Posted by Fenil Seta
Rani Mukerji on motherhood, her upcoming film, her bond with daughter Adira and her belief that men become good fathers by default
Sarita A Tanwar (DNA; March 21, 2017)
It’s been two years since I last met Rani Mukerji. She took a break from the life she knew to concentrate on the life she made — Adira. She was immersed in motherhood, and movies were nowhere in the picture (excuse the pun). Now that the queen has committed to a film, she is coming out of her self-imposed exile.
Today, March 21, is her birthday, and she will be working today. A day before her big day, I met the luminous Rani sitting on her throne (okay, chair) in her cabin in YRF studio. The vibe of her office space is warm and friendly, an extension of her own personality. From the colours of the furnishing to the posters of her films on the wall, it’s her domain, alright. And there’s an extra-special place in her world — a photograph of husband Aditya Chopra and her baby girl.
As she talks about her husband, I can’t help but marvel at her fairytale marriage. It’s a coming together of two very different people and they make it work, without making it seem like work. As she returns to the set to shoot her next film Hichki, she talks about what drove her back to work (her hubby), what drives her to act (the love of her fans) and what she dreads (not giving her best to her work). Read on for excerpts....
Let’s talk about your comeback.
Again, that word! Comeback! It’s nothing. It’s just like any another professional taking a maternity leave/break and then coming back to work. That’s exactly what I am doing.
Excited about being back on a film set?
I still don’t know if I am ready to get back to work. I have said yes to working again. But I don’t feel the the way about work now, like I used to, before I had Adira. Right now, though work is something which gives me happiness, the joy that Adira gives me is just too special. I keep telling my husband that’s because he actually forced me to get back to work. He was after me for about three months from the time Adira was born, because he saw me getting obsessed with her. He said, ‘If I don’t push her now, I think she is going to go into that full-on obsession zone.’ And I am still there. Since I gave birth to Adira, he has been like, ‘Come on! You have to reclaim your life and get back. You have to do your work and you can’t completely immerse yourself’, but I wasn’t ready. I don’t think I am ready even now.
So what brings you back?
I have a lot of people who love me and my work, I think it’s my responsibility to keep doing films, so that they get to see a part of me that I am known and loved for. I think working is very important for every woman. It’s a special feeling for a woman when she is independent. It’s a different kind of satisfaction, a different kind of respect she gets, a different feeling of well-being that she feels. There are a lot of mothers who dedicate their lives to their children, and that’s absolutely great and I respect their chosen path. At the same time, I feel, somewhere down the line when the kids grow up and have no time for their parents, that’s the time when few parents or mothers get a bit...
Yes, when the kids grow up and they have their own lives, schedules and friends. They don’t want their parents around that much. It’s important to understand early on that while your child is important, it is equally important that you make yourself happy and share that happiness with your child. The way our world is now, a child adapts to both parents working. They know that parents will come back and spend quality time with them. Because I have help. I can leave my child at home. It is easier because I have people I can trust. In other cases, there are family members, but I live in a nuclear setup. And it’s taken me long to kind of identify people and to be able to have that confidence of leaving my baby for those many hours and leave the house. For the first six months, I was completely immersed. I would not move out for a minute.
Had you planned to take such a long break?
I’d decided to take a break for one year because I wanted to give my child that much time. I wanted to be a part of each milestone in my baby’s life — from the first word to the first step, etc. I would’ve hated it if she’d done something for the first time and I missed it.
Doctors say that a mother’s bonding with the child happens in the first six months...
A lot of mothers go back to work in the third or fourth month after delivery. I don’t think there is any issue of her bonding with her child. For me, it was not about being told it’s going to be good for me or my baby or because it was the done thing. I chose it. I wanted to spend that time with Adira because that gave me happiness. If something else gave me that happiness, I would’ve done that.
What has changed post motherhood?
Carrying a child is such a great feeling. I have not experienced anything close to it in the 22 years of my work life. This feeling is way greater than any feeling I’ve ever had. All my achievements dimmed in comparison to what I felt when I gave birth to Adira. You know, slowly, I am discovering so many fascinating things in Adira which makes me feel, ‘God! why didn’t I have children earlier? I would have had more.’
You still can!
(Smiles) Yes, I can. But you have to find the right person to have the child with. I was very sure that I wanted to marry for the right reasons and have a child for the right reasons. Now getting back to work seems very strange to me. Before Adira, when I used to work on a film, it used to be the only thing on my mind. I was focussed to another level. I was eating, breathing, drinking that film till the film got over. Today, somehow, I feel that’s completely changed. I hope I am doing the right thing by coming back to work now. Sometimes, I wonder, ‘Am I doing a film too early?’ or ‘Do I need some more time with Adira?’ I still keep chatting with my director and telling him, ‘Sid, I don’t know how am I going to be on set this time.’ My mum keeps telling me, ‘Now you are feeling like this, but when you start your work, you will be very focused.’
