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Bollywood actress Rani Mukerji, who returns as the fierce police officer Shivani Shivaji Roy in ‘Mardaani 2’, came down hard on juveniles who are found guilty of raping and killing women.

“If you are capable of raping somebody, then you are big enough to be punished for the same crime,” said Mukerji in an interview ahead of her visit to Dubai for the premiere of ‘Mardaani 2’ on December 12.

Her latest film, directed by Gopi Puthran, tackles the hunt for a juvenile serial rapist who is terrorising women in Kota, Rajasthan.

In India, the law dictates that the maximum jail term possible for a juvenile rapist in India is three years in a reform facility. This was highlighted when one of the five rapists in the high-profile 2012 Nirbhaya case, where a 23-year-old woman was gang raped in Delhi and later died from her injuries, was let off after three years, sparking global outrage. Calls for the juvenile rapist to be tried as an adult went unheeded.

“There’s a big debate on this going on about this. I don’t think rape in any form done by anyone should be pardonable. A crime like that makes you a criminal and there should be no pardon for that kind of crime. I don’t think anybody has the right to take your dignity away from you. And that crime cannot be forgiven due to factors like age,” added Mukerji.

Her turn as Shivani Shivaji Roy in the first instalment ‘Mardaani’ saw her hunt down a scheming, smooth-talking child trafficker.

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Stills from actress Rani Mukerji's upcoming film "Mardaani 2". Image Credit: IANS

“The premise of ‘Mardaani’ was brought on by the collective anger that we felt during the Nirbhaya case. Our emotions ranged from disbelief, anger, shock and rage when we heard the horrific details of the crime. How can someone commit a crime so demonic? We as a team in ‘Mardaani’ want to create awareness and empower women through our stories,” said Mukerji. She hopes that her ‘Mardaani’ series, produced by Yash Raj Films, which is spearheaded by her producer husband Aditya Chopra, will trigger meaningful debates about crime and punishment.

This award-winning actress who dreams of a world filled with empowered women, hopes to change the society around her — one good film at a time.

Before Mukerji flies down to the UAE to host a special screening for the Dubai Police at the Vox Cinemas on December 12, we discussed her latest film, her acclaimed character and the issue of eroding women’s safety in India.

Give us three adjectives that define your character Shivani Shivaji Roy and what do you have in common with her?

Shivani is fearless, she is bold, and she is intelligent — these three traits are common between us, as is the case with a lot of other women. Shivani is also instinctive just like the way all women are. We need to tap into our instincts before heading anywhere or before doing something and our instincts never lead us onto a wrong path. If women listen to their instincts first, they will always have a greater chance of protecting themselves. Instincts is a strong trait that we women share.

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Did you have any reservations while taking on ‘Mardaani 2’ and what are your thoughts on the original?

I didn’t have any reservations while making the sequel of ‘Mardaani’. We collectively knew that the sequel can only be made if we have an important content and message to be delivered. Our first one dealt with child trafficking, a big threat our society around the world. Our movie made young girls aware of the threat that’s looming large in our society. Traffickers prey on young girls outside schools and colleges. They are around railway stations or are people whom you meet through the internet. I remember that our original was born after the Nirbhaya case where we all wanted to channelise our anger in a way that we would be able to vent out the emotions like shock and anger. ‘Mardaani’ was a way of releasing that angst or anger that we felt. Those emotions of shock, disbelief, rage and revenge were channelised through that film. We had those energies that needed to be released within us.

I felt that ‘Mardaani’ was a realistic cop drama which hit the Indian screens after a long time and most reviews observed that point. Shivani was as close as you could get to a real-life cop. It was a realistic portrayal and the audiences appreciated that. The whole point was to empower women. I think a lot of women felt empowered while making this film.

Are you fascinated by dramas that explore the psyche of serial killers and rapists?

No. I am not fascinated by dramas that deal with serial killers or rape. They are disturbing and not something that I naturally like. ‘Mardaani’ was a welcome change because I felt that the movie was empowering as a woman. It talks about evils of our society and how we need to be aware of it and that was empowering.

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What was the narration with director Gopi Puthran like and did you have many questions about your role?

The narration was intense because this is a film that tackles rapes and crimes that are happening today. It also touches upon this threat about juvenile criminals. It’s a big threat that we face today. Our conversations are about what kind of punishment we give them. At the end of the day, any heinous crime committed by anybody, whether a minor or not it doesn’t matter... a crime is a crime. We already know what has happened to the juvenile that got free in the Nirbhaya case. He was the main perpetrator of the crime in that case. I didn’t have many questions because it was a water tight script inspired by real events like the Nirbhaya case.

Does this movie explore the psyche of the rapists and if yes, do you run the risk of humanising them?

The movie tackles the disturbed psyche of the rapist. And when you are talking about criminals, the basic context is that nobody is born a criminal. But it’s not about humanising the criminal. We are just stating facts about why certain people commit these gruesome horrors. It’s about finding out what the person must have gone through in his life that prompted them to commit the horrors and crime they inflict. It’s about looking into the environment which tells you who they have become or how they have been brought up. As a society, we need to be cautious about how we bring up our children. There is a part where we discuss the psyche of the rapist in this film, but there’s no dance of humanising such anti-social elements. They are anti-social elements, because they are not human. They are demonic.

Don’t miss it!

‘Mardaani 2’ releases in UAE cinemas on December 12. The first show is from 7pm onwards. Watch the trailer below: