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Rediff News  All News  » Movies » The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Last updated on: September 23, 2009 

Image: Rani Mukherji
Photographs: Reuters/Jayanta Shaw

Ups and downs are a part of life. But in the ruthless world of showbiz, they can make or break a celebrity, the best of them. Every indiscriminating Friday spells delight or doom for these denizens of glamour.

And so, despite her striking looks and exceptional talent, the law of averages has caught up with Rani Mukerji as well. The erstwhile reigning queen of Bollywood is presently struggling for that one elusive 'hit'. Alas, it's nowhere in sight.

It all began with a thud not thump, mind you. Her entry in films, courtesy the B-grade Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat was hardly worth any mention.

Even so Rani, strangely, left an impression. She more than compensated for it as the saucy Khandala girl in Ghulam and a charming mix of Veronica and Betty in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. A youngster who can hold her own against Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol must be something, right?

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: Scenes from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Hey Ram

Well, almost. The actress made the same mistake as Govinda, her co-star of several films, she signed on too many projects, most of them mindless non-starters like Hello Brother, Badal, Hadh Kar Di Aapne and Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye.

Still, her work in Bichhoo, Hey Ram, Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega and Chori Chori Chupke Chupke was adequately praised.

Ditto for her sparkling cameo jiggling to Shaava Shaava in Karan Johar's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: Scenes from Saathiya and Mujhse Dosti Karoge

Taking a break from playing a stereotypical arm candy to the hero in Nayak: The Real Hero and Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai, Rani came into her own as the sensible yet impulsive Suhani in Shaad Ali's Saathiya.

Her sensitive portrayal, ravishing screen presence and fresh chemistry with co-star Vivek Oberoi coupled with A R Rahman's terrific soundtrack clicked at the box office, marking a turning point in her otherwise steady but unremarkable career.

Saathiya, in addition to Mujhse Dosti Karoge, began Rani's long association with Yash Raj Films, as well as nagging rumours of her link-up with one of its bosses, filmmaker Aditya Chopra.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: A scene from Chalte Chalte and Chori Chori

Gossip aside, another offering on marital bliss-turned-mess, Chalte Chalte opposite Shah Rukh Khan hit the jackpot and Rani was toast.

In a role of a Greece-based fashion designer setting up home in Mumbai, originally meant for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rani not only looked hot but delivered a top-notch performance as well.

A blockbuster a year usually relieves a star of small-time losses. And so despite the no-show of other releases like Chalo Ishq Ladayein, Calcutta Mail and Chori Chori, there was no dearth of stories in a hurry to crown her Queen.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: Scenes from Hum Tum and Veer-Zaara

And it's coronation time, folks. Confident and charismatic like never before, Rani rocked the screens as she, along with Saif Ali Khan, came of age, inspired by When Harry Met Sally in Hum Tum.

Their reel-life compatibility worked like a charm for the romance which spans through Amsterdam-New York-France and India. What's more the Yash Raj flick made big bucks at the BO.

The same can be said about the Yash Chopra helmed Veer-Zaara. Although she played neither Veer nor Zaara, Rani stole the show in this old-fashioned Indo-Pak love story, slipping into the gritty skin of an uncompromising Pakistani lawyer with her crisp dialogues and kohl-eyed determination.

Ditto for Mani Ratnam's Yuva, wherein the actress topped the compliment count with her fiery realism, touching vulnerability and simmering sensuality as the hopelessly optimistic, Bangla-spewing Sasha.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: Scenes from Black and Bunty Aur Babli

The Queen of Hearts continued to rule with her delectable over-the-top con woman act in Yashraj's Bunty Aur Babli. Remember how her collared short kurtas, designed by Aki Narula, caught on big time with the fashion-focused?

And while Amol Palekar's Paheli wasn't a box-office draw, it presented Rani like never before. Ethereal, radiant and breathtaking, the camera captured Rani's luminous and regal aura to perfection. Not even SRK's massive turban could divert our attention.

It was, however, Black, a film she almost didn't take up, that caught everyone's attention. Her detailed, devoted and heart-felt portrayal of a blind, deaf and mute girl in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black won every accolade possible. And while the media was divided in its opinion about the film itself, everyone agreed it was a career-best effort from Rani.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: A scenes from Laaga Chunari Mein Daag

Just when things looked impossibly good for the actress, rumours of an impending marriage with the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge director popped up once again.

Viewers, however, are least influenced by the real-life drama of stars, when it comes to thumbing down a movie. Although that's exactly the fate Mangal Pandey: The Rising met, which starred Rani as the proverbial prostitute with a golden-heart.

Even if Karan Johar's much-hyped Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna made its money, it did nothing for the actress in a soulless, conflicting part looking her dullest ever.

What followed next was a series of appearances depicting her wallow in sorrow or self-pity, thanks to tedious melodramas like Baabul, Ta Ra Rum Pum, Saawariya and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag bombing one by one at the box-office.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: A scene from Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic

Famously fickle, the average viewers, a popular theory goes, had a hard time taking in this overdose of melancholy and rona dhona.

A Rani Mukerji starrer didn't spell excitement anymore. The audience diverted their attention to watch the light-hearted vibrancy of rising stars like Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone while others like Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra hit the treadmill to grab attention in bikini numbers.

Understandably, no one turned up to see Rani's lackluster Mary Poppins in yet another boring Yashraj caper, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic.

The rise and fall of Rani Mukerji

Image: Scenes from Dil Bole Hadippa

Adopting the adage, 'If you can't beat them. Join them,' the actress best known for her hard-hitting performances resolved to tone her baby fat to flaunt those toned curves in Dil Bole Hadippa's publicity promos.

Swapping her pile of saris and salwars for slinky dresses and gowns, Rani made a desperate bid to look 'with it' at the film's promotional events.

Interestingly, the film features her as a cricket-obsessed, Punjabi lass masquerading as a Sardar boy to get into the men's team. Too bad for the actress, neither shedding weight nor switching wardrobes or serenading Shahid Kapoor has helped her cause.

Alas, the audience prefers to watch a nonsensical Wanted over her disguised antics. If only the 31-year old would step out of her Yash Raj comfort zone and explore the possibilities of working with adventurous filmmakers and fresh mindsets, there might still be some hope. You think?