Mardaani has been faring with aplomb. And when I make that statement, it isn’t in terms of box office. The film marks Rani Mukerji’s entry into mainstream cinema with a powerhouse performance. Post the release of Mardaani, many issues have come in the forefront. Besides the message that the film tackles,the film A rating certificate showcases the classic case of the hypocrisy of the Censor Board. In an interview to Koimoi, Rani comes candid on her recent success and how re-certification is necessary for this film.
Q) You have broken every rule in the book. A married actress, doing a woman protagonist film, which has grabbed eyeballs for all the right reasons. You feel like a rule breaker?
Marriage or no marriage, a girl in her 20s or 30s, be it any genre will work with good content. The other dimensions come into foray when a film doesn’t work. When you are seeing a film, you are so engrossed that you cease to see if a girl is married or not. You don’t look at an actress in that grain. A Malaika Arora Khan still does item numbers but no one looks at her as a married woman doing item numbers. You react to the content and only when you don’t enjoy the content that your mind goes to different areas. Earlier when my films didn’t do well, people said that she is not on top of her game and her time is gone. Actors don’t make hit or flop films. They just do films with equal earnestness but the audiences give a film the status of hit or flop or a cult or a revolution. I have done Mardaani with equal passion as Aiyyaa. I am not a quitter and keep trying; some things work and others don’t. Atleast people are not saying that – tu ja bachche paida kar.
Q) The best thing about Mardaani is indeed its performances. From everyone including you to Tahir to Anil George have been praised for their work. But none were promoted before the film. Was it a conscious marketing strategy?
It was a strategy to allow the film and its merit talk. Editors and journalists would always like to speak to a more known face. But with Mardaani we allowed the work to speak for itself. As an actor, as an audience, we know the kind of work that was done in the film. For me their work stood out. They have done a brilliant job in the film. All of them have put in their best in this film. But we did not want to bring it forth before the film releases but wanted to give the space to audiences to gasp and say yes, their work has stood out. When an actor performs, you cease to think how many films are behind him. In a film you just see an actor and not his legacy or body of work.
Q) Mardaani has given male cops from Singham and Dabangg a run for their money. What makes Shivani Shivaji Roy so breathtakingly brilliant?
The basic mindset of people is having a man in the vision. And I was hoping with Sivani’s character people see women as cops too. It is necessary to acknowledge women as cops too. After nation sees a Dabangg or Singham, where men are making goons fly, it was a challenge to achieve that kind of strength physically. But it was necessary to make the action look believable. It gives me a lot of happiness when the youngsters appreciate my film. I have got reactions like she was a believable officer. People were rooting for Shivani Shivaji Roy fighting. It gives me a lot of happiness to have the young boys root for me. This is a film for the men too. We love men but we need to tame men who behave like animals. Men have every right to love us but men don’t have the right to tear our clothes! It is not rantings of some feminist or a crusade. We are not a film that is anti men. It is fighting against a system, against organized crime. We are not doing any auratbaazi in the film!
Q) The film has gone taxfree in both Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Buzz suggests that the film will soon go tax free in Maharashtra. Law makers have joined the cause you had taken up. How does it feel?
As a society we all need to act on such social evils. A five year old gets gang raped repeatedly by ugly men, diseased men and no one can fathom that child’s ordeal. We as a society need to come together for it. Through a film we have tried to address that and consolidate people to root for this cause. With gangster cases and drug cases, trafficking is also a very big menace. The situation for women is traumatic. The Chief Minister of a state has come out in support saying that this is a film that must be watched. Newsmakers can only make a difference.
Q) The film is being sent for re-certification. What is the progress on that front?
I am a married woman who will have kids in the near future. If 12 year old kids are not going to watch this film, how are they going to be aware of this film. People are too far from reality. 12 year olds and 15 year olds need to understand why their parents ask them not to go here and there. Parents are calling and asking me why is the film certified A. They are so keen to show it to their kids. I want to ask the Censor Board on what basis have they made the film A. How can a Censor Board not have the distinction between a film for kids and a film for 12+ and 15+. We have made this film for India and Indians, and we can’t show it in our country. NGOs have asked me to help. They want to show the film to kids in school and they cannot because it’s A rated.
Q) Mardaani has power to become a franchise. So if ever there is a Mardaani sequel, will you guys want to keep it watered down?
It would have been very easy to get this film a U/A if YRF wanted it. It would have needed to water down and cut a few scenes. But this film is about the maker’s conviction. If this film was a U/A it would have earned considerably better. It would been very easy for a Yash Raj to tone down and get the film a U/A certificate. But this time, they decided to hold their ground and say that this is the film that has been made to show what the ground reality is. Cutting down on reality will dilute the impact of the film. In Pakistan, the film did not release because you cannot bully further after giving it an A certificate. Double meaning songs get U/A certificate! This is sheer hypocrisy! Everything is out on Google, so how are children in protected environment anyway these days!
Q) Coming to that, what exactly was the Censor Board objecting to?
It was the language. We used the word ‘Ch****pa’ at a place or two. There are children using these words way more rampantly than we did in the film. Correct me if I am wrong about it. And there was a shot of the girls being auctioned and what happens to them after trafficking which did not go down too well with them. It was very important to show that to make the children aware of the cons of trafficking. To be able to get them to value safety, it is necessary to show them the big bad world out there for them. People don’t know how bad reality can turn for them. Whatever is my capacity I am trying for it.
Mardaani has been faring tremendously well at the domestic box office so far. But the reach of the film is to create a wider impact. While re-certification is a possibility that is being considered, Rani deserves an applause for trying to stand bold with an issue that seems too trivial for a patriarchal society!