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09-19-2009, 08:58 PM #1
Do you think Rani will be the top actress in Bollywood again?
Do you think Rani will be the most sought after actress in Bollywood ever again, and do you think her bold new image will help her?
Rani Mukherjee does not mince her words. The Bollywood star has a bone to pick with the media and she's ready to face the challenge without falling back on the used and abused celebrity crutch no A-lister can do without: a dedicated publicist.
The actress, who wowed critics and audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week during the premiere of Dil Bole Hadippa (playing in UAE cinemas), found her film promotional events hijacked by questions about a secret marriage to filmmaker and heir to the Yash Raj Films production empire, Aditya Chopra.
Mukherjee, of course, rubbishes the claims and blames her aversion to public relations firms resulting in this dramatic turn of events.
"I am not the kind of person who enjoys being fussed over by strangers or handing over the reins of my life to one individual who represents me to the world," the 31-year-old tells Emirates Business over a crackling phone line.
However, even the bad connection cannot soften her words or disguise the passion, when she adds: "I'm a self-made woman who has always made my own decisions from the time I entered the film industry 13 years ago. So, now that I'm famous, why should I suddenly stop making these decisions and allow someone else to communicate my words? This person could even have his or her own agenda and twist my words."
Yet, the flip side to Mukherjee's media blackout are the rumours that brandish her as a homewrecker second time around – the first was five years ago over an alleged affair with actor Govinda. The actress, of course, insists she is innocent and states this is the price she must pay for sticking to her conviction.
"The only reason I'm answering queries now is because I feel the need to clarify things to my fans and filmmakers who are now hesitant about approaching me with scripts, lest these rumours have a grain of truth in them," comes her response.
This is a hard line to swallow considering she is the same actress who bagged India's National Award, the country's highest honour, for her stunning portrayal of a deaf and blind woman in 2005's Black.
Ask her, and she admits this is a burden for her to carry. But even before a hint of vulnerability seeps through, the fiery Mukherjee returns to form, saying: "Even so, I still refuse to become a PR-generated star and join the same movement that has allowed this new batch of wannabes into Bollywood who don't even possess the qualifications to justify their presence there."
No matter how miffed Mukherjee may be feeling towards the media, even she cannot deny the power it wields in a film's overall marketing plan.
"Of course. When Ghulam released in 1998, all we had was a handful of print media and three TV channels promoting the film to the masses. These days, its hundreds of print and electronic media personnel vying for our attention, be it from entertainment, music, news or even sports.
"Once the interviews are over, the actors are then herded off to reality shows on TV to generate even more publicity," she says.
"A lot of this movement has to do with the boom of new media and the lack of time, causing the audience to watch limited TV and only sticking to one or two stations that they enjoy. If we want to catch them, we need to be everywhere."
Is this why Mukherjee is so eager to tour the international festival circuit, tapping into a global audience that has suddenly tuned into Bollywood post films such as Slumdog Millionaire?
"If we are talking about Dil Bole Hadippa in Toronto, then I think its appeal to the Indian diaspora in Canada is way larger than the international audience," she states. "Bollywood has gone global and that is now visible with a larger Indian presence at international film festivals, along with a wider distribution network of our films in cinemas abroad. Having said that, my new film is a typical Bollywood potboiler and would not really appeal to those who don't appreciate Indian kitsch."
Dil Bole Hadippa sees Mukherjee play a village belle who's also a cricket fanatic. When she realises women are unable to enrol in the sport on a state level, she disguises herself as a Sikh boy and joins the team, under the captainship of Shahid Kapur. Producer Yash Raj Films is shrewdly marketing this cricketcentric film four days prior to the ICC Championship Trophy that kicks off in South Africa.
"We are not just tapping into the cricket frenzy because it's the news of the hour," comes the pat reply. "Cricket is an integral part of the film."
The actress admits she was clueless about the sport before the film and had to train for six months before she was able to effectively hold the bat and score runs.
"This is such a bright and funny film, that cricket fan or not, you will still enjoy it for its entertainment value," she says, adding: "I know I did; after my spate of weepy dramas over the past few years, this is a welcome relief."
With a career spanning 13 years with India's top production houses, Rani Mukherjee should be ranked as highly as Bollywood greats Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor in terms of brand power.
However, while Bachchan demands up to Rs50 million (Dh3.8m) for a single endorsement deal and Kapoor has all the A-list brands in her kitty (including Pepsi, Airtel communications and Head and Shoulders shampoo), the Mukherjee name refuses to create a flutter among India's corporates. This appears surprising considering the actress has appeared in India's Filmfare magazine's Top 10 Power List from 2005, for three years consecutively.
By 2007, Mukherjee was the highest female brand ambassador in Bollywood, paying Rs13m in taxes from endorsements alone. At the time she had Nestlé's Munch chocolates, Fanta cola, Titan Raga watches, Good Knight mosquito repellent, Chevrolet Aveo and Dabur Amla hair oil to lend her name to. Today, she's down to three.
Mukherjee calls her lack of endorsements a personal choice, saying: "I currently endorse three brands and this is because I have no time to take on more work.
"I get offers every other day, but as a celebrity it is important my public profile is not tarnished. Because of this, I choose brands that have credibility in the market."
Currently, it seems only Dabur, Titan and Good Knight have retained that credibility.
Critics are linking this power outage to her advancing age, which allegedly resulted in the actress losing out her Fanta deal to the much younger Genelia D'Souza earlier this year.
However, industry analysts predict Mukherjee has the power to turnaround her affairs depending on the box office outcome of her current Dil Bole Hadippa. Only time will tell.
09-20-2009, 06:45 PM #2
09-20-2009, 08:45 PM #3Pyar Na Dil Se Hota Hai, Na Dimaag Se...
Pyar To Ittefaq Se Hota Hai.
Per Pyar Karke Pyar Hi Mile...
Ye Ittefaq Kisi Kisi Ke Sath Hota Hai.