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    Musharraf said I'm very popular in Pakistan: Rani

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Saturday, April 23, 2005
    Bollywood''s soaring star Rani Mukherjee can''t get over the dinner she attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

    "To be part of such an event made me feel that yes, I''ve done something to achieve this," Rani told IANS in an interview.

    "I guess ''Black'' and my character in ''Veer-Zaara'' have had a tremendous impact across the border."

    Rani, the only actor apart from Raj Babbar to be invited for the dinner, attended it with her father. Musharraf''s wife Sehba is said to be a great fan of Rani''s - particularly for her role in "Veer-Zaara".

    "Musharraf ... said I''m very popular in Pakistan. The way they spoke and the kind of people they seem to be, I feel peace is around the corner.

    "I hope the dinner made some kind of difference. Let''s join hands at least in sports, cinema and other cultural events," Rani said.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    How was the dinner with Musharraf?

    It was like a dream come true! I had the most wonderful time of my life. To just be part of such an event made me feel that, yes, I've done something to achieve this. All the biggest dignitaries from both sides of the border were so cultured and down-to-earth. When I was invited I was disbelieving and overjoyed.

    They want me and Latabai (Lata Mangeshkar) to come to Pakistan. I'm really looking forward to (this). Let's see where the invitation comes from. Maybe it will come directly from the begum (Musharraf's wife).

    The New Delhi invitation was quite an honour.

    I guess "Black" and my character in "Veer-Zaara" have made a tremendous impact across the border. I felt completely honoured to be part of the guest list. All the Pakistani delegates were really sweet. They were taking pictures of me.

    Our Foreign Minister (K. Natwar Singh) introduced me to everybody. He was so sweet. He said he's a fan of my Fanta ad. He said he was a fan of mine. When he introduced me to his (Pakistani) counterpart (Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri), Singh insisted that I be invited to Pakistan. They said they'd love to have me in their country any time I want to.

    Actually, I'd love to go. President Musharraf and all the other delegates said I'm very popular in Pakistan. The way they spoke and the kind of people they seem to be, I feel peace is around the corner. I hope the dinner made some kind of difference. Let's join hands at least in sports, cinema and other cultural events.

    So are you going?

    I'd love to go. President Musharraf and President (A.P.J.) Kalam both want to see "Black". They've been told it's a fabulous film. I must say their advisers have good taste, ha, ha! Seriously, the leaders from both sides of the border are so down to earth. They make the peace problem seem so solvable. And I really think highly of our prime minister. Manmohan Singh struck me as a wonderful diplomat and a perfect host. I'd like to invite both our president and prime minister to see "Black". I can't help wondering about how far my destiny has brought me. I felt so proud to represent the film industry for such an important occasion.

    What do you think of getting all the best actress and best supporting actress awards for 2004?

    It's again quite an honour! I can understand people who question me getting both the awards. My only defence is that I've worked very hard to get where I am. Nothing came easily to me. And if I was found to be good for two awards, it doesn't mean I should be given just one just to make the awards look more democratic. I don't think I can repeat this feat. Next year I don't think it will happen.

    Next year, you'll sweep all the awards, including best action and choreography for "Black".

    (Bursts out laughing) Oh, get serious! 'Donon nahin milega' (I won't get both). You know, when I did "Yuva" people wondered why I was doing a supporting role. Now when I get awards for it they're questioning it.

    Now you've got "Bunty Aur Babli" coming up.

    After "Black", Amitji and I go completely mad in this film. But it wasn't intentional. I've never planned anything in my career. It's great to have "Bunty Aur Babli" after "Black". According to the original schedule, "Veer-Zaara" was to come after "Black", followed by "The Rising". But now, "The Rising" will come after "Bunty Aur Babli" and "Paheli". "Bunty Aur Babli" was a ball. After "Saathiya", I was working again with Yashraj films and Shaad Ali. The masti that you'll see is one side of me that hasn't come across on screen before. Shaad knows me too well. He could get the madness out of me. Abhishek, Amit uncle and I had a blast. The film is quite mad ... totally different from "Black".

    You're a favorite with both the senior and junior Bachchans?

    That's great. I love Amit Uncle completely. By chance, most of my new films have him. After "Veer-Zaara" and "Black", Amit Uncle is with me in "Bunty Aur Babli" and "Paheli". Then, there's Ravi Chopra's "Babul" coming up. And Karan Johar's film will also have the two of us. So this whole year I'll be working with Amit Uncle. What more can I hope for? When you enjoy working with a co-star, that pleasure shows up on screen. I always enjoy working with like-minded people. Like I'm immensely happy working with Shah Rukh and Abhishek. Work has become a picnic.

    Black is behind you now?

    No, it will always remain a special colour in my life. "Black" will always be the most significant film in my career. What really gives me happiness is that the film is a super-hit. Sanjay and I used to sit and wonder: "Yeh picture chalegi kya?" (Will this movie click?) Today, even after so many weeks, it's still going houseful in my hometown Kolkata. Even my family out there can't get tickets. "Black" being a hit is another dream come true. After "Hum Tum", and "Veer-Zaara", it completes a hat trick of hits. Good fun na?

    You're the undisputed no.1 today.

    I don't want to think about that. For me coming home after work to my down-to-earth family is very important. All I have is temporary. Tomorrow when it's all gone and I'm married I need to be that simple Bengali girl which I'm at heart. I can't live in a bubble. At home I'm very normal. Mom still screams at me. I'm never allowed to behave like a star.

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