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10 Rani Mukerji roles that will leave you spellbound — birthday special 

On Mukerji's 39th birthday today (21 March), we take a look at the films that depict the journey of one of the great actresses of our time.

Shriram Iyengar

Born in the talented Mukherjee-Samarth family, Rani Mukerji is a thoroughbred actress. From sensitive to powerful, the actress has portrayed a range of characters that have embedded themselves in the memory of the film fan. On her 39th birthday today (21 March), we take a look at the films that depict the journey of one of the great actresses of our time.

1. Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (1996)

Though she comes from the blue-blooded lineage of the Samarth-Mukherjee family (her father Ram Mukherjee was one of the founders of the Filmalaya Studios), Rani made her debut in the low-budget, Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat. Though the film vanished without a trace, Rani's portrayal of a rape victim facing the world on her own was critically appreciated. It would be an early sign of the courageous actor she would become. 

2. Ghulam (1998)

It was in her second film that Rani acted opposite a Khan for the first time, and surprisingly, it was Aamir Khan. In Vikram Bhatt's 1998 hit action film, Rani played the typical glam girl who falls for a street ruffian. In a film dominated by Aamir, Rani managed to steal every heart by playing the girl Aamir asks out for a trip to 'Khandala'. 

3. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

This film needs no introduction. Karan Johar's debut as director had the trio of Rani, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol playing the Indian version of Veronica-Archie-Betty. While it was Kajol and Shah Rukh's chemistry that stole the show, Rani managed to walk away with the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress, playing the adorable mother who inspires her daughter. 

4. Saathiya (2002)

It was another four years before Rani delivered a truly brilliant performance in Shaad Ali's adaptation of Mani Ratnam's romantic Tamil film, Alaipayuthey. Paired with a novice, Vivek Oberoi, she managed to breathe life into the film as the practical Dr Suhani Sehgal. The film went on to become a big hit, with Rani winning the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress. 

5. Yuva (2004)

Mani Ratnam cast her again in his film on the student movement in Kolkata, Yuva. As the fiery, independent, but loving wife, Shashi, Rani established a new level of chemistry with Abhishek Bachchan. In her gritty performance as the only person capable of reining in her torrid husband, Rani was at her peak. It was a far cry from the glamorous avatar she had portrayed in her early films but won critical appreciation. It also won her third Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

6. Black (2005)

There is something about the Bachchans that brings out the best in this actress. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, she was cast against a legend, Amitabh Bachchan, and managed to steal the spotlight from him. Based on the life of Helen Keller, Black had Rani playing a blind, rebellious girl who finds her own way through the world. Amitabh played the haranguing teacher. Rani delivered a performance filled with realistic acting that continues to be hailed for its authenticity. For the second consecutive year, Rani took home both, Filmfare Award for Best Actress and the Critics' Award for Best Actress. 

7. Bunty Aur Babli (2005)

The Bachchan trilogy with Rani continued, this time under the prestigious Yash Raj banner. This time, Rani shared the screen with both father and son as they played cops and robbers. A loveable film, it is known today for the Aishwarya Rai Bachchan-Abhishek Bachchan romance in 'Kajra Re', but it is very difficult to forget her presence as the cunning, lovable rogue.

8. No One Killed Jessica (2011)

The next five years after Bunty Aur Babli saw a lull in the actress' career. After delivering duds like Ta Ra Rum Pum (2007) and Dil Bole Hadippa! (2009), she finally broke the curse with a fiery performance in No One Killed Jessica (2011). In the film based on the infamous murder of Jessica Lall, she played the undeterred journalist who stood by the family in their quest for justice. The film began a trend of realistic cinema that continues to shake up the industry till date. It also won Rani another Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

9. Talaash (2012)

This was Rani's first supernatural thriller, although she had done Amol Palekar's Paheli (2005). Starring opposite a bevy of talented actors including Aamir, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Rajkummar Rao and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the actress made an impact with her short, but emotional screen presence. Her portrayal of a tragic, emotionally suffering mother and ignored wife, added the much-needed pathos to Reema Kagti's film. 

10. Mardaani (2014)

As the fearless cop in pursuit of child traffickers, Rani in Mardaani is far away from the girl in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Pradeep Sarkar's film saw the actress shed her good girl image to take on the role of a gritty, cussed policewoman seeking justice and vengeance. It was a true blue transformation that took everyone by surprise. It shouldn't have. This was an actress at the peak of her powers.