She succeeded in making an impression on the film industry even though her debut film, Pathar Ke Phool (1991), sank at the box-office. Yet, it was a couple of years before Rajiv Rai's Mohra transformed Raveena Tandon into the glamorous Mast mast girl.
After years of doing regular masala films, Raveena turned a new avatar. With Ghulam-e-Mustafa (1997), she ignored the glamour and chose to showcase her acting talent.
Amid much controversy, Raveena landed the National Award for her role in Kalpana Lajmi's Daman (2001).
Now, with Stumped and Pehchaan, she dons the mantle of producer.
"The journey has been very tedious and quite a struggle. It was not easy but I value what I have today," Raveena says in an interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf.
What is Stumped all about?
In 1999, the World Cup and the Kargil war took place at the same time. The film is a comparison between our cricketers going into the cricket field and our soldiers going to war on the borders. During that time, our boys were dying on the battlefield but our country was more interested in what was happening on the cricket field. After the war, the country forgot about the families and widows whose husbands sacrificed their lives for our country. We made our cricketers into demi-gods. But what about the war heroes? Stumped is about that.
So is it a mix of patriotism and cricket?
Yes. We are showing how 'cricket crazy' India is. Everyone remembers the cricket players and the record-holders in 1999, but nobody remembers the jawans who laid down their lives. Nobody cares to know how their families are doing.
After Lagaan, Stumped is another film on cricket...
Lagaan was completely different. This is not an experiment; it belongs to a different genre altogether. We are not making a Shaheed Bhagat Singh or a Lagaan. But, yes, people will definitely think about this film after they see it. If there is enjoyment in life, there is also a reality called Death. If there is cricket, there is also war. The film shows one family mourning a jawan's death and another family celebrating India's victory in a cricket match.
Do you follow cricket regularly?
Do you see the cricketers playing on television?
I only see them in advertisements.
Did you ever go to a stadium to see a match?
No. I only went to a cricket ground when there was a charity match between film stars and cricketers. We had mixed teams. I was bowling to Sachin (Tendulkar), when I had never bowled in my life! Everybody was shouting foul because they felt I was chucking the ball. I was aiming for Sachin's head. He sat down and protested my bowling style. That was a lot of fun.
How did it feel to bowl to one of India's greatest batsman?
I did not think much about that because I was aiming for his head!
What made you do this film?
I thought of doing this film because India is a cricket-crazy nation. I have been to Kargil and I have seen the tragedy that both the Indians and the Pakistanis faced. Even the Pakistani who died was somebody's brother, somebody's son. Why are people's lives being taken for politics? I know what our soldiers went through. But when I returned to Mumbai, it was a different atmosphere altogether. People were only talking about cricket. So when Gaurav (Doshi, director of Stumped) came to me, I found the idea very novel.
Why have you named the film Stumped?
Stumped is a metaphor. It is a cricketing word and a metaphor like, 'You get stumped in life.' You get stumped in war and you get stumped in business. It's like a catch phrase.
Are you following World Cup 2003?
No, I am not following cricket. I have no idea what the Super Sixes are all about!
Is this film driven by you or do other actors play important roles as well?
The script is both the hero and heroine of this film. There is no protagonist. This film is about real people.
Are you satisfied with the way your career has shaped up?
I still have a lot to achieve. My last film Satta was critically acclaimed, so I have that satisfaction. I have reached a point in my career where I have to slow down, probably do three films in a year and live my life. It has been very tedious and quite a struggle. It was not easy but I value what I have today.
Would you still like to do item numbers at this stage of your career?
I have not done only item songs in films. I was lucky my songs were big hits. But I always had a role in the film. I did only two guest appearances -- Ghaath and Shaher ki ladki. It is not that I will do only realistic cinema now. I am also doing commercial films. For example, Aan is a commercial film. I am just trying to strike a balance. For an Aks, there is a Daman; for a Shool, there is a Ziddi.
Do you think there is a need for more women-oriented films?
Not really. There should be balance. Today, there are scripts which have good roles for women.
Which was the most satisfying role you played in life?
Satta. It was my most difficult role because the line between good and evil was very thin.
How do you feel when your film does not do well at box-office?
I feel bad when my film flops. We work so hard, yet the film does not do well. But that is part of life.