Most mothers returning to work feel guilty...
I have spent so much quality time with Adira that I am not going to feel that guilt. I have tried to make a shift in such a way that I am not with her when she is busy. Then during her playtime, I will be back with her, so she does not register my time away that much. Or that is what I am hoping for... I don’t know how it’s going to be. I am dreading it. I am mentally preparing myself for the eight or nine hours I have to give to my work every day. When they cast me, they were like, ‘Rani ko lekar kaam karenge’. I keep praying to God everyday ki aisa nahi ho ki they say, ‘kyun le liya yaar, kisi aur ko le lete!’
Why did you choose Hichki?
When the script came to me, I wasn’t thinking about getting back to work. I really liked the script and said, ‘Okay, we can go ahead with it.’ It was a process that happened organically. Then it hit me, ‘I have to leave my daughter and go to work.’ My husband feels if he hadn’t have pushed me, I wouldn’t have come back. I would be very happy being with Adira whole day long. And that’s true. I am most content when I am with my daughter. Right now, she is taking her afternoon nap, so I am comfortable. The minute she wakes up, I will be like, ‘Okay, time to go.’
How is pre-Adira Rani different from the post-Adira one?
When I look back now at my career, I feel I was another person. They say a child gives birth to a mother. I relate to that. This innings with Hichki is going to be a new phase in my life as a woman and as an actress. I feel like now I am starting all over again. I am feeling fresh and new. Even the script that I have chosen, I think, it’s going to give me a lot of growth as an actor.
Are you doing any prep for Hichki?
Yes, from last month I have started to prep for the film. You know. I always used to always wonder about the film I’d start with, after having Adira. I get damn emotional when I get to hear from my PR team that my fans keep asking about my next film. I feel my fans are just waiting. I want to honour that by doing a film which is worth their while and they can be proud of.
Will you come back to work full-time?
No. It is about doing a film every year. I don’t want to do four films a year. I don’t want to take away anything from my motherhood, and from my time with Adira. I will plan my life in such a way that I will work and give my 100 per cent to her. Because when she grows up, I want her to be proud of having a working mother. I hope she respects me for that. I hope she doesn’t feel that I dedicated all my time to my work. When she is 18, I want her to tell me, ‘I loved that you balanced life. You worked and you made your fans happy, you made yourself happy, and you were there for me when I needed you and you were there even when I didn’t need you.’ I want to be a working professional all my life. It is important, and I am thankful to Adi for forcing me back.
How important are birthdays to you?
Very important. I love my birthdays. For me, when March starts, I keep telling everyone, ‘My birthday month has started.’ I don’t know why I have been like that. It’s probably because, my entire childhood, I never got to celebrate my birthday.
Why is that?
My birthday used to come in the middle of final exams. For anybody born in March, it is a torture because kids don’t come to their birthday party. All you can do is wear a fancy outfit to school and distribute eclairs. I always missed out on having birthday parties.
Making up for that now?
Yes. I want my birthday parties to have balloons and a lovely cake… Though I am getting older each year, but there is something about birthdays that makes me very happy.
What are your plans this year?
This year, I am working because my shoot is so near. I keep telling myself that I am going to have a working birthday this year because these last few years, I have given myself holidays and I have enjoyed my birthdays, Adi has pampered me and taken me everywhere and celebrated my birthday. This year, I told Adi, no pampering. This year, I just want to work on my birthday. Obviously, I wouldn’t mind balloons and cakes and all, so that can be there. But I am going to have a working birthday this year. I cannot distract myself now from anything. Already, I have a big distraction in Adira, I can’t have another big distraction.
Do you think Aditya’s involvement with Adira will increase now?
I think it will be the same. Adi is too involved in his work. He probably leaves last from the office and now, I am trying to change that because he has to understand he has a child waiting for him at home. Now, every day, I manage his time so that he comes back at a time when Adira has not yet slept. In the morning, he has his time with Adira. He has breakfast with her and he takes her for a walk. I am trying to inculcate that in him, so the bond grows and he keeps teasing me, ‘Once Adira grows up, she is going to be my baby and my girl. Enjoy the time now.’ He is crazy about her, but I would not say that his life revolves around Adira now. But I would say he is getting there.
Is he a better husband or better father?
Adi is a better husband than a father, definitely. Till now at least, and I hope that he remains a better husband. Men become good fathers by default, but it is very important for men to be good husbands. So, I’d want him to become a better husband all his life.