Rani Mukherjee, Mukherji, Mukerjee, Mukerji. A name that is famous in Bollywood, despite the fact that no one seems to know how to spell it. Translating her surname from Hindi to English contributes to this uncertainty. While Wikipedia spells her surname "Mukerji", we settled on "Mukherjee" because that is how it is spelled on her official Twitter profile at @iRani_Mukherjee.
Born on 21 March 1978, Rani Mukherjee's first Indian film was in 1992. But it wasn't until 1998 that her star really took off. That year she appeared opposite Aamir Khan in the 1998 hit film Ghulam and was nominated for Zee Cine for Best Actor (Female). But her role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, earned her Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Since that time she has acted in more than 50 films and has expanded her repertoire to include stage performances - most notably with Shah Rukh Khan's Temptation tours.
While Mukherjee is an outstanding actor and dancer, she also has a unique quality that makes her stand out from other Bollywood heroines - her voice. The August 2008 Outlook India article "Queen of Hearts" highlights how her vocal variety adds authenticity to her acting style:
For Baradwaj Rangan, film critic of New Sunday Express, Rani is unique because of her throaty voice, something a lot of us love to hate. "That sandpaper-scratchy, I'm-recovering-from-a-bad-cold dialogue delivery, that's her own. It's like no one else's, and it's fantastic to hear a heroine who sounds, for lack of a better word, real. Hers isn't the kind of voice that automatically segues into Lata and Asha for the songs, like that of most of our heroines," he says.
Outside of Bollywood, her on-going humanitarian work often focuses on issues related to women and children, though she has also helped raise money for the Indian Stroke Association and victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.
Rani Mukherjee is one of those Bollywood stars that makes any film worth watching and so many of her roles are memorable. If you are new to Bollywood, here are 5 Rani Mukherjee starrers to start with.
Description: Romantic drama. Aditya (Vivek Oberoi) arrives at the train station to pick up his wife, Suhani (Rani Mukherjee), but she never arrives. Distraught, he tries to find his wife. The film takes us through the history their relationship: their first meeting, falling in love, their marriage, and their struggles and disagreements after marriage.
Why I Love This Film: This is an unconventional love story has a good dose of reality thrown in. Through the is couple faces, and overcomes, many obstacles - including misunderstandings that come with young marriages. The tension of not knowing what happened to Suhani keeps you riveted to the story. Shah Rukh Khan and Tabu have memorable extended appearances.
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress; Won, Bollywood Movie Award for Best Actress (Critics Choice).
2. Hum Tum
Description: Romantic comedy. Cartoonist Karan Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan) and Rhea Prakash (Rani Mukherjee) meet for the first time in a flight bound from Delhi to New York. They just cannot stand each other: Rhea is disgusted by Karan's flirtatious mannerisms and Karan is frustrated because of Rhea's overt seriousness. They have a massive fallout and part ways, vowing never to see each other's face again. However, destiny has other plans which bring them together again and again over the next several years.
Why I Love This Film: Inspired by the film When Harry Met Sally, this film takes us through the lives of two people who become close friends who support each other through life's ups and downs. Throughout the story, the "Hum Tum" cartoon series helps highlight the thoughts and experiences of the characters. Extended appearances by Rishi Kapoor and Kirron Kher add to the delight of the film. In a 2004 interview, Rani Mukherjee said of the film:
"Hum Tum is close to my heart. Its a touching story that will remind people of their adolescence and romance. ...I have gone through a transition myself. While playing this role, I went back to my college days. Every person goes through a careless phase and then matures. In Hum Tum it's the same process..."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Best Actress Award; Won, International Indian Film Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role; Won, Star Screen Award for Best Actress; Zee Cine Award for Best Actress.
Description: Drama. Unethical and eccentric Debraj Sahay (Amitabh Bachchan) is hired by the McNally family to educate their young deaf and mute daughter Michelle (Rani Mukherjee). Debraj strives to bring some light in Michelle's dark life. The years go by, and Michelle and Debraj share a bond between them - not knowing how this bond will impact them in the future.
Why I Love This Film: Inspired by the life of Helen Keller, Michelle transforms from a feral animal child who is "suffocating in her own darkness" to a poised and persistent student seeking to live a life of dignity and independence. The close relationship between Debraj and Michelle - two very strong-willed individuals - both inspires and challenges. While early portions of the film reflect elements of the storyline we've seen in The Miracle Worker, this film offers so much more. In an 2005 interview posted on BolllyVista.com, Rani describes the experience of working on the film:
"It has been a wonderful experience. Working on 'Black' has made me realize that those who are physically or mentally challenged are actually much stronger than normal, successful human beings. It has been a very draining experience no doubt but it has been very satisfying at the same time."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actress (Critics Choice); Won, International Indian Film Award (IIFA) for Best Actress; Won, Star Screen Award for Best Actress; Won, Zee Cine Award for Best Actress.
Description: Crime comedy. Rakesh Trivedi (Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi Saluja (Rani Mukherjee) are two ambitious wannabes from small towns where their dreams are written off as outrageous daydreaming. They run away from their homes when bump into each other they decide to become grifters, conning people along the way so they can be financially sound until they make it big. Adopting the fake names Bunty and Babli, their shenanigans soon catch the attention of ACP Dashrath Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) who is in hot pursuit.
Why I Love This Film: When their dreams are destroyed, they become proactive. Taking on a variety of personas, their cons are both amusing and unbelievable. While grifting, the become kind of a Robin Hood couple, they have fun along the way and so do we. While they pursue a path of crime, you can't help but cheer them on. And you can tell the actors had fun making the film. In a 2005 IANs interview on glamsham.com, Abhishek Bachchan said making the film was like a picnic:
"All of us - dad, Rani and me - were getting paid for having fun. We should've paid them for giving us a chance to freak out, full-blast. ... This is escapist cinema at its best. The average man and woman identify with Rani and me. We're stifled by the environment that we're born and brought up in. Our efforts to break away from the small-town environment will be understood by every member of the audience. We all have dared to dream. But few dare to implement those dreams. Bunty and Babli dare to do the outrageous and sometimes unlawful. It's a wish-fulfilment flick."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Won, Star Screen Award for Jodi No. 1 (Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee)
Description: Romantic drama. Maya Talwar (Rani Mukherjee) meets Dev Saran (Shah Rukh Khan) on her wedding day. Dev, a married man, talks to Maya about marriage and love before they part ways. Four years later they meet again and discover their marriages are both on the rocks. They decide to help each other get their relationships back on track and soon find themselves developing romantic feelings for each other.
Why I Love This Film: The film deals with problems that arise when marriages encounter seemingly insurmountable difficulties. With an amazing supporting cast - Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Amitabh Bachchan, and Kirron Kher - this is a film that deals with difficult issues with the appropriate gravitas while managing to sprinkle moments of joy and humor thoughout.
Recognition: Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Actress; Nominated, Global Indian Film Award for Best Actress; Won, International Indian Film Award (IIFA) for Best Actress; Nominated, Stardust Award for Star of the Year (Female); Won, Star Screen Awards for Jodi No. 1 (Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee).
Don't know which film to watch first? The following video playlist features trailers for each of these films. Enjoy!