She was Mumbai moviedom’s No. 1 heroine just last year. But today, Rani Mukherji is no longer being approached by frontline filmmakers. Once a favourite of every Khan, she hasn’t been teamed with Shah Rukh, Aamir or Salman of late.
From all evidence, she appears to have become an exclusive Yashraj heroine and her career is being re-scripted by Aditya Chopra... who coincidence or not, has split from his wife Payal Malhotra.
The Aditya-Rani liaison is the hottest topic of discussion today, in studio corridors, beauty salons and ritzy star abodes. That the director and she are ‘good friends’ has never been denied by the 28-year-old actress.
Aditya's marriage with his childhood friend Payal Malhotra — from a traditional Punjabi business family — hit the rocks. Aditya moved out of his parents' house in Juhu-Vile Parle
In the wake of her three super hat-trick performances in Hum Tum, Black and Bunty aur Babli, Rani Mukherji had achieved what most actresses dream of. She had startled Aishwarya Rai out of the top rung of the heroine ladder..and it seemed there was no stopping her from acquiring strength and perfecting her performances.
Her fan following was and is still tremendous but..a big but. Where is she heading? Is she reserving her dates essentially for the Yashraj banner. Not a bad thing that. Snag: the days of exclusive-to-one-studio practice no longer wash in a business that is becoming fiercely competitive.
All of her earlier directors no longer rush to her with scripts. Also by some quirk of logic, she is in Yashraj banner's Ta Ra Rum Pum directed by Sidharth Anand, instead of repeating her success with director Shaad Ali in the same banner's Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Shaad Ali had given her excellent roles in Saathiya and Bunty aur Babli.
Trade talk is that since the actress was being linked with Shaad Ali, she was shifted to Ta Rum Pum Pum. The actress refused to comment on this twist of the plot..in fact, she stopped commenting on any matter under the sun to the press which had so lovingly lionised her till that point.
Rani Mukherji became elusive to being downright rude to the media and it was conjectured that the lay-off from the press was in the style perfected by the Yashraj scion, genius producer-director-writer Aditya Chopra.
No one can deny that Adi, as he is called by his friends, has become an important factor in the actress' life and career. Some insiders aver that they are "friendly" and leave it that. The events in his own life, however, have given rise to other sorts of whispers, which are no longer hush-hush.
Aditya's marriage with his childhood friend Payal Malhotra – from a traditional Punjabi business family – hit the rocks. Aditya moved out of his parents' house in Juhu-Vile Parle to stay at the Grand Maratha Sheraton Hotel till the clouds cleared. Now they have, it seems. Payal who had flown off to Singapore, for a few months, has returned to Mumbai.
A settlement, upwards of some Rs 20 crore, has been fixed, besides a five-bedroom penthouse in Juhu, close to the Prithvi theatre complex. Payal, an expert interior designer who was instrumental, in the upbeat look of the Yashraj studio in Oshiwara, has chosen to stay independently..instead of giving up her career.
Aditya Chopra, from all accounts, has returned to his parents' old-worldly villa where he stays in a separate refurbished wing on the first floor. Rumours about the "incompatibility" of Adi and Payal had started some two years ago but had been quickly squelched.
Then the Rani angle surfaced and she was made the target of rumours which insisted that she was a homebreaker. Not true, several friends of the family and showbiz insiders pointed out.
At the same time, none of them denied that Rani is very "close" to Aditya Chopra. It is also said that Rani made special time for the Yashraj banner produced film directed by Pradeep Sarkar at Adi's advice. Consequently, Sarkar's favourite heroine Vidya Balan was out of the project and Rani was in.
That thing called "luck" continues for the Yashraj banner in terms of the commercial success of most of its films. Conversely, Rani's luck has turned the other way, what with her Baabul coming a cropper. Also, her performance in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was outshone this year by cousin Kajol's in FanaaSome other wrong moves made by the actress are rejecting such globally spotlight projects like Mira Nair's The Namesake, in which Tabu has delivered the performance of a lifetime. Another downer is the absolute silence on the project she was to do with Bela Sehgal, sister of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the editor of Black which surely has the actress' finest performance to date.
According to a trade soothsayer, who didn't want to be named, there is no likelhood that Rani is likely to quit her career for marriage with anyone, even if Aditya Chopra if he were so inclined.
However, it is felt that the signs of arrogance which set in post the praise she got for Black and reports of her being obnoxious of late on the sets, are not likely to do her career any good.
There is every likelihood that her caring parents cannot accept the topic that the entire industry is talking about, that they will move into the denial mode..but then that's the way it is in movie country where there's a thin line between the real and the rumoured.
Best of Rani Mukherjee
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Hey Ram (2000), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Saathiya (2002), Chalte Chalte (2003), Yuva (2004), Hum Tum (2004), Veer-Zaara (2004), Black (2005), Bunty Aur Babli (2005), Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)
Worst of Rani Mukherjee:
Hello Brother (1999), Badal (2000), Hadh Kar Di Aapne (2000), Bichoo (2000), Kahin Pyaar Na HoJaaye (2000), Pyaar Diwana Hota Hai (2002)