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Rani Mukerji (born Rani Mukherjee on 21 March 1978) is an Indian film actress. Born in the Mukherjee-Samarth family, she made her acting debut with a supporting role in the Bengali film Biyer Phool (1992), while still in school. She began a full-time career in Bollywood with the 1997 social drama Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, and subsequently featured in Karan Johar's blockbuster romance Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998, she won a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress). For her work in the 2002 relationship drama Saathiya, she won her first Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress.
In 2004, her performances in the hit romantic comedy Hum Tum and the critically acclaimed drama Yuva earned her the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively, at the 50th Filmfare Awards. She later received unanimous praise for her portrayal of a blind, deaf and mute woman in Black (2005), for which she garnered two more Filmfare Awards: Best Actress and Best Actress (Critics' Choice). She went on to play leading roles in the comedy Bunty Aur Babli (2005) and the adult drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006), both of which emerged as major economic successes in India and overseas. She then starred in a series of commercially unsuccessful films, a majority of which were under the Yash Raj Films banner, that led to setbacks in her career. She later earned praise for her portrayal of a headstrong journalist in No One Killed Jessica (2011, she won a Best Supporting Actress award at Filmfare) and a grieving mother in Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012). These accomplishments established Mukerji as a leading actress of Hindi cinema.
In addition to acting in films, Mukerji featured as a talent judge in Sony Entertainment Television's reality show Dance Premier League (2009). She is a regular stage performer and has been involved in philanthropic endeavours related to women and children. Despite constant speculation, she remains guarded about her personal life and is sometimes labelled a recluse by members of the media.Main article: Mukherjee-Samarth family
Mukerji was born in Mumbai on 21 March 1978 to a film-oriented family of Bengali origin. Her father, Ram Mukherjee, is a former film director and one of the founders of Filmalaya Studios, and her mother, Krishna Mukherjee, is a former playback singer. Her elder brother, Raja Mukherjee, is a film producer and director. Her maternal aunt, Debashree Roy, is a Bengali film actress and her paternal cousin, Kajol, is a Hindi film actress and her contemporary. Another cousin of hers, Ayan Mukerji is a scriptwriter and film director.As part of a tradition, the Mukherjee family celebrates the festival of Durga Puja at Santacruz every year. Mukerji, being a deeply religious person, takes part in the festivities with her entire family.
Mukerji is a trained Odissi dancer and began learning the dance form in the tenth grade. She was schooled at Maneckji Cooper High School in Juhu, and graduated from SNDT Women's University in the field of Home Science. Despite her family background, Mukerji was disinterested to pursue a career in film. She said, "[T]there were already too many actresses at home and I wanted to be someone different". At the age of fourteen, she was cast by her father for a supporting role in his Bengali film Biyer Phool (1992).The film starred Prosenjit and Indrani Haldar in lead roles and narrates the story of two sisters, with Mukerji playing the younger sibling of Haldar's character. In 1994, director Salim Khan approcahed her to play the lead female role in his directorial, Aa Gale Lag Jaa. Her father disapproved of a full-time career in film at such a young age and hence, she turned down the offer. When Khan approached her with another film offer (to play the protagonist of the social drama Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat), Mukerji accepted the role due to her mother's insistence that she pursue acting on an experimental basis. Before beginning work on the film, she trained at Roshan Taneja's acting institute.Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat, which tells the story of a rape victim (played by Mukerji) who is forced to marry her rapist, released in 1997 and proved a critical and commercial failure. Positive reviews, however, were directed at Mukerji's performance and she won a special recognition trophy at the annual Screen Awards ceremony. Following the film's commercial failure, Mukerji returned to college to complete her education. However, inspired by her cousin Kajol's success in Bollywood, she decided to pursue a full-time career in film.
In 1998, Mukerji was cast opposite Aamir Khan, as the female lead, in Vikram Bhatt's box office hit Ghulam. Though she portrayed a small role in the film, the song "Aati Kya Khandala" earned her wide public recognition. After noticing her performance in Raja Ki Aayega Baraat, freshman director Karan Johar cast her alongside Shahrukh Khan and her cousin, Kajol, in his big-budget romantic drama Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The role was originally written for Twinkle Khanna, who turned down the offer, following which Johar approached several leading actresses before casting Mukerji for the role.In the story, she portrayed Tina Malhotra, a sophisticated teenage girl who is in a relationship with Khan's character. Of her performance, Rediff.com wrote, "Rani Mukherjee is a pleasant surprise — totally comfortable, clearly having suspended all disbelief". The film emerged as a blockbuster in India and abroad, with an adjusted worldwide gross of 182 crore(s) (US$33 million), and Mukerji received her first Filmfare Award in the Best Supporting Actress category.
Due to her slightly broken voice texture, her lines were dubbed by a dubbing artist in Ghulam. Johar initially wanted her voice dubbed for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai too, but Mukerji improved on her diction and eventually dubbed for her own lines. Following the success of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, she played leading roles in the social drama Mehndi (1998) and the comedy Hello Brother (1999). Both these films were critically and commercially unsuccessful.
Mukerji's first release of 2000 was Raj Kanwar's action drama Badal opposite Bobby Deol. The film emerged as one of the highest-grossing films of the year, but met with negative reviews from critics. She then essayed a brief role in Kamal Haasan's Hey Ram as the protagonist's first wife, Aparna Ram.The controversial film, based on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, was a critical success and was chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars that year.Mukerji next appeared in Bichhoo, an unofficial adaptation of Luc Besson's Léon: The Professional, as the foul-mouthed, coarse daughter of a drug dealer. The film and her performance received negative reviews from critics. Following a collaboration with actor Govinda, for the first time, in the comedy Hadh Kar Di Aapne, Mukerji featured opposite Salman Khan in two romantic dramas, Raj Kanwar's Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega and K. M.M. Rao's Kahin Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye. She was appreciated for her performance in the former and received her second Filmfare nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.
The following year, Mukerji starred in Abbas Mustan's Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, a drama on surrogate childbirth featuring Salman Khan and Preity Zinta. Mukerji's role was that of Priya Malhotra, a woman who is unable to conceive after a miscarriage and thus, hires a surrogate mother (played by Zinta). Sukanya Verma wrote, "Rani Mukerji is handicapped with a role that doesn't give her much scope besides weeping and sobbing. To her credit, she manages to hold her own even while playing a stereotypical sacrificing bhartiya nari [Indian woman]."She next played the love-interests of Abhishek Bachchan and Anil Kapoor respectively, in two predominantly male-centric films: Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai and Nayak: The Real Hero. Upon release, both the films under-performed at the box office.