Inspired in equal parts by PPCC's "Why Should I Love?" series and Nicki's Bollywood Alphabet Meme, here's my alphabet of beloved performances, moments, and scenes of Rani Mukherji (and some biographical tidbits too), far and away my favorite working actress in Hindi cinema. I was going to do an A to Z of things I like about Shashi, but that's what this whole blog seems to have become lately anyway, so where's the challenge in that? More importantly, the women of Bollywood deserve mucho love and recognition, especially when I keep complaining about how screenwriters don't give them material that's up to their abilities (and my joy in them!). The least I can do is some appropriate writing myself. It's about time Rani Mukherji got the spotlight around here!
A Abhishek Bachchan is my favorite of her on-screen pairs (despite the initially visually jarring height difference), so much so that I often find myself wishing they were together in real life because they so strongly convince me of their well-matched-ness and pyaar and cuteness. I prefer them in the superwow comedy Bunty aur Babli (one of my most favorite films, and you'll be seeing a lot of it in this list - in fact, just assume that's the movie in question unless stated otherwise), but I was hooked on their trauma-drama in Yuva, too.
If you count yourself among the fans of Ranishek, try fan videos "She's Not You" (where I first encountered the v useful term "Ranishek"), "Ranishek Moments," "Nagada Nagada," and "Be My Baby." More please! Dil squish!
B The bus ride shows us faults, petty tiffs, plans, hope, and affection, all in one short scene. Vah!
C Crying, distraught Vimmi is both touching and hilarious. She channels Lucille Ball!
D "Dhadak Dhadak" is cheerful dreams on wheels! Literally!
E Those golden honey hazel eyes!
F The Filmfare Awards panel must reeeeeeally love Rani too. In her eleven-year career, she's gotten six awards and another eight nominations (sometimes defeating herself for the title). She's also the only woman to have gotten Best Actress and Best Supporting in the same year. I don't put a ton of stock in these things, but she's turned a lot of heads in her short time on screen.
G Gross! Her movies bring in the bucks; according to Box Office India, she's been a top earning actress in six of the ten years since Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
H Oh Hum Tum, oh how I love you, oh how I've cried with you, oh how you show how people can find true love more than once in life, oh how you validate my own ideal of a romantic relationship, oh how you provide the counter-example for my usual grumpiness about Bollywood remakes of Hollywood movies.
I In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Tina cuts Rahul's cocky smugness down to size by showing that Indianness is more than where you live.
J Joooooooy! Wheeeeeeee! I love everything about this song, including the disguises and how the characters discuss the con as they're on the run from the people they've duped mere seconds ago. They're clearly having the time of their lives.
K Kuch Kuch Hota Hai might be a breakout film that dreams are made of for anyone, but Rani made it really hard to hate the person who stood between Kajol and Shahrukh (even while dressed in Spice Girls leftovers).
L Lachchi in Paheli is a woman with a choice! A feminist, complex, emotionally touching story! Her role could have been more, but I'm so glad she was there, anchoring this character and freeing me from worrying about it being handled badly and letting me devote more energy on what I make of the ending. (Answer: it leaves me highly unsatsified and toys with my sense of justice.)
M Mujhse Dosti Karoge! was my first Hindi film and I luuuuuurve it. I adore the plot of falling in love through letters - so Austen! - and while it's hard to believe Rani could ever be less desirable than Kareena (sorry, Beebs, you know I love you too, but please) and I'm no fan of trauma-drama self-sacrifice, Rani gets some good lines about seeing inner beauty. And she ends up with Hrithik. Score one for the kind, bookish, "not as pretty" girls!
N Nayak: The Real Hero features two gloriously weird (in a good way) A. R. Rahman songs with Rani, "Tu Achcha Lagta Hai," with the dancing pot-people and sunflowers, and "Saiyyan" (starting at 3:00 on that clip), where the sumptuous golden costumes and sets are punctuated with animated people-faced snakes who slither on a giant Chutes (or Snakes, if you like British English) and Ladders gameboard and eat the protagonists. What's not to love!
O If you'll allow me some creativity, "O" is going to stand for "Oh my god, how can you be so obtuse and oblivious to this man's obvious, overwhelming charms?" and be applied to Rani's character Maya in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. I'm not going to praise her performance in this film (or anyone else's except Abhishek's), but it was interesting to watch someone remain immune to such a textbook adorable character, and Maya might have been even more ridiculously icy or even entirely unsympathetic in the hands of someone with less ability to show a few shades of different emotions.
P In the regrettable, overwrought Saawariya, her prostitute character was an earthy bright spot.
Q Flirting with the improbable Q. Q. Qureshi.
R The raspy voice! There are rumors that KJo wanted to dub it in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but now it's impossible to imagine her without it. Seductive is the easy way to go with such a tool, but she can also make it cute, earnest, hesitant, pleading, forceful, indignant, or besotted. She and Shashi regularly duke it out for "The Voice" crown title in my heart. And now it is suddenly crystal clear to me that they must do a film together and I will watch it with the picture off and just bask in their vocal stylings.
S Screen style! Sparkly salwar suits! Girl manages to rock a scrunchie in 2005!
Apparently giving up on "scrunchie as bracelet" after late-night studying for final exams in 1995 was the wrong fashion choice.
T "Tu Mere Saamne" is my favorite part of Chori Chori, a film I otherwise find forgettable (thought it is beloved by people whose opinions I respect). In this song, Rani's character gets so into her assignment of trying to make Sonali Bendre jealous by acting lovey-dovey with Ajay Devgan in the standard mountain-tops-and-trees Hindi love song that she carries on dancing even when the music is over. The last few seconds are comedy gold - and remind me of what I must look like when I dance along to movies in my living room.
U Unfailingly good in Black opposite the Big B and an unoriginal, potentially mawkish story. Plus the woolly hats and sweaters!
V Vimmi/Babli. One of the best female roles and most wonderful characters I've seen in Indian cinema, and I wouldn't want any other actor to touch it. Apart from the regrettable costuming in "Naach Baaliye," which isn't even her fault, there's not a thing I would change in her performance.
W I'm getting desperate with this letter, so forgive the following syntax: Wedding, comma, Muriel's, one of my favorite movies ever and, as with When Harry Met Sally/Hum Tum, one I wish Bollywood would hurry up and remake. I think it would fit in perfectly - what with the relentless heart, big dreams, family drama, friendship drama, rushed marriages, deliberately ridiculous costuming, and musical numbers - while challenging the norms in some important ways - women can be happy on their own. And I want Rani to play Muriel, with Tabu as Rhonda, Shahid Kapoor as Brice, and Arjun Rampal as swimmer David Van Arckle (wow, I voluntarily fake-pretend cast Arjun Rampal in something - who knew?). (This video is not entirely safe for work or children.) This dream project is a real mark of my respect and affection for the marvelous Ms M - it is no small feat to do what Toni Collette can do.
X Rani was in three of the first four Hindi films I saw and played one of my early favorite heroines (Pooja in Mujhse Dosti Karoge!), and she deserves some credit for getting my cinematic xenomania off to a rip-roaring start.
Y In Yuva, Rani holds her own against Abhishek's unleashed beast of a husband - and got a Filmfare Best Supporting award for her efforts.
Z Zaara and Veer are saved by noble lawyer Saamiya Siddiqui's efforts! What I like about this role is that she makes grand reunion possible without having histrionic sacrifice - and heck, even the sappiest speech is given by a different character. It's not an amputated love triangle - it's justice!
The Rani Mukherji movies I have seen: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Nayak: The Real Hero, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, Muhse Dosti Karoge!, Saathiya, Chalo Ishq Ladaaye, Chalte Chalte, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Chori Chori, Hum Tum, Veer-Zaara, Yuva, The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey, Bunty aur Babli, Black, Paheli, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, and Saawariya. I have yet to be inspired to try Baabul, Ta Ra Rum Pum, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, or Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. Any words of guidance on these matters?