HBD Rani Mukerji: Remembering the enigma who helped me overcome my HICHKI three decades ago

Bollywood beauty with that exceptional dove colored eyes – Rani Mukerji has turned 40 today. Last year during the end of February, the talented Rani announced her comeback in doing what she is loves the most – acting with the relevant and inspirational HICHKI. With just two days to go for HICHKI to release, the actress has shared a heartfelt letter on social media, this has made me nostalgic again and I remember the Rani Mukerji I knew since we met for the first time during the mid 80's, how she cured my HICHKI and so on.

It’s circa mid-80s - the glorious golden era of film journalism that still had its shinning glitter, accessibility, reach and a certain amount of transparency between journos and film fraternity was a routine.

Mithun Chakraborty's DISCO DANCER was making waves and new superstar was shaping in streets and corners of India. One night my father late Vermaji (an ex veteran from Screen –hailed as the bible of the film industry during its hey days) took me to his ‘friends' house for dinner. As a ten year old whose world of Bollywood started and ended with Amitabh Bachchan was too juvenile to know that my father's friend is none other than the late filmmaker Ram Mukerji - one of the founders of Filmalaya Studio who had made movies like LEADER starring the thespian Dilip Kumar and HUM HINDUSTANI starring Sunil Dutt.

Suddenly the captivating aroma of a fried fish in a Bengali household got interrupted by the beats of the then famous Runa Laila's number ‘Suno Suno Meri Kahani Suno', the cute little daughter of Ram Mukerji – Rani must be around 5 years in age was grooving to this number. The round of my father and late Ram Mukerji's (Uncle by now) blended scotch came to a halt. Rani's mom Krishna aunty politely said that her daughter had improved her steps and wants to perform on this song.

This was the first time I saw her dancing and still remember the studiousness she displayed making sure that her moves don't go wrong. Cheered by all, the girl then threw a bomb and asked me to dance after her brother Raja's performance who danced to the title song of DISCO DANCER. Never in my wildest dreams I imagined Rani – the girl who motivated me to dance outside my house and comfort for the first time in my life that day will grow up to become a sought-after actress even after her alleged shortcomings like voice.

If I say today that it was Rani Mukerji who cured my ‘HICHKI’ of dancing openly without fear, it will be apt. I danced to ‘koi yaha aha naache naache’ from DISCO DANCER of course, (Mithun Da’s film was a rage at that time) which was the song selected for my seniors to perform in my school annual day and I use to secretly watch them practice.

Coming back to Rani, the letter and the movie HICHKI are in a way connected, as she says that she has challenged the stereotypes, it’s true. Rani had no intention of becoming an actress. Her friends and family coaxed her into taking up acting and she excelled. It was an overwhelming déjà vu for all who knew or met Rani (like me) during her childhood days to find her matching histrionics of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in BLACK which fetched the megastar his National Award for Best Actor.

We met again after years; Rani has become a known name in the industry and was allegedly referred as ‘Boss lady' due to her affair with YRF chief Aditya Chopra. While Rani Mukerji's Durga Puja received media glare, Ganesh Chaturthi has always been a private family and friend's affair. My father was now retired from Screen but his friendship with Rani's father late ram uncle was maintained at the same level. During one such Ganesh Chaturthi evening at her spacious newly constructed house in Juhu, I saw Rani again in 2012, like always we did the Pooja and headed towards the terrace where Rani looked ravishing in a traditional outfit with actress Tabu and dance choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant along with brother Ram seen chatting and having a gala time like friends and Family members do, no air of stardom, status nothing. I came to know that the ‘Chopra's and Khans have paid their visit a while ago that underlined the status of this actress who is lucky to work with all the three Khans – Aamir, SRK and Salman. At times when everybody shares their every step on social media, Rani Mukerji Ganesh Chaturthi in spite of invited guest that included a very select few from media remained a private family affair. Rather than taking pictures everybody was chatting enjoying and relishing on the wide spread cuisine that gave tribute to India's flavor from different regions selected for the day.

That day it was south India. As I binged on the idli wada and rasam during this jashan (celebration), I reminded Rani about that childhood incident, she giggled (it's a mystery whether she remembered or not) and reminded me to eat properly and take the prasad while going back without fail.

I have heard that Rani had that immense desire to act during her pregnancy days and cautiously waited. Hubby Aditya Chopra who was the first person outside the Mukerji family to recognize her talent way back in her debut film RAJA KI AAYEGI BARAAT (1997) reportedly told this to the then editor of Filmfare Khalid Mohammad, “You guys are off the mark. The sensational Debut Award should go to Rani, no one else.”

It is said that Rani's role as the power-packed policewoman in MARDAANI has given the confidence after those back-to-back setbacks in DIL BOLE HADIPPA, THODA PYAAR THODA MAGIC, LAAGA CHUNRI MEIN DAAG etc.

She says, “HICHKI is built on a positive premise and I decided to take it up.” Her studiousness to excel which I saw during the 80's seems to be intact and that's the reason she is doing this venture that marks Maneesh Sharma's third as a producer with Yash Raj Films that introduces WE ARE FAMILY fame helmer Siddharth P Malhotra to Yash Raj Films.

The then Bangladeshi sensation Runa Laila's number ‘Suno suno meri kahani suno' may be forgotten but my memory with this girl who marvelously danced to this number and waited with bated breath for the reaction is still intact. With just two days to go, HICHKI has brought the nostalgia back which is now haunting with an echo about the enigma called Rani Mukerji who has surprisingly remained exclusive in my childhood memory but elusive as a Bollywood celebrity to all.

She has come against odds in her life personally, and the movie which is said to inspire and motivate people to overcome their HICHKI ( hurdles) is poised to push the envelope further.

Let the HICHKI rule and the kahani of Rani Mukerji on the silver screen is echoed with a chorus dubara.. ahao..


Yash Raj Films Twitter Handle