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September 14, 2000


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The essential Raveena Tandon

No, she isn't in it for awards.

Nor is it a bid to change her image.

Raveena Tandon For if there is one thing Raveena Tandon is adamant about, it is that she isn't image-struck.

What she is, is excited. Very excited. That she has reached a stage in her career that gives her the freedom to learn. To experiment. To explore. To discover.

This bug called acting... it has bitten Raveena hard and good.

Sharmila Taliculam discovers it is a sting she likes. Very much. Excerpts:

Has the experimental bug bitten you, too?

I wouldn't call it a transition as much as a desire to explore new avenues.

I've done the glamour doll, song-and-dance routine, the works. I've reached a stage in my career where I'm ready to experiment. I'm already moving towards more meaningful cinema.

At the same time, I have the odd Ankhiyon se goli maare... As well as mainstream films, like Deewangee, there's a film with Kundan Shah, another with Chi Chi (Govinda), an Anil Bazmee film with Ajay Devgan, an untitled film with Akshay (Kumar) and Aftab (Shivdasani).

My aim is to strike a balance between the two. Anyway, I don't want to be glamorous all the time.

If you're looking at the whens and hows, it all started with Dus and Ghulam-e-Mustafa. Though I played a club dancer in the latter, with a song-and-dance routine, it was a deglamourised role.

Then came Dus. It was a good role -- no songs, no dances. I was a hardcore terrorist. I was shown wearing loose Afghani clothes. My hair was disheveled, I had tan makeup on. I had to do pushups for the film -- I had actually developed biceps at the end of it!

Simultaneously, I was also doing Dulhe Raja and Ziddi -- jhatak numbers et al!

So, I experiment. I play antihero. I play hero... I'm not image-struck.

Ghulam-e-Mustafa I'm hoping to reach a point when I can play all kinds of roles with equal ease.

In Daman, you are the central character. Tell us more about it.

Daman is not the only film with me as the central character. Imtihaan and Mohra revolved around me, too.

Now, I'm working on a bilingual film -- being made in Hindi and Tamil -- with Kamal Haasan. I play a TV reporter, who's being stalked by a serial killer. I'm not the main protagonist, nonetheless, I am the central character!

As for Daman, it defends women's causes. My character is shown changing from age 16 to 45 -- I'm even shown as the mother of a 16-year-old. In that sense, I have an important role to play in it.

Are you not apprehensive about being the mother of a 16-year-old?

If I were apprehensive about such things, I would have been stuck with an image by now.

Fortunately for me, I am not governed by image. I can't be the 18-year-old mother of an 18-year-old daughter, after all!

I never had any qualms about playing that role. It excited me. I chose to do it.

I am done with only song-and-dance roles.

The fact that I might have to break the commercial actress image if I do doesn't deter me. Actually, I'm waiting to be offered a nice, negative role. An out-and-out negative one. Only, it hasn't come my way... So I am waiting.

The only role that comes close is my role in Aks. It has negative shade to it, though it isn't a hardcore negative role.

What do you think is the difference between commercial and parallel cinema?

Commercial films are not realistic enough. You have dream songs, for example, which end up shot in Switzerland.

Whereas in a film like Daman, songs are more rooted in realism. You can't take the liberty of transporting yourself to a place of your choosing.

One difference is that realistic cinema doesn't enjoy a mass audience. Viewership is restricted to a limited few who are selective about the films they want to watch.

That's why art films are not commercially successful. But then again, you have a Maachis, which does so well at the box office that it is considered commercial.

What is the difference between working for a male director and a female one?

A director is a director is a director. Man or woman, it doesn't matter.

What matters is the treatment of the characters. If a male director is giving a female character a flip treatment, not giving much importance, you know it hasn't reached the director's heart. It holds true for a female director, too.

I know so many male directors who understand the female psyche and give it the sensitivity it requires... So it isn't fair to discriminate between the sexes that way.

You're cast opposite Sayaji Shinde, a very well-known theatre personality, in Daman. How has it been working with him? Sayaji Shinde

Well, I have acted with him in Shool.

In Daman, he is my husband -- though it's not a romantic role at all. The film itself isn't a romantic one. There's no hero, heroine or villain in the film. Just people, with strong characters.

While filming for Shool, Manoj (Bajpai) and I always observed Sayaji a lot.

My experience, then, was limited to commercial films. There I was, from a Kisi disco mein jaye. And there he was, a theatre veteran.

That's why, watching him helped a lot. I was so impressed -- he gave all of himself into acting. I loved working with him.

You once said in an interview that you did Shool with an eye on the Award…?

I never said that, ever, in any interview. I did Shool only because I was excited abut the role.. I wanted to explore other possibilities of acting. Nothing more.

I do remember saying that I was nominated for an award and that it is always an asset to be nominated for one.

I certainly didn't act in Shool to win an award.

Sure, awards matter -- I won't be hypocritical about it, and say that they don't...

How would you chart your progress as an actress from Pathar Ke Phool to Daman?

I still have to grow as an actress. My constant effort to grow.

Daman is just a start. Raveena Tandon

Fortunately, mine is a profession in which you can learn something new every day -- whether the other characters or even something new about yourself.

Six years ago, I wouldn't have imagined I would act in a film like Shool.

But here I am. I did it. And a pretty neat job, too, don't you think?

My promos of Dus worked, too. Every film I am doing today has a different role for me, thankfully.

Which directors are you looking at working with?

Actually, it's the script that matters. Luckily, all my current films have strong scripts.

Also, I'm working with good, dedicated directors. Today, it doesn't matter to me that my director is a first-timer -- as long as he believes in what he is doing.

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