Rani Mukerji talks about the Hichkis in Bollywood
The brown-eyed beauty, Rani Mukerji, who was last seen in Mardaani (2014), is back on the silver screen with Hichki. The promos have been out since early January, and Rani is promoting the film that’s scheduled to release in the last week of March. In a candid chat, she talks about her role as Naina Mathur, the teacher with the neurological disorder Tourette Syndrome, who takes it upon herself to educate and groom underprivileged children from the slums in Mumbai. These children are given an opportunity to study in one of the prestigious schools under the Right to Education Act, and Naina is assigned to be their class teacher.
Getting into the skin
“The film focuses on the thought that if you have a weakness, you need to overcome it and turn it into your strength. Society discriminates you for the weakness that they perceive you have. You might not even think of it as a shortcoming. Naina doesn’t see her disability as a flaw. She thinks she is normal and believes she is capable of becoming a teacher despite the fact that others don’t have faith in her. It’s basically two underdogs (Naina and the children) coming together and achieving the impossible through their determination and their positivity,” says the actress.
The film’s promotions have certainly piqued curiosity in the minds of audiences and Rani’s fans because of her portrayal of a person with Tourette’s Syndrome. But since there isn’t much awareness about the condition, the actress says she had to consult Brad Cohen, author of the book Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had. “My biggest resource was Brad. My character is inspired by his life and a lot of the traits are drawn from his book. I was in touch with him and tried to understand his emotions, and the trials, tribulations and struggles that he faced in life,” she explains.
An actor first
Rani has always been cast in roles that require her to do a lot more than just dancing around. Right from her debut film Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (1996) to the upcoming Hichki, she is classified among those actresses who are called the ‘hero’ of their films.
But Rani disagrees and says, “I think it’s a hichki (hiccup) when a heroine is called the ‘hero’ of the film just to make her feel important. What everyone needs to understand is that both the hero and the heroine are important. We shouldn’t demean a heroine’s role in a film by calling her the hero. I would always like to call myself an actor.”
It’s been four years since the actor worked in a film because after the release of her last film Mardaani, Rani took a step back to focus on her personal life. She married Aditya Chopra in 2014 and a year later, the couple welcomed their daughter Adira Chopra. Since then, Rani has focused on being a mother, and even when Hichki was offered to her, the actress was clear about balancing work and personal schedules. “I was very lucky to work with Sidharth (P Malhotra, the director) and his team. I had told them right at the beginning that as a new mother, nothing is more important to me than spending time with my child. They were very accomodating when it came to timings. I would be on sets early by 6 am and would be back home before my daughter’s lunch time. Travel time would take about two-and-a-half hours. We finished the shoot in a record time of 38 days,” reveals the actress.
Rani is aware that times have changed from her Kuch Kuch Hota Hai days. The audience, subjects and stories chosen are quite different from what it was a few decades ago. “There is certainly a new type of audience and more people are watching films from all over the world. That’s why new subjects are being explored,” she signs off.