"In my lifetime, I can only be Rani but through my characters, I can live as so many different Indian women," says Rani Mukerji, whose latest release Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway sees the actor as an immigrant mother engaged in a long-drawn battle with a country.
Mukerji, whose credits include films such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Hum Tum, Black and the Mardaani series, said the effort has always been to highlight various facets of Indian women.
"For me, it is very important to portray Indian women beautifully to the global audience that whether the audience in the global arena watches an Indian film with me in it, they see an Indian woman's character, and the person should say, 'Wow! This is an Indian woman," she told PTI in an interview here.
As an artist, Mukerji said it is important for her to "look up to and root" for her characters.
"In my lifetime, I can only be Rani but through my character, I can live as so many different Indian women (on screen).
"Like, I can be Tina from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Naina Mathur from Hichki, Shivani Shivaji Roy from Mardaani, Mrs Chatterjee from Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, Rhea from Hum Tum, Shashi from Yuva, Michelle from Black, Vimmi from Bunty Aur Babli. So, there are so many characters that I get to play," she added.
An Indian woman is an amalgamation of many things but the Mumbai-born star said she would like to define her as someone who is loving, caring and brave.
"It is important for me to bring about Indian women on screen beautifully because I am an Indian woman. I feel Indian women are the best in the world because they are passionate, kind. They are truly beautiful inside out. They are very giving, forgiving as well, and they are brave. And if given a choice, they are willing to sacrifice," she said.
In her latest release Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, Mukerji brings to light the story of Debika, an immigrant mother that fights against all odds to win back the custody of her children. Directed by Ashima Chibber, the movie is based on the 2011 true story of NRI couple Sagarika and Anurup Bhattacharya.
Sagarika's children were taken under protective care in May 2011 by Barnevarne, the Child Welfare Services in Norway, on the ground of "emotional disconnect" with the parents, and placed them in foster parental care according to a local Norwegian court's directive. She was reunited with her children after a two-year legal battle.
Describing Sagarika as a superhero, the 44-year-old actor said she was inspired by her determination and never-give-up attitude. "It is a mother's journey, the determination, that not give up attitude that she had because of the love for her kids. It is one of the bravest superhero stories that I have heard that you fight against the nation, you fight your husband, but you don't give up because you believe that you have done nothing wrong and you need your kids back," she said. Mukerji said she was unaware about the real-life incident before she read the script of the film, produced by Nikkhil Advani's Emmay Entertainment and Zee Studios.
"It was shocking because I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Once they told me the synopsis, I was like, 'Are you serious? This can't be true'. I Googled and realised that this was a case back from 2011," she said.
After reading about Sagarika's case that made headlines in India, the actor said this story needed to be told.
"The Indian media was extensively covering this case. There was a conversation about it in Parliament, the Indian government was involved, so I was like, 'How come it didn't reach us?'. A lot of people like me didn't know about it. I thought I have to do this film to raise awareness. And this story deserves a film.
"I am hoping that if this film works at the box office and more people watch it in India and abroad, they will understand that these things are happening around us. So, if there's any wrongdoing, it is being pulled up," she added.
Mukerji also spoke about the growing presence of Indian cinema at the global stage with Indian productions such as RRR and The Elephant Whisperers bringing home two Oscar trophies.
"It is a matter of great pride and great timing where it infuses every Indian professional to work harder, to achieve that dream. And, the dream is getting closer because when your colleagues get it, you feel it is not far away. So, it is great," she said.
Earlier this week, Naatu Naatu, the foot-tapping hit Telugu track from RRR, and The Elephant Whisperers won Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Documentary Short, respectively.
Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway, also starring Anirban Bhattacharya, Jim Sarbh, and Neena Gupta, is scheduled to be released Friday.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)