Before the release of her film, ‘Mardaani’ (2014), BizAsia had the opportunity to speak to lead actress Rani Mukerji about her experiences being part of a film which highlights child trafficking as a social issue in India. Her enthusiasm for the film was evident then but, now that the film has released, the actress has been rather overwhelmed with the response both she and the film has received.
BizAsia had the chance to speak to her again in a follow-up interview.
Firstly, congratulations on the success of ‘Mardaani’ which has been getting a great response even in London. It has been reported that you would like the film re-certified so that more of the younger audience is able to see it?
Yes, actually we’re trying to appeal. In India, by law, there is only certification for below 18 and above 18. Luckily, in the UK, the film has been certified as 12A which is something I need India to do. I truly believe that 12 & 13-year-olds are the actual audiences who should come and watch the film. I think it’s a film that kids need to watch and get aware of their surroundings. So, it’s an appeal to the censor board to please see the reactions of the people in India because all the parents in my country are able to see it… all the youngsters who want to watch are not able to see it.
Was this something that was brought up before the release of the film too?
When the film was censored for the first time, I think they wanted to water down the film or water down the version of the film that you see today. They wanted a UA certificate which I think the makers did not accept because this is a film that needs to be shown in the way that it is shot. So they refused a UA certificate and went ahead with an A. They struggled a lot to make them understand but that time they didn’t get it but I am sure now that the film is released, they’ll see where we’re coming from.
The villain of the film is played by Tahir Raj Bhasin and he is almost sensationally portrayed (you see him coming out of the swimming pool topless, etc). Is the particular look of the antagonist that was needed for ‘Mardaani’?
Yes… today the whole fact is that, when you’re an achiever, today the age of an achiever is quite bizarre because you can be an achiever at 12, 18 or even 25. You don’t have to be a very old person to be an achiever today. So Tahir’s character, Karan Rastogi, in the film, came from the fact that the bad guy could also be a regular guy who could even be your next door neighbour. Being bad, you don’t need to dress up bad.
Previously, you expressed that the film is a reflection of real life. What was the hardest part in portraying such characters?
Well, I think for us, as citizens of the country or citizens of the world, I think there is no rule for escapism anymore. The fact that people get worried facing facts… the time has gone where we see the brutality and think ‘oh my God, what are we watching’. I think escapism is one form of being a coward because you can’t run away from the fact that child trafficking is the biggest organised crime that is happening today around the world. Trafficking is the most heinous crime that needs to be eradicated completely. Films like ‘Mardaani’ highlight this issue in a very unapologetic way so that the higher authorities make it an national focus.
You are the most known face in the film. How did you feel holding the film on your shoulders, so to speak?
Well, I have a great ensemble cast which is supporting me. I also have the support of a great script and content. For an actor, it’s very good to have support of good content and a good crew. I never really felt the burden on the shoulders actually. There were other people helping me take the pressure as well.
How was your experience shooting the climax scene of the film which sees the females getting their revenge?
Shooting the climax was amazing because shooting action scenes really made me feel empowered and powerful. That’s the message I want to give all the girls out there to protect yourself, empower yourself because that’s the only way forward from here.
Can we look forward to a sequel of ‘Mardaani’?
Hopefully. The film is already doing extremely well in India and people are already talking about a sequel. I think it would depend on what the next mission for Shivani Shivaji Roy would be. If there’s great content and a great mission she can accomplish in the next then there should definitely be a sequel.
What has been the best compliment you’ve received since the release of the film?
I think with people unanimously praising the film and that the work that I’ve done in the film is my career’s best – according to some people – and also the fact that the film has gone beyond being just a film. It’s become a kind of movement in the country. Girls are getting the feeling of mardaani by the end of it. People have made mardaani their own film and into a movement so that’s the biggest compliment I could want for a film which is a message to all the women to become empowered.
What would you say to the people who haven’t seen ‘Mardaani’ yet?
I would say to them that I think you’re missing a very important film. I’m not saying that because it’ my film but because it’s about an issue which is prevalent in every society today, no matter where you are – in any part of the world. Trafficking today is a very serious crime which is taking place everywhere in the world. This film is like an eye-opener for all the little girls who need to understand what their surroundings are like. It encourages them to take precautions and be really careful. The film also gives a very special message at the end and it’s a very important message for the girls so hopefully the people who haven’t seen the film yet will catch it now.
Once again, BizAsia thanks Rani Mukerji for taking the time to talk to us about ‘Mardaani’, which is still playing in cinemas today up and down the country.