“I hadn’t realised how much I missed the set until the day I stepped on one to shoot for Hichki,” Rani Mukerji says, taking us by surprise, given that this was the same actor who spoke passionately of her daring outings like Black (2005).
It’s been four years since she last charmed viewers on screen in Mardaani, and the actor attributes this long hiatus to enjoying her life away from the cameras. “I love motherhood and am completely consumed by Adira,” she says of her two-year-old daughter. Even though Rani Mukerji “never went actively looking for anything in life,” Hichki, like many other good offers, simply came her way. “I just had to say yes. I loved it.”
The film marks her return to Bollywood after a break following her marriage to producer Aditya Chopra, and motherhood. The industry has often been criticised for its gender inequality, allowing older male actors to romance younger women, but not its female actors. However, Mukerji attributes this tendency towards the ability of male actors to mould their physique better than women.
“The male actors today look younger than they are. For women, looking younger is a challenge. For instance, Aamir Khan, who played a wrestler in his 50s in Dangal (2016), will look younger in his next film. That transformation is a pre-requisite for the craft. People will be accepting of you if you can look the age of your character, irrespective of how old you really are. The women need to achieve that with their looks.”
However, while an actor may be appreciated for his/her ability to pull off a role, women, she says, are, unfortunately, perceived differently after marriage. “In India, there is a hichki [here, obstacle] that married actors face. People feel, shaadi ho gayi, bachcha ho gaya, toh a woman is not desirable. They can’t do certain roles because they are viewed differently. When single, they seemed attainable.”
The attitude is at odds with that in the West, where viewers are accepting of artistes solely because of their talent. Fortunately, things are looking up in Bollywood. “Age or status is not a defining factor in roping in a good actor anymore.”