. She was perfect". The film co-starred Vivek Oberoi and her paternal aunt Tanuja and proved an economic success. Mukerji's portryal of Sharma, a medical student who deals with the tensions and discontent of being married at a young age, met with critical acclaim; BBC reviewed, "Mukerji plays the character of a middle class girl with great conviction", and Udita Jhunjhunwala of Mid Day added, "Her expressions and acting are understated in a role that fits her like a glove."
Mukerji replaced Aishwarya Rai to play the lead female role opposite Shahrukh Khan in Aziz Mirza's 2003 romance Chalte Chalte. Co-incidentally, the film's concept was similar to Saathiya and dealt with misunderstandings between a married couple. On questioned about the similarity of her roles in the two films, 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". Upon release, the film was well received by both critics and audiences, and the following year Mukerji received a second Best Actress nomination at Filmfare. 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. None of these films fared well critically or commercially.
Widespread success (2004–06)Edit
The year 2004 marked the beginning of the most successful period in Mukerji's career. At the 50th Filmfare Awards, Mukerji won both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards. The Supporting Actress win was for Mani Ratnam's Yuva, 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 Shahshi 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." She won the Best Actress award for her starring role in Kunal Kohli's Hum Tum, 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. 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".
Later that year, Mukerji received 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 840 million (US$14 million), Veer-Zaara emerged as the highest grossing film of the year; it was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and met with critical acclaim. Mukerji's role was particularly 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." She won the Best Supporting Actress trophy at the IIFA Awards ceremony, and received a nomination in the same category at Filmfare.
In 2005, Outlook magazine published that Mukerji had established herself as the most successful actress of contemporary Hindi cinema. Her first film role that year was opposite Amitabh Bachchanin 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. Once Bhansali enforced his faith in her, she agreed and intensely studied sign language with professionals at the Helen Keller Institute in Mumbai. Upon release, Black won several awards including two National Film Awards and eleven Filmfare Awards, and Richard Corliss of TIMEfeatured it as the fifth best film of the year. Mukerji's performance met with unanimous acclaim; Empire called the performance "astonishing", 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". She won both the Best Actress and Best Actress – Critics trophies at the Filmfare Awards ceremony.
Mukerji received a second Best Actress nomination at Filmfare that year for her work opposite Abhishek Bachchan in Bunty Aur Babli. She played the titular character of Vimmi "Babli" Saluja, a con woman, in the comedy film which marked her fifth collaboration with Yash Raj Films. The film was the second highest grossing film of 2005 and Mukerji's third major success in two consecutive years. Film critic Namrata Joshi wrote that "Rani plays to the gallery with ease" and Taran Adarsh referred to her as "suburb" and added that she "sinks her teeth into the role and comes out with flying colours". She followed it with Amol Palekar's fantasy film Paheli in which she reunited with Shah Rukh 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. Raja Sen of Rediff.com was particularly impressed by the film as well as Mukerji's performance which he called "another perfectly played part".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 movie. Her role was that of Heera, a prostitute who forms the love interest of the titular character (played by Aamir Khan). 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."
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. The high-profile production featured an ensemble cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh 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 her. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna was a hugely popular release and proved a major economic success with gross earnings of over 1.13 billion (US$19 million). 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". The role won Mukerji a third consecutive IIFA Best Actress Award and among other nods, earned her a sixth Best Actress nomination at Filmfare. The poorly received melodrama Baabul was her final appearance that year.
Decline in popularity (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. Released in 2007, the film was an economic success,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."
The woman's film Laaga Chunari Mein Daag 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". 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. The Indian Expressnoted 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".
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". 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.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 was on a decline. 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.
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. 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". The film had low box office returns and further contributed to a decline in Mukerji's career prospects.
In an attempt to overcome this decline in her career, Mukerji lost weight and underwent a complete makeover. In 2009, she collaborated for the ninth time with Yash Raj Films in 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. The Economic Times critic Gaurav Malani was disappointed with the picture and wrote, "Mukerji's mock sob-whine-whimper do not amuse anymore. Also after a point you dislike visualizing the charming actress as the moustached male player." The film was Mukerji's fourth economic failure in a row. 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". 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".
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" 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. 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. To promote the film, she reprised the role of Gaity on the television series C.I.D.. 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!" Certain critics, however, were less positive 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." Nonetheless, the role earned her several awards and nominations, including a third Best Supporting Actress trophy (seventh overall) at Filmfare.
Mukerji followed the success of No One Killed Jessica with 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. Rediff.com criticised her decision to star in the film and wrote, "Rani, as fine an actor that one gets in Bollywood, gets no support from the way her character is written but nevertheless is a joy to watch." Later that year, Mukerji earned critical appreciation for her portrayal of Roshni Shekhawat, a mother who loses her only child in a boating accident, in Reema Kagti's supernatural thriller Talaash: The Answer Lies Within. Co-starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor, the film proved a major economic success with gross earnings of over 1.74 billion (US$30 million). Ronnie Schieb of Variety labelled Mukerji as "vivid" in a "quietly sympathetic role" and Saibal Chatterjee added, "A deglamorised Rani Mukerji plays her role with finesse and a great sense of empathy". She received Best Supporting Actress nominations at several award ceremonies, including Filmfare.
The year 2013 saw the release of the experimental anthology film Bombay Talkies consisting of four short films. Mukerji was part of the segment titled 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.Despite poor box-office returns, Bombay Talkies met with widespread critical acclaim, with special praise directed to Johar's segment. Shubha Shetty-Saha of Mid Day noted that "Rani steals the show with a mature performance" and Tushar Joshi of Daily News and Analysis concluded, "Full marks to Rani for once again proving she's the queen of subtlety when it comes to stripping off the make-up and letting herself fly".
Alongside her acting career, Mukerji has been actively involved with several humanitarian causes and is vocal about issues faced by women and children. 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. Mukerji said, "It's my dream that every child in India is educated because the way India is growing I don't think without education, we can see a very bright future. So if we want a bright future for our country, I think education is foremost." 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.
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. 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. 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.In November 2010, she was part of a fund raising auction for the "Because I am a Girl" charity campaign.
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. The "Temptations 2004" concert had Mukerji perform alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal andPriyanka Chopra in nineteen stage shows worldwide. The following year, she participated in the "Temptations 2005" concert in New Delhi (with Shah Rukh Khan, 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). In 2010, Mukerji performed at a concert in the Army Stadium of Dhaka, Bangladesh with several Bollywood actors (including Shahrukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, and Ishaa Koppikar). For the "Temptations Reloaded" concert of 2012 in Jakarta, Mukerji performed alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Bipasha Basu.
Mukerji has been described by the critics as one of the most accomplished female actors of Bollywood. 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". Indo-Asian News Service reported that during her initial years in the industry, Mukerji was referred to as Kajol's (who was an established actor) poor cousin and was written off by the critics for being "plump" and "short". 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". 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.
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". 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".
Mukerji likes portraying "drastically different roles" to avoid getting "saturated", and is credited in the media as "one of the most versatile actresses" of Bollywood. She has played roles in both high-profile mainstream productions and lesser-publicised films of independent film-makers; Hindustan Times published that Mukerji has made this progression so "natural[ly] [..] that its gone virtually unnoticed". 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". Mukerji has garnered a reputation for playing roles that are a significant departure from the traditional portrayal of women in Indian cinema; in Hum Tum she played a widow who engages freely in pre-marital sex (a concept not often dealt with in mainstream Hindi cinema), 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 mouths expletives.
Despite constant media attention, Mukerji remains guarded about her personal life. The nature of Mukerji's relationship with film-maker Aditya Chopra has been the topic of fervent tabloid reporting in India, though she has strongly denied having a romantic relationship with him. In 2012 during a televised interview with Simi Garewal, Mukerji accepted that she was "absolutely in love", without divulging the name of the person. Unlike other celebrities, Mukerji limits her interactions with the media and is sometimes labelled a recluse; she said, "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." Mukerji has collaborated frequently and maintained a close friendship with actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, and film-maker Karan Johar.
Mukerji is one of best-known celebrities in India; from 2004 to 2007 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. Filmfare featured her in their listing of the "Ten Most Powerful Names of Bollywood" for two consecutive years (2005–2006). In 2006, Eastern Eye ranked her as one of "Asia's Sexiest Women". Mukerji ranked first on Box Office India's '"Top Actresses" listing for two consecutive years (2005–2006).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. She was also featured by Rediff.com in their listing of "Bollywood's Best Actresses Ever", "Bollywood's Most Beautiful Actresses", and "Bollywood' Best Dressed Women". In recent years, following the commercial failure of her films, Mukerji's popularity was on a decline; "younger actresses" replaced her in several of her brand endorsements, and Rediff.com listed her as "Bollywood's most over-rated". In 2013, the American Embassy in India honoured her with a special trophy for her contributions to Indian cinema.
Awards & HonorsEdit
Mukerji was recognised by Filmfare for the following performances:
- 44th Filmfare Awards (1998): Best Supporting Actress, win , for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
- 46th Filmfare Awards (2000): Best Supporting Actress, nomination , for Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega
- 48th Filmfare Awards (2002): Best Actress (Critics), win , for Saathiya
- 48th Filmfare Awards (2002): Best Actress, nomination , for Saathiya
- 49th Filmfare Awards (2003): Best Actress, nomination , for Chalte Chalte
- 50th Filmfare Awards (2004): Best Actress, win , for Hum Tum
- 50th Filmfare Awards (2004): Best Supporting Actress, win , for Yuva
- 50th Filmfare Awards (2004): Best Supporting Actress, nomination , for Veer-Zaara
- 51st Filmfare Awards (2005): Best Actress, win , for Black
- 51st Filmfare Awards (2005): Best Actress (Critics), win , for Black
- 51st Filmfare Awards (2005): Best Actress, nomination , for Bunty aur Babli
- 52nd Filmfare Awards (2006): Best Actress, nomination , for Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna
- 53rd Filmfare Awards (2007): Best Actress, nomination , for Laaga Chunari Mein Daag
- 53rd Filmfare Awards (2007): Best Supporting Actress, nomination , for Saawariya
- 57th Filmfare Awards (2011): Best Supporting Actress, win , for No One Killed Jessica
- 58th Filmfare Awards (2012): Best Supporting Actress, nomination , for Talaash: The Answer Lies Within