Yuva, Hum Tum & Veer-Zaara. 2004 was caught under the acting spell of Rani Mukherjee.
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Perched on a couch in a pink top and lazy trousers is Bollywood's most underrated actress. Her cognac eyes don't lie and her warmth melts the trickiest of questions. Nothing plastic, nothing cosmetic, there is genuineness about Rani that is hard to ignore.
Black is all set to raise toast to the feisty actress when she creates movie magic as the blind-deaf-mute Michelle who challenges destiny. The Bengali beauty talks to IndiaFM about soaking the spotlight, why she likes the slight imbalance in Michelle and how she almost refused Black…
Brace yourself to the warmest smile in Bollywood…
2004 almost re-discovered Rani. How does it feel to have audiences pat your performances?
(Smiles 100 watt) It feels extremely satisfying. We slog day in and day out for this kind of appreciation and acceptance. And it's very gratifying to know that your characters have found a favorable response with people. It's been wonderful.
Hum Tum & Veer Zaara hit the bullseye. The year saw a handshake between your talent and box-office…
Very true! Have to admit, 2004 has been extremely rewarding.
With two Screen awards neatly tucked away, 'awarding' too…
Many feel that you got your due a little late in your career. Has the wait made success taste sweeter?
(Hesitantly admits) Yeah, it's been kind of a long wait. But one needs to hang in there. It's faith and patience that will stand by you in the long run. And now its raining praises, I guess everything happens in good time.
The promos of Black stun the viewer. It gives you goosebumps. What do you think?
(Tries hard, but is unable to contain her smile) I know, there have been people who have come up to me and said that Black looks out of the world. The entire credit goes to Sanjay. Black is his vision. Sanjay has made a subject like Black look so desirable. He is exemplary! Take it from me, making Black is not everybody's cup of tea.
Your role is loosely modeled on Helen Keller. Touch us upon your character of Michelle…
Sanjay narrated me Black in June 2003. My first reaction was, “I don't want to do it!”
That was your first reaction…?
Yes. Simply because I couldn't imagine living up to the role. Add to that I had no reference for the character. Here was deaf, blind and mute girl. She is handicap in the severest manner possible and I have to play the character. But Sanjay had rock confidence in me that I could play Michelle. That is what goaded me on.
Michelle must have been a lot of sweat …
Absolutely. I took lessons in sign language. Workshops were held at Sanjay's house. I would recite poems in sign language in order to gain fluency over the medium. A lot of back end preparation went into it.
A role like this is both incredibly satisfying as well as challenging. Give me one element about playing Michelle that both excited and terrified you?
The whole of Michelle! Her disabilities. Here is a girl who is a total handicap. And I have to portray her convincingly. Also, Sanjay is a perfectionist. He will not okay a mediocre take. So the focus to getting the shot right was 100 fold. The moment a shot was over, I would look for the expression on Sanjay's face. At times, I feel we actors are like babies who constantly need our directors around.
Michelle has a very quaint body language. How did that develop?
Hey, you caught that. I gave Michelle her gait. Her walk is unstable and her body language as you mentioned slightly unaesthetic. I wanted her character to have that imbalance, because that's what makes Michelle different.
What was your experience of interacting with the deaf & blind?
The biggest lesson that I learnt from them was that they don't like to be sympathized with. Please clear them off the 'bechara' tag. They are a very spirited bunch of people who make the most of what they can. And I think we should stop cribbing about things and be just a little more grateful about life in general.