Rani Mukerji at IFFI 2023: I promise my audiences I will work till I am 80, I'm not hanging my towel anytime soon
Actor Rani Mukerji calls our the prevalant ageism in the film industry and says that no actor should be judged by his or her age.
With a diverse body of work, Rani Mukerji has managed to impress her audiences each time she has come on the big screen. Perhaps the only female actor in Bollywood to have a franchise (Mardaani) that she carries on her shoulders, Mukerji has played characters in different age groups, and never got fixated with just doing so-called ‘young roles’. During a masterclass on ‘Delivering Compelling Performances’ at the 54th IFFI, Mukerji spoke about the whole debate prevalent around ageism in the film industry and how she has never let it become a matter of concern for her.
“I don’t think an actor should be judged by their age. It’s only because ours is an open cinema, you want to see young people on screen all the time because that’s what compels the youth to kind of go out and watch films. But, it’s also important to not be in a delusional world of your own and believe that you are always going to be young. You can be young at heart but to accept your age and to accept roles that suit your age is also important for the audience to accept you in those kind of characters,” says Mukerji, adding that it has always been a “conscious decision of mine to be able to give my audience something that will be palpable for them”.
Asked how she has, with so much ease, managed to stay relevant for 27 years and still try and experiment with roles she plays that aren’t necessarily her age, she adds, “That’s how my audiences have loved me and accepted me over the years, and they have in fact helped me to break this ageism barrier and I promise to my audience that I will work till I am 80 for sure. I am not hanging up my towels anytime soon.”
The 45-year-old, last seen in Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, where she played a mum of two, further calls out forced ageism that often pressures female actors in the film industry to take up certain roles and characters, or slow down after they cross a particular age mark. Mukerji admits that doing mother roles has never been something that has got her thinking. “On my third film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, I played a mum, and I continued doing mother roles in my 20s. In Tara Rum Pum, I again played a mother of two children. So, I have consciously tried to not give importance to the age factor of the character and instead give justice to the role I have played so that when the audience is watching me on screen, they don’t think of Rani Mukerji as in who I am, but they actually see my character and they believe that character,” she asserts.
One thing Mukerji believe in is even if an actor is made to play a certain age, there needs to be a proper reasoning and explanation behind that role. “If I’ve to play a college student today, I could play that, but I’ve to also show the audience that I’m a mother, and at the age of 40, I’ve probably decided to go back to college. So, you have to give your audiences a logical reason as to why you are playing a particular part and what is your age in that part,” explains Mukerji, who played a 60-year-old in the climax scene of Hichki.
“So, it was a challenge that an actor took up to look older, and I did that. But similarly, when an actor takes the challenge to look younger, it’s always ridiculed upon because you don’t want the same actor to try and tell the audience that I’m young. So, it’s also important to accept who you are, what you are, how you are ageing, and also you have to look after yourself and look good for the audiences. Therefore, my entire life’s focus is to look like how to looked 20 years ago, and keep looking like this all my life, have a good and healthy lifestyle and maintain that because when audience pays money to go and watch a film, they also want to see a nice looking face. They don’t want to se a face that’s tired. That’s why I also take intervals and do my work because then audiences have kept me going for the last 27 years and I hope the same audiences keeps me going for the next 27 years,” she concludes.