For Rani Mukherji, the "Mardaani" franchise was a way to channelise her anger towards crimes against women, and the actor says she is happy she was able to create a real imagery of a female cop through these films.
In the "Mardaani" series, the Bollywood star plays the central character of the police officer Shivani Shivaji Roy, and for her the films are an ode to all the women cops who have served the nation with utmost dedication.
"'Mardaani' as a franchise stands for a woman standing up against crimes against women. So it's a franchise built on that. On the other hand, it also stands for... I will not say real cinema, but real events portrayed in as real way as possible.
"It's a depiction of true events that people would have seen the actual cops dealing with in the real world. That's what we are trying to achieve with this franchise," Rani told PTI in an interview.
The actor believes her character's superpower is empathy.
"If you're not human, you can't feel or emote. Shivani is a woman, and she's bada**, strong, courageous and she's represents all these women cops who have served our country and our people tirelessly for so many years, but have not really been given the mainstream or that kind of an acknowledgement they deserve," she adds.
Rani says audiences have always seen a heroic male police officer on screen and somewhere with "Mardaani" she is trying to break that mould of a larger-than-life cop.
"Today when a person is thinking of a cop, somewhere, they will see my imagery of a female cop. This is how our country is, because there are so many female cops who are brave. So why are we never told about how courageous they are?
"Why is it always about men? That's because in mainstream cinema, we've always seen those, larger-than-life cops. So somewhere I think it is, at least, breaking that mould."
Crimes against women always angered the actor but after the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder, Rani says she felt a strong urge to talk about women safety and other social issues and 2014's "Mardaani", directed by Pradeep Sarkar, was born out of that rage.
The actor, who is now gearing for the release of "Mardaani 2", says as an artiste she felt the best way to express her anguish was through cinema.
"The first film was obviously, born out of the rage that we felt for Nirbhaya. I think as a country, we all were quite angered and shaken up. Because that was the first time through the media, we actually got to know the gory details of what happened to that woman.
"I think there was this anger everywhere. And as filmmakers or people connected with films, I thought this is the only way I can channelise my anger and energy and give a positive message to the women out there. Make them aware of the problems and threats we face today."
The actor, 41, says the idea of turning "Mardaani" into a franchise came because the makers felt with these films they could talk about the crimes prevalent in the society and try to offer some sort of a solution.
"'Mardaani 2' deals with a serial rapist and talks about what happens to rapists who are juvenile criminals. It talks about how we need to be aware, because today, threat can come from nameless, faceless and ageless people. The person could appear innocent, could be under the age of 18, but he could actually be the perpetrator.
"I think as a film, 'Mardaani 2' is very close to my heart because it not only talks about women empowerment, but also about creating awareness. I remember during 'Mardaani' there were a lot of women who said 'we can't see this film. It's too disturbing'. We don't want to watch this reality. I want to tell them that even if you turn your face away, that doesn't mean it's not happening. We need to be aware, we need to accept and educate ourselves," she adds.
"Mardaani 2", directed by Gopi Puthran and produced by Yash Raj Films, will hit the theatres on December 13.
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