Rani Mukherjee – The Numero Uno in Bollywood

She may only be 5’2″ tall, but if there is any actress who stands the tallest when it comes to star status in Bollywood today it is none other than Rani Mukherjee .

Yes, Rani is definitely the numero uno actress in Bollywood for she has not only won critical acclaim recently, but has also set the cash registers ringing at the box-office.

At number ten, Rani is the only woman to figure in Filmfare’s Bollywood power list. At a rumoured Rs 2-2.5 crore, she’s among the highest-paid actresses. “Our industry might still be hero-dominated but she has the best track record among heroines,” says distributor Sanjay Mehta.

“She is a great performer, has bagged the most sought after productions and has all the big banners and heroes in her kitty,” says Komal Nahata, editor, Film Information.

“With Rani around, you can never realise how big a star she is,” concurs Jaideep Sahni, who scripted her most recent hit, Bunty Aur Babli . How big? She has been part of some of the blockbusters of the last two years, which have raked in about Rs 160 crore for the industry.

Not only that, Rani is a star presence at all the state dinners, be it in honour of General Pervez Musharraf or the Singapore PM.

“If a star comes closest to holding the sway that Madhuri Dixit or Kajol did, it’s Rani. She pays attention to her work, has matured and become experienced with time,” says Aamir Khan , who starred with her in Ghulam and the forthcoming The Rising .

Aamir can’t get over how the jawans in Kargil kept asking him about her when he went there for a TV shoot.

So, even though ‘Mangal Pandey’ might be Aamir’s show, the whispers are as strong about Rani who plays Heera, a courtesan in a brothel frequented by the soldiers of the East India Company.

“She has the ability to stand out even in the biggest of star casts,” says Vinod Mirani, editor, Box Office.

Rani had the option to play the other role�of a young, innocent widow who falls in love with a British officer�but decided to be more adventurous. Grapevine has it that it’s her Heera who is Aamir’s favourite character in the film.

“She is an amazing talent who has become one of our finest actresses. I feel proud to have been part of the process”, says Karan Johar who directed her in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai .

Rani has now begun shooting for Ravi Chopra ‘s ‘Babul’ in which she plays a young widow. Said to be an expansion of the Jaya Bachchan – Sanjeev Kumar relationship in Sholay , it has Amitabh Bachchan playing her father-in-law.

In September, Rani gets busy with Johar’s ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’. Another film with Aamir, Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Mr. Singh and Mrs. Mehta’, “an emotional romance spanning 25 years”, is also in the pipeline.

“The ease with which she emotes is amazing. Her understanding of the character and its execution is the key”, says Yash Chopra , who directed Rani in Veer Zaara .

“You wouldn’t even realise the power in the scene you have written till you see her perform it on the screen”, says Kunal Kohli , who directed Rani in Hum Tum .

Shah Rukh Khan called Rani the “hero” of Paheli and himself the supporting actor.

“She has very expressive eyes through which she conveys a lot. She has a great understanding of the scene, is able to catch the right key,” says Aamir.

Her role of Tina in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ was refused by many as another supporting role. Rani took it and stood her own against the seasoned Kajol. As Sadia Siddiqui in ‘Veer Zaara’, she walked away with all the credit from right under Preity Zinta ‘s nose.

None of her contemporaries have been able to do as diverse a number of roles as she has, be it a battered but angry and dignified wife in Yuva , a blind-deaf girl in Black or a woman in love with a ghost in ‘Paheli’.

Rani is surely the reigning queen of Bollywood – the Numero Uno.