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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Five years back when Rani Mukerji strode onto the big screen as Crime Branch Senior Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy in Mardaani, I remember being transfixed, as the husky-toned actor, clad in khaki, pummeled her opponents to pulp, physically and verbally.
Mardaani was such a gritty, hard-hitting movie about the human trafficking mafia in India that everyone who watched it no doubt came away with a sense of horror at the sheer magnitude of the social malaise. With shocking stats on the number of girls who are kidnapped every year, amplified by some heavy duty performances from a host of talented actors, led by the indefatigable Rani Mukerji alongside a menacing Tahir Bhasin, Mardaani was a movie that served as a gut-wrenching reminder of what Bollywood was capable of doing - serving up social messages in a hard-hitting format.
In Mardaani 2, directed by Gopi Puthran, Rani is back as Shivani Shivaji Roy who is now a Superindentent of Police, stationed in Kota, and who is locked in a vicious battle with a 21-year old merciless villain.
As fans and cinema lovers get ready for Mardaani 2, that releases today in UAE cinemas, City Times caught up with lead actress who is back in great form after her 2018 release Hichki, with greater intensity, going by the trailers, to find out what she has in store for us this time around.
The trailer for Mardaani 2 is pretty hard-hitting, more so than the first one. Did you always know at that time you would be doing a second part or is it something that came along later?
Mardaani 2 only happened because there was a lot of love and appreciation from the audiences for Mardaani. Throughout the post release of Mardaani, there was a huge wave of people who suggested that Mardaani 2 should be made - and that the franchise could be something that Shivani Shivaji Roy's character could take forward with the same theme of women's empowerment and solving crimes.
At that point of time I don't think me or the film makers or the writers were thinking of it because whenever this discussion came up, it was always that if we ever do a sequel the story has to be very hard-hitting and it has to be a relevant topic and unless and until that happens Mardaani 2 could not become a reality.
Also, Gopi (Puthran, the director) in fact had finished writing two more scripts for the company while he was still contemplating the idea of whether to write Mardaani 2 or not. Finally when he was able to come up with this script, it was already four years down and that was when Mardaani 2 happened and everything started to roll.
The movie is tagged as being 'inspired by true events' - do you believe for people to take an issue seriously nowadays you need to 'dramatise' it a bit? Since Bollywood has this 'larger- than-life image', what roles do movies like Mardaani play in raising awareness of social evils?
I don't think dramatising is what we have done in Mardaani 2. I think there have been real life incidents that have happened from where the writer has basically taken bits and put this story together. Today with the kind of events taking place in India, the kind of horror and horrific stories we are getting to know about the criminality on women, I don't think movies are far fetched from reality. I think movies are always trying to mirror what actually happens in society by and large, specially on socially relevant subjects like these.
I don't think much gets dramatised. Of course, when you are making a film, it will be made in a particular format, so there will be scenes that will be written, there will be dialogues that will be added - but that will only constitute for the drama element. Otherwise I think the incidents are happening, nobody is dramatising anything.
There are so many atrocities taking place against women in India today that sadly people tend to forget and move on when the next big news comes in. What does Mardaani hope to achieve at the end of the day?
I think a film like Mardaani gives a sense of power, a sense of empowerment to a lot of women who are basically trying to get inspiration out of stories like these. When you see Shivani Shivaji Roy in the film she is the true embodiment of women empowerment and when you see Shivani taking up a strong role like this, because she is a female, because she is a woman, I think a lot of women get inspired to do similar things.
So it is just about creating more awareness - a film can do it beautifully because you can reach out to a lot of people though the medium of cinema. Of course, when you talk about a socially relevant topic like this, it starts a lot of debates and discussions and conversations making the right noises towards a particular cause.
The alarming rate at which the juveniles are committing crimes has been most alarming for me. Because that also goes to show that somewhere the need to educate children from an early age is very important because juveniles committing these kind of heinous crimes are really shocking and very, very, disturbing and sad.
Mardaani gave us a memorable villain in the form of Tahir Raj Bhasin. Do you believe that for a lead actor to be effective nowadays, you need an even more menacing opponent?
I think that my opponent in Mardaani 2 is very evil and a never-seen-before kind of villain. A villain sounds very clichéd but unfortunately he is the evil one in the film.
As an actress and more importantly as a mother yourself, do you feel more of a responsibility nowadays to air social issues such as juvenile crime that you are shown tackling in this movie?
I think whether I am reacting as a mother or I am reacting as an artist or I am reacting as a woman who is living in India, it is the need of the hour for any woman today to stand up for what she thinks is right. She HAS to stand up for what she thinks is right when it comes to the part where her dignity is questioned - in any sense - whether it is physical, emotional or I would say intellectual.
I have always had an issue with the use of the word 'Mardaani' - because to me it seems to denote that a woman needs to embody the qualities of a man. What are your thoughts on this?
My thoughts are very clear cause the word 'Mardaani' was taken from an inspirational poem that was written in honour of Rani Lakshmibhai of Jhansi where the poet Subadra Kumari had written - Khoob Ladi Mardaani Woh To Jhansi Wali Rani Thi...
So it was talking about her valour, talking about her courage on the battlefield, and her undying spirit of fighting courageously and my take is more like that.
I do understand that people could have issues with the word 'mard' being in 'Mardaani' but actually from where we come as people who have endorsed 'Mardaani' as a name or a title, it is basically a feeling and having the quality of being courageous and fearless - that denotes the title Mardaani.
It has nothing to do with the word 'mard.' Because today I don't think you can call every man 'a man' in that sense - the jazba of mardaani has to be instilled in every woman cause she has that in her. She just has to tap into her inner strength to recognise that and I think that is what defines 'Mardaani' in our film... to have that undying courageous spirit.
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