We catch up with Rani Mukerji at her elegant sea-facing bungalow, before she leaves for Pune to shoot for Aiyya, her new movie opposite South superstar Prithviraj that is being helmed by National Award-winning Marathi filmmaker Sachin Kundalkar. She has just returned from attending a workshop for the film and is full of beans as she settles down on a hand-crafted chair in the beautifully decorated terrace. Dressed in a casual top, her hair pulled up in a bun, her grey-brown eyes sparkle in excitement as she chats about her latest project...
Everyone wants to see a lot more of you on screen. Why is an actress of your calibre doing such few films?
See, I’m very passionate about my work and I don’t think I can ever leave it. But at the same time I want to do movies that have the potential to help me make a mark. I don’t mind sitting at home doing nothing until an exciting film comes along. Also, it’s very important for me to enjoy my work. If I do something that I don’t like, then I quickly lose interest.
What attracted you to Aiyya?
Generally when a film does well, people want to follow the trend. But Aiyya has a voice of its own, and that’s what intrigued me. And what drew me to do the film was my character which I found outstanding. I play a typical Maharashtrian girl who falls in love with a South Indian (Prithviraj) because of his scent. It’s a cross-cultural and quirky love story with the right mix of comedy and romance. After many years I am so excited about doing a film.
What did you see in Sachin Kundalkar who is making his debut in Hindi cinema with this movie?
Passion for his craft! With the kind of tight budgets Marathi films have, only filmmakers with a passion for their craft can make them. Sachin had approached me when I was shooting for No One Killed Jessica and I had instantly liked the script but told him to work on it. This time round it was perfect. Aiyya is very local and real. Critics and movie buffs will wonder how he pulled this off. It will tickle your funny bone. Mark my words, next year when the film releases you will be dying to interview him.
What about Prithviraj? Have you met him?
Of course! At first glance I found him extremely good-looking and charismatic, which explained why he is such a huge star down South. It’s the first time that I am doing a full-fledged film with a South star. Earlier I had a few scenes with Kamal Haasan in Hey Ram. Though he’s a Malayalam superstar, Prithviraj is just like one of us. He’s very friendly.
You have been attending workshops for Aiyya. How would you describe the whole experience?
It’s great fun! The workshops are conducted by Sachin who, besides teaching me the language, is coaching me how Maharashtrians speak Hindi, their mannerisms etc. So by the time I start shooting, the diction and body language will come naturally to me. People will also be shocked by my look in the film, which is very interesting and different. So a lot of look-tests are going on. Another interesting aspect is that I am the only actor from the Hindi film industry in the movie. Anurag Kashyap (Aiyya’s producer) has signed actors from Marathi and Tamil cinema. Sachin and Anurag wanted every character to be believable. I am extremely happy with this film.
What about Reema Kagti’s movie with Aamir Khan?
It’s complete, but the hunt for the title is still on. I have a distinct look in that film too. But as of now, I am bound by contract. However, I must say that Reema and Zoya (Zoya Akhtar) who have written the film are both outstanding writers. And Reema is so chilled out, and fun to work with. Actors want their directors to love them, and Reema loves her actors.
How would you describe this phase in your career?
The best! I am in that position when numbers don’t matter to me any more. I have crossed that hurdle. I am inspired by Meryl Streep and Rekha, actresses who pick and choose their roles and transform themselves into somebody they are not, like I am doing in Aiyya.
I am in a happy space and want to get back with a bang! In fact, there are a few more interesting projects that will be announced soon.