With her perennial pep

With her perennial pep

her latest outing

With her perennial pep

Three years into her career, she swept aside the early tag of a jinxed heroine with a success-streak in 1994 (Dilwale, Mohra, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Laadla, Aatish). Raveena Tandon’s filmography also boasts of the cult Andaz Apna Apna, the hits Ziddi and Dulhe Raja, and not less than three Amitabh Bachchan home productions (Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Aks, Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap), and some judicious forays into the South.

A series of social causes, a flirtation with television now in Sabse Bada Kalakar, and adoption of two girls — Raveena Tandon’s career is not just about films and her many hit songs like ‘Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast’ (Mohra) and ‘Ankhiyon Se Goli Mare’ (Dulhe Raja). She even had a fling with production in Stumped (2003), which had Salman Khan, the hero of her debut (Patthar Ke Phool) in a cameo. What’s more, her connection with films is timeless, with a 70s and 80s hit-making filmmaker father Ravi Tandon, extending now to her distributor husband Anil Thadani.

Raveena dismisses her last two trivial pursuits, Bbuddah… (2011) and Bombay Velvet (2015) as “favours done for friends.” That said, she says she enjoyed working on the former with Amitabh Bachchan again. “Anything for him,” she notes, simply.

However, Maatr, her new film, is a dark, gritty, “made from our heart”, and a very real film on social issues. “My director told me that I was the only choice, as I too was a mother of a 12-year-old girl, like my character,” she says. “I was crying when I read the script. I could identify with the pain of the mother, who is a middle-class teacher and whose daughter is raped. This is not a vendetta drama, and I certainly do not endorse taking the law into one’s hand, but when my character does that, it is because a middle-class person has no support when a calamity like this strikes her family. If the law and system cannot get her justice, there is no other way out.”

Raveena feels deeply about this social menace. “In 2015, there were 59,000-plus reported cases of rape — imagine how many more cases must be there in a year that do not come out because of the shaming and humiliation of the victim,” she says vehemently.

She wants to know when the day will come when India will change its archaic laws to make 15 or 16 as the age for reaching adulthood. “Haven’t we had a 12-year-old boy who became a father recently? If someone can become a father at 12, how can he turn adult at 18? Take the 17-year-old rapist of Nirbhaya — the boy has been given a sewing machine and a Rs 12,000 job! What kind of signals are we sending to, say, a village where this can be considered as an incentive for unemployed boys by the elders who have regressive mentalities?”

Raveena recalls meeting Nirbhaya’s mother who told her that all the social hype lasted just for four days after her daughter’s death. “What must a mother have felt seeing what happened to the girl to whom she gave birth? It makes your blood boil as a mother, if someone so much as touches your child.”

Decisively, she adds, “It is we who must be the change. We must inculcate right values in our sons — to respect women as sisters and mothers and more. After all, even a male child is born to a woman.”

As an actor from the 90s, what does she think of cinema today? “Oh, I love it! There are so many subjects being made today.” And what does her father feel? “Dad is completely excited. After watching Bahubali — The Beginning, he told my husband, who had released the film in Mumbai, ‘Now I can say that I am proud that you married my daughter.’”

Raveena also admires all the female actors of today. “But Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt will always be favourites,” she declares. “With Alia, what a leap there was from her first film Student Of The Year to her second, Highway. Our generation took 10 years to achieve that level. She is such a delight that I even watch all her ads.”

What does she think about her five heroes who are still superstars — Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn? Did she sense their long innings then? Laughs the actor, “I got along with all of them, including Govinda and Sanju (Sanjay Dutt). All I will say is that when there was talk about Andaz Apna Apna 2, I told Lolo (Karisma Kapoor, her co-star in that film) that in the sequel, both of us would be framed and garlanded photographs as Salman and Aamir would be cavorting with nubile 19-year-olds.”