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January 4, 2000


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Ravishing Raveena's back!

Raveena Tandon and Anil Kapoor in Bulandi
With Anil Kapoor in Bulandi Click for bigger pic!
A cell phone buzzed. There is a murmured conversation, occasionally peppered with words like "Kalpanaji, Daman." Suddenly, the following sentences come through loud and clear, "The role is that of an oppressed woman and it starts from the time she is 18 to the time she crosses 30. It's quite a mature role."

Till then, Raveena Tandon has consistently refused to talk about her role in Kalpana Lajmi's Daman (Oppression). We tell her we inadvertently overheard her conversation. "Okay," she smiles, "so you can use it."

That, in a sense, is quintessential Raveena. Direct, friendly and, once you actually get to her, easy to talk to.

As an actress, she has been undergoing regular metamorphoses. The latest one -- serious actress as opposed to glamourous star -- began with her brief role in the Nana Patekar starrer, Ghulam-E-Mustafa. The ill-fated Dus, where she was to play a deglamourised dacoit, followed. She eventually blossomed with the 1999 release, Shool.

The film marked a new chapter in Raveena's career. Gone was the star with the flashy minis, this was a simple, cotton-saree-minimal-makeup actress striving to prove her calibre. It was an effort that pleased her fans; when she was shooting in Bihar for Shool, her fans went beserk and threw coins at her as a sign of their affection. The situation eventually went so out of hand that E Niwas's unit had to request police permission. The remaining portion of Raveena's scenes were shot in Film City, Bombay.

This, though, was not Raveena's first experiment with her image. She began her comeback with special song-and-dance appearances like Shaher ki ladki Raveena Tandon in Rakshak. Her films, even when they flopped, were noted for their highly popular songs -- Ore ore (Ziddi), Kisi disco mein jaaye (Bade Miya Chhote Miya), Akhiyon se goli maare (Dulhe Raja)...

Her next release, Bula`ndi, is scheduled for release on January 7. This is her second film with Rekha, after the controversial Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi where her role was reduced to virtually nothing, allegedly on Rekha's insistence. This time round, Raveena has proved savvier; her contract ensures that history won't repeat itself.

After 10 years in the industry, Raveena seems to be finally getting her due. It seemed the right time to speak to her. Excerpts from an inteview with Sukanya Verma.

Was the change in your image, which started off with Ghulam-E-Mustafa and established with Shool, deliberate?

No, I don't think it was deliberate-deliberate. I had started experimenting with the kind of roles I had always wanted to do. So, it was a natural plus experimental phase of mine. It wasn't planned or anything of the sort.

What motivated you to sign a film with a debutante director like E Nivas?

Well, first of all, I heard the subject. And I really loved the story and the kind of enthusiasm E Nivas showed. Secondly, I was new as well once upon a time. Then, when we did a photo shoot with him, I saw the way he was directing. It was terrific. I had no doubt in my mind about his capabilities as a director.

Did you do any special research for your role as Manjiri Singh in Shool?

(Dismissively) Nothing.

What about the look part?

Yeah, we had to plan the look as to what kind of clothes that character would wear, how she would function, how she would drape her sari, what kind of make-up she would wear. That much, yes.

Raveena Tandon in Shool
In Shool Click for bigger pic!
Does having talented co-stars make a difference?

Well, it really helps because if you have a co-star who is great with timing, invariably your timing also improves. Because a reaction to an action, if comes across spontaneously, improves the performance.

Could you elaborate on that?

For example, like ChiChi (Govinda) and me. Our timing, especially when it comes to comedy and dance, is great. It comes across very well on screen. Manoj (Bajpai) and I are good in our intense, dramatic scenes together. Now I know how many times he pauses when we are doing a serious scene, so there is no difficulty at all.

Don't you think it would have been better if you had not died in Shool? In the past too, films where you die -- Ghulam-E-Mustafa for example -- are not box office hits.

(Laughs) Well then I think the producer should not kill me for my head.

How did you bag the role of Durga in Kalpana Lajmi's Daman?

I did not get-get the role. Kalpanaji came to me and narrated the role. I liked it and said yes.

What is your role in Daman like?

Ask Kalpanaji. I have been telling everyone that I do not like to talk about the films or the character that I am playing. The shooting starts February onwards in Guwhati. It's a month-long start-to-finish schedule.

Are you planning to do more of these socially relevant films?

Well... I don't know what socially relevant films really mean. I would like to do more meaningful films if they come my way.

Raveena Tandon Despite working with the best in the beginning of your career, your hits came from films directed by relatively unknown directors. Have you ever analysed the reason?

Not really. See, you never know which film might run. What will click and what will not is unknown. You can't really generalise.

During the initial phase of your career, you were labelled a jinx. But something kept you going. What was that?

You know what really kept me going? The fact that the media labelled me a jinx but no one ever said, 'Oh! She has performed badly.' Or 'She looked very bad.' Or 'She is ugly and she should retire.' When a film was reviewed, they would say. 'Oh, Raveena looked ravishing. Her role was small but she looked good.' Never did they really put me down.

Plus, I always had big directors like Yash Chopra, J P Dutta, Rajkumar Santoshi, Rajiv Rai, Shekhar Kapur and Ramesh Sippy signing me up. I have worked with all of them. So I never really felt the crunch; I was still doing great films.

At one point, you concentrated on being glamorous. Now you are doing hardcore performance-oriented roles... How did this change come about?

I have done performance-based roles earlier, films which revolved around me. Kshatriya was one such solid role. And, at that time, people had written good things about it. The glamourous aspect of my career began with Shaher ki ladki, which is how I sort of restarted my career.

Earlier, I had left at a time when I was doing power-packed roles. With my second coming, I had to start with we-have-been-through-this-again kind of roles. It was like making up for last time. Yeah, I am trying to strike a balance everywhere by doing all sorts of roles.

Gair was an unexpected film.

Gair, which was originally titled Shaktishaali, was started long ago. Unfortunately, it got delayed. The film is like seven-eight years old; it was started in '92-'93.

Raveena Tandon Why are you not doing Ghaat opposite Manoj Bajpai anymore?

I cannot give them any dates. They are nearing completion and I did not want to delay them. Since they are friends of mine, they understood my position when I explained my problem to them.

New girls are entering the industry practically every week. How do you view competition?

There is place for everybody. It is a cycle. There was a time when Hemaji and Dimple were happening, then Sridevi, Madhuri and Juhi ruled the roost. After them came our batch -- Manisha, Karisma, Tabu, Kajol, Urmila, Pooja and me. Today, Rani, Priety and their contemporaries are making news. In fact, Kareena and Amisha have already started creating a buzz, so there is work for everyone. We are all one big happy family (smiles).

What are your forthcoming releases?

Ek Hindustani, Officer, Bulandi, Jung. Shooting is progressing on Yeh Hai Jalwa, Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare, Kahi Pyaar Na Ho Jaaye, Kundan Shah's film, Rakesh Mehra's film. Daman will begin soon. Honge Do Char Aur... I can't remember (grins).

What do awards mean to you?

Well, it is kind of nice for when people appreciate what you have done, but I would not base my career on awards. Because they are mostly popular awards and not talent-oriented awards. I wish we would start academic awards instead of popular awards in India.

Do you take active interest in social work?

Yeah, I do.

I've heard that you have adopted two girls. Is it true?

I do not like to talk about it.

One final question. Why did you cut your long hair?

Just like that! I was getting bored, needed a change (laughs).

More info on Raveena
Click here for a list of the films Raveena has done
Click here for a complete list of the films Raveena has on hand at the moment
Click here to find out which of Raveena's films were shelved

Do tell us what you think of this inteview