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Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

In a blue and white outfit, hair let open, looking just as stunning as she did in the 90s, RaveenaTandon settles down for a chat with us. She’s not just a power-pack performer, but a lady who displays power, strength and immense honesty even otherwise. Strongly opinionated, not to forget. Oh and at the same time, not many can even ‘matakmatakjