Singling out any country as unsafe for women is unfair, says actor Rani Mukerji while also emphasising that making women aware and "equipped" to deal with their challenges is key to their security. Her latest film Mardaani 2, in which she reprises her role as police officer Shivani Shivaji Roy, focuses on rape crimes by juveniles. "I think the headline of this film should be, making women aware... Let's not be blinded by things and accept that these things are happening... You have to be aware and tackle them," Rani told PTI in an interview.
"As a parent, you want your children to be independent but then you also want to make it safe for them. So how do you balance...? It is a responsibility on ourselves to go out there and be aware... so that you are equipped," she added.
The first film in the crime drama series, Mardaani (2014), revolved around child trafficking and went on to become a critically-acclaimed hit. The recently released trailer of the sequel, produced by Yash Raj Films, opens with official data by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) that more than 2,000 rape crimes are committed by males under 18 years in India every year. Asked if she believes India is unsafe for women, Rani said several countries are unsafe and one shouldn't make headlines like India is unsafe.
"We are making an Indian film so obviously we are going to centre our film around India," the 41-year-old actor said, adding that foreign filmmakers also tackle social problems prevalent in their country. In her view, India should not be looked at as an unsafe country. "There are so many countries in the world that are unsafe for women or generally. You can't put a trademark on any country that this country is very safe," the actor said.
Rani said the ethos of the Mardaani franchise is about narrating the cautionary tale that evil is always around the corner. "'Mardaani' was somewhere aimed at trying to tell the youth, especially the girls of our country that be aware, that evil does not come knocking at your door, it is just beside you. And when you are aware of the crime, you are, at least, half protected, if not fully... At least, you are aware."
She said Mardaani 2 discusses the crimes by boys who are yet to be men. "And when you see them you would never imagine a crime like that or the accused could be so innocent looking. It is just about creating awareness," she said. Mukerji said the first film gave vent to the collective anger of the country during the gang-rape and murder case of physiotherapy intern in Delhi in the winter of 2012. The case shook the country -- and the world -- and led to a change in India's rape laws.
"When that actually happened we, as a country, were shaken up. There was trauma, pain, disbelief, and shock. You couldn't get over the fact that someone could be demonic in the way they dealt with the woman. Before that (the case), there was not so much awareness that such kind of crime happens to women in this kind of way. When she lost her life, she actually gave life to a lot many voices that were not heard." Last year, Rani received a lot of flak for her views on sexual harassment in the industry. She said during a TV talk show with other women actors that women should change and take responsibility for themselves. All schools must make it compulsory for girls to take defense classes, Rani said.
Mardaani 2, set in Rajasthan's educational hub Kota, is directed and written by Gopi Puthran. It is scheduled for release on December 13.