August 6, 2002 
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'Chatak-matak roles are important!'
True confessions by Raveena Tandon

Jet lag seems to have been invented for her.

In Mumbai shooting round the clock one day for Madhur Bhandarkar's Satta, Raveena Tandon is off to Toronto to judge a beauty contest the next. "I don't know whether I'm coming or going," grumbles the actress.

She was last seen in the not-so-intelligent movie Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare with Govinda. Slowly growing into her own as an actress of mettle with a National Award for her performance in Kalpana Lajmi's Daman, and an acclaimed performance in Rakesh Mehra's Aks, Tandon still stuns with the occasional no-brainer, like the aforementioned Govinda-starrer.

There is a reason for that. As there is with most things Tandon does.

In-between shouting orders to her efficient staff, Raveena takes time off to speak to Subhash K Jha about the avalanche of roles in her kitty:

You have four films coming up for release…

Let's see. I have Manoj Agarwal's Wah…Tera Kya Kehna, with one of my favourite actors Govinda, two thrillers --- Sushen Bhatnagar's Soch and Sangeeth Sivan's Sandhya --- and Arjun Sajnani's costume drama Agnivarsha.

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They are scheduled to release August-September. But it doesn't really matter. They are very different from each another and I have contrasting roles in almost all of them.

The thing is, I am not the protagonist in any of them. None of these films rest on my shoulders. So it is fine if they release aage-peeche.

Why do you say you don't have pivotal roles in your forthcoming films?

Because I don't! I cannot be the central character in all my films. I cannot be Jhansi Ki Rani each time. One Satta per year is fine. But it is equally important for me to keep up with my commercial chatak-matak roles. I enjoy them.

Is it becoming hard to balance an Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare with a Satta?

Not at all. In fact I am concentrating so much on my serious films, I would be emotionally drained if I did not do Govinda comedies to get back to normalcy!

Agnivarsha is your first costume drama. Was it difficult?

Raveena Tandon in the thriller Soch No. We shot in Hampi, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. There is no place on earth as close to Nature and God. If we walked a little away from the unit, we were thrown into the arms of unspoilt Nature. There wasn't a soul to disturb us.

Once we got into our costumes, we were transported back to the era of the Mahabharata. I could just shut my eyes and hear the silence. I could imagine how yogis would meditate in a place like that and attain Moksha. I felt I could raise my hand and touch the sky.

The entire Agnivarsha team got so absorbed in the process of recapturing the era that we felt we were literally transported to those times.

How was the experience of working in a costume drama?

Agnivarsha is not a costume drama like Shashi Kapoor's Utsav or Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas. This one has no elaborate jewellery and clothes. It is sparse and stark.

I play a purohit's wife. It is about the five people who create havoc in her life.

What is Sandhya about?

I play a very interesting and unusual character --- one I have never played before. I got to work with cinematographer-turned-director Santosh Sivan's brother Sangeeth for the first time. The entire film is done in a dark, noire style.

Soch too is a thriller. But it is a very normal commercial thriller. It is not a dark film. In all my films I have tried a different look. If I don't try and bring variety in my appearances, I will get bored with films, so I can well imagine how bored the audience would get watching me.

Tell us about Madhur Bhandarkar’s Satta?

Raveena Tandon with the Filmfare Critics' Award for her performance in Aks That has been a major challenge. In Kalpana Lajmi’s Daman I played Raima Sen's mother, a woman much older than my age. I suppose it is easy for an actress to act maternal at any age, since all women have a nurturing instinct after 20, perhaps even earlier.

In Satta I had to play an older, cold, almost 'un-maternal' woman. I had to walk the thin line between black and white. While playing tough woman it is easy for the audience to take you to be a manipulative shrew. I had to dodge that problem in Satta.

I play a woman who is single-mindedly devoted to her political career and yet not a villain. I could have tripped any time. I think I have played this ambitious woman with dignity. Let's see how the character emerges.

Will Satta be the high point of your career?

I was completely nervous doing this film. There are so many expectations from director Madhur Bhandarkar because of Chandni Bar and from me after my performance in Aks.

But Satta [for which actress Tabu won her second National Award as Best Actress] isn't anything like Chandni Bar, which went into dark unseemly areas. Satta is a more upfront political thriller.

Chandni Bar had its dose of oomph and titillation with bar girls. Satta has no such concessions.

So there are no glamorous areas?

Not in any obvious way. No singing and dancing. We cannot have dancing girls in a political thriller. We have kept it as authentic as possible.

It has been a wrenching experience for me. For the first time I switched off all my phones and rehearsed every scene because I got my scenes in advance. This again was an unusual experience for me. I was able to concentrate completely on constructing my character. It was tough.

So you will probably have six releases this year?

Raveena Tandon in sizzling role in Aks Yes. But now I want to work on one film at a time. Satta was done at one go. The crowd of releases is not my doing. Sometimes some films take longer than expected. Then the releases pile up.

When do you relax?

I have been trying to be strict about not working on Sundays. I think it is very important to take a break. I go away with my family on weekends. After so many years of working I can afford that luxury.

You are also actively into film production.

Yes, Sunil Shetty, his business partner Prakash , my friend Preeti Sinha (filmmaker Vinay Sinha's daughter) and I have formed Reel Life Entertainment. We are going into producing films, stage events and software.

Our first production rolls August 15. The film will be directed by Shrabani Deodhar. It stars Vinod Khanna, Rati Agnihotri, Sonali Kulkarni, Diwakar Pundhir, Sudhanshu Pandey and me.


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