When Rani Mukherjee made her debut in Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat some five years ago, nobody gave her much of a chance of making it in Bollywood. But the debutante showed enough promise even in a clichéd film for the industry to sit up and take notice. A born natural, Rani effortlessly slipped into the role of a teenage girl who takes up cudgels against the injustice done to her friend.
But her biggest moment of glory came in Karan Johar's directorial debut, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Karan who didn't know her at all, met her on Shahrukh Khan's recommendation, and found a rather "overweight girl nonchalantly listening to his story narration at the breakfast table". The role fell on her lap by accident after Twinkle Khanna, for who it was originally written, and a succession of the actresses (Raveena, Tabu, Urmila) turned down the offer, wary of playing second fiddle to Kajol. Rani had no such hang-ups and the rest, as they say, is history.
KKHH set her on the road to stardom, especially since it came on the heels of the super hit Ghulam, in which she was cast opposite Aamir Khan. In KKHH, she held her own against Shahrukh and Kajol, and in Ghulam, she didn't let even Aamir completely overshadow her.
That's a special ability Rani possesses. No matter who she is pitted against, she manages to leave an impression. She made a good fist of matching steps with the irrepressible Govinda in a number of comic capers. "I want to do two or three films at a time and am looking for only roles with substance," says the chirpy actress.
Her latest release, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, has Bollywood's current favourite Kareena pitted against her in an unusual love triangle. Though Rani's role goes beyond the song and dance routines, she has been widely appreciated for her self-assured performance in the film. That, as her fans know by now, is par for the course for Rani!