Raveena Tandon has been known to be quite adept at reinventing herself throughout her 30-year-long career. Ever since she made her debut in G. P. Sippy’s 'Patthar Ke Phool' way back in 1991, she has been surprising her admirers and critics by doing U-turns at regular intervals.
At the height of her career when she was still going great guns in the mainstream commercial cinema with her image of an ultra-glamorous actress in the late 1990s, she signed 'Shool' (1999) to do a simple Bihari housewife and went on to win the National Award for Best Actress in 'Daman' (2001) where she played the victim of domestic violence and marital rape.
Now, as the 47-year-old actress makes a foray into a new zone with her debut in a web series, 'Aranyak' on Netflix, Raveena thinks that today’s actresses, howsoever great, are wary of coming out of their comfort zones. She wonders if any one of them would make the kind of career choices that she did in her heyday.
“I see so many actresses who are considered really great today but they are doing films only within their comfort zones,” Raveena tells Outlook in an exclusive interview. “They play themselves mostly in every film and I don’t how if a majority of them would ever do the kind of roles that I did.”
She says that she wanted to get out of her comfort zone after being labelled as the ‘Mast-mast girl’ of the industry. “There was a point when as an actor you have been doing the same kind of films and similar kinds of roles and suddenly you start thinking when will I really grow up? When will I evolve as an actor? Is this what I am limited to? When can I start pushing my boundaries?” she says. “Those questions were constantly on my mind when I made a conscious effort to try out and do different roles and the audiences accepted me.”
Raveena says that she has done all kinds of roles, from doing 'Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare' (2002) to portraying a middle-class Bihari housewife in 'Shool', from singing 'Kammo Kidhar' in 'Ziddi' (1997) to portraying a hardcore politician in 'Satta' (2003), from doing a glamorous negative role in 'Aks' (2001) to playing a victim of domestic violence and marital of rape in 'Daman'. “I used to like to pick up different characters,” she says.
Now, she is excited about her role in 'Aranyak' and explains why she chose it as her maiden venture into the OTT space. “I was offered a lot of web shows before 'Aranyak' came my way but if you see the kind of scripts that I have been picking up over the years, there is always a strong, subtle and mature message in every character that I have done so far,” she says.
In 'Aranyak', Raveena plays a policewoman called Kasturi Dogra, a character, which she says is very close to her heart. “It touched me when I was hearing the script. It was a big tick in the box on the list that I have made for myself. It was something that I had been waiting for. The character relates to all the women who have dreams to achieve the best in their careers while facing various constraints and restraints in their personal and professional lives,” she says.
Raveena admits that she might be one of those few lucky ones who come from a family that has backed her decisions and has always been there to support her emotionally to help her achieve and excel in her chosen career path. “But there are so many Kasturi Dogras out there in real life who are not lucky enough to have that kind of backing,” she says.
Raveena says that despite coming from a different background, she could easily identify with Kasturi Dogra’s ambition, drive and zeal to work hard and to achieve and excel in her career. “Believe me, when I heard the script, I felt and fell for Kasturi Dogra completely,” she says. “There are so many real Kasturi Dogras who need their families' support to be the winds beneath their wings to succeed.”
From playing a cop’s wife in 'Shool' to portraying a cop herself now, Raveena says that cinema, especially after the advent of OTT platforms, has ushered in a lot of positive changes as far as women’s characters are concerned. “It has brought global cinema to our homes and also broadened the horizons of viewers who are willing to see experimental stuff,” she says. “A lot of perceptions have also changed and more and more successful women-driven shows are being shown on platforms like Netflix. It is not always the male bravado that you are seeing on the screen. Today, you are seeing different shows of the storytellers who want to say things differently, not the run-of-the-mill formula stuff.”
Incidentally, Raveena has collaborated with the third generation of Sippys of 'Sholay' (1975) fame. After starting off with G P Sippy’s 'Pathar Ke Phool', she did 'Zamana Deewana' (1995) with his director-son Ramesh Sippy. Now, she is doing 'Arayank' with Ramesh’s son, producer Rohan Sippy. When reminded about it, she laughs saying it makes her feel very old. “Life has turned a full circle but honestly, I think it has been great learning from such a great production house and also the fact that even Siddharth Roy Kapur (co-producer) joined hands for 'Aranyak',” she says. “It was like working in a family atmosphere with all the co-actors during the pandemic-hit times.”
On being told that 'Aranyak' is being called the debut of Raveena 2.O, she says that OTT is a different platform from cinema. “Thankfully, the word comeback is not used. I think life has turned a full circle,” she says. “I made my debut with 'Patthar Ke Phool' in 1991 and now of course in 2021, 'Aranyak' is my debut on the OTT platform.”
Raveena, however, says that she is open to more offers in the future. “Everyone knows my track record that I take my time to choose movies. I was offered a lot of shows before 'Aranyak' but somehow they did not make that impression on me. Kasturi Dogra’s character had something that I really wanted to play,” she says. “If something comes my way which again touches my heart I will most definitely not say no.”