On Her Birthday, How Adi Chopra Predicted Rani Mukerji’s Success
On her birthday, here’s a look at how lady luck has frowned and smiled at Rani Mukerji
Hardcore rationalists are advised not to read beyond this line.
Call it what you will – destiny, fate, karma – there seems to be something pre-ordained about the life and career of Rani Mukerji, who turns 38 today. For the sceptics, here’s some evidence of the destiny factor in Rani’s life.
Adi Chopra’s Bhavishya-vaani
“You guys are off the mark. The Sensational Debut Award should go to Rani, no one else.”
That’s what tinsel town’s invisible man aka Aditya Chopra had mumbled to me, years ago.
My response was, “Adi,” daring to use the short-form of his name permitted only to his friends, “the award depends on the jury panel, not me. In any case, her debut Hindi film was a disaster. No one’s even seen Raja ki Aayegi Baraat.
“Mark my words, she’s an outstanding actress,” Adi mumbled.
“Please, she played a rape victim who marries the rapist. Gross!”
“You’re confusing her acting talent with the role,” the Rani-enthusiast insisted.“I don’t want to say anything more. You guys at Filmfare will regret the decision. Sooner or later, Rani will rock.”
Adi was right. Sonali Bendre, the winner of the Sensational Debut trophy for Aag in 1995, was a pleasant, sufficiently gifted actress, but couldn’t quite make it to the A-list.
Rani Mukerji went on to be acknowledged as a powerhouse actress. And what do you know? She married Adi, the inheritor of Yash Raj Films, who was her first cheerleader.
Their daughter, Adira, was born on 9 December last year. Her story’s come full circle, and if you believe in what the stars foretell, it was a foregone conclusion.
Turning Luck Into Opportunity
One of Rani’s career-defining films, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and later, one of her most successful films, Chalte Chalte, came to her by chance.
Karan Johar’s KKHH was conceived with Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Twinkle Khanna at the scripting stage. Twinkle and KJo were childhood buddies. Today’s Mrs Funnybones, though, didn’t wish to move into the supporting actress category. Other actresses also weren’t interested.
Rani was the last and, as it happened, not the least of the choices. This time around, Rani bagged the Best Supporting Actress Filmfare trophy and of course, massive public adulation.
As for the rom-com Chalte Chalte, it was in production when Salman Khan, then besotted in a Majnu-like fashion with Aishwarya Rai, barged on to the set and created a row. Aishwarya was replaced by Rani instantly.
Again, a piece of casting which happened by the sleight of circumstance.
There Was Bad Luck Too
The wheel of fortune hasn’t always been kind to Rani.
Rumours about a liaison with Govinda didn’t help. Neither were a line-up of tacky flops (Mehndi, Hello Brother, Badal) which suggested that she could never attain the class or popularity of her cousin Kajol.
The situation was hopeless, but not terminal.
Thanks to a smooch in Hey Ram with actor-director Kamal Haasan, Rani was riding high again. Then came Yuva and the Yash Raj-produced Saathiya, Hum Tum, Veer-Zara, Bunty aur Babli. Evidently, she became a permanent fixture at the Yash Raj studio and was even described as “Boss Lady” behind her back.
When I landed up for an interview on the set of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black, she was aware that she was back on top.
So, would she consider herself as the No. 1 heroine at long last? To that, she had laughed, “You’re saying that, not me… but to be honest, I like your question. I’m flattered.”
She matched the histrionic flourishes of Amitabh Bachchan in Black which fetched him the National Award for Best Actor.
Lucklessly, she was ignored for what I would rate as her best performance, losing out to Sarika’s portrayal of a distraught mother in the time of communal riots in Parzania.
Rani could balance her professional relationships with actors. After all, she has acted with all three Khans. And surprisingly, none of the Khan ‘camps’ raised objections.
During the shoot of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna in New York, there seemed to be cold vibes between Rani and Preity Zinta. Both actresses denied the rivalry.
As it happened, courtesy a kinky scene, Rani emerged the winner. Far too petite to carry out a comic erotic scene, showing her as a femme fatale in a skin-tight leather outfit and wielding a whip, Rani took the film away. Was this move calculated? Don’t think so.
Call it coincidence or typecasting, there was a phase when Rani Mukerji played a courtesan/sex worker unconvincingly in Mangal Pandey:The Rising, Saawariya and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. All the films bombed because they weren’t up to scratch.
The Lows (Again), and Clambering for the Top
Rani’s unlucky phase restarted, with the utterly forgettable Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, Dil Bole Hadippa and Aiyya.
What was she thinking? It seemed like a certain complacency had set in.
She was redeemed by the punchy portrayals of the machismo-castrating journalist in No One Killed Jessica as well as the fearless cop of Mardaani. Her career is still on the rails, itching for a comeback.
Shhhhh... Marriage on the Cards
A ceaseless buzz about her affair and imminent marriage to Adi Chopra, had kept filmmakers at bay. When would the shaadi happen? Would it happen at all? Adi’s eight-year-long marriage with his childhood sweetheart, Payal Khanna, was a mess.
Rani Mukerji’s silence on Aditya Chopra was so prolonged that their relationship almost seemed mythical. Moreover, Rani’s gregarious, Adi’s unsociable. “Exactly,” a friend of Adi exclaimed. “Haven’t you heard, opposites attract? They’re made for each other.”
I certainly don’t believe in an unscripted kismat. Still, going by Adi Chopra’s prediction about Rani Mukerji on the eve of the Filmfare Awards way back in 1995, I’m stumped.
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