Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and actor Rani Mukerji go back a long way. And now that she is preoccupied with her family, she hardly gets to meet old friends, SLB included. Not much of a movie viewer, SLB has expressed a keenness to watch Rani’s new film Hichki.
“Rani has evolved as an actor. When we first worked together in Black, she was tremendous and motivational. And now I hear she’s playing another character who overcomes her physical disability to conquer prejudices and be successful. I’d certainly like to see how she has interpreted this character,” says SLB fondly.
He also recalls her pivotal role in Saawariya as a tribute to Aruna Irani in Bobby. “Rani played the Other Woman, the silent lover, the slightly older, very experienced woman to the virginal hero, with much restrain and sensitivity. Her performance in Saawariya is among my favourite in my films,” says Bhansali.
In an interview to this writer in 2003 SLB had said, “Only Rani can play Bajirao’s wife Kashibai the way I see the character. I need a great performer who is also dignified. Without Rani in Bajirao Mastani I would be as confused as Devdas without Madhuri [Dixit]. I have signed Rani for both Black and Bajirao Mastani. She is a fabulous actress. It would be as wonderful to put her on screen with Amitji in Black, as it would be to put her with Kareena Kapoor and Salman Khan in Bajirao Mastani. The two films offer her a range that actresses only dream about. Rani and I are very good friends in real life. That will help us while working together.”
Eventually Bajirao Mastani was made with a different cast. But we wonder what it would have been like with Rani instead of Priyanka Chopra playing Kashibai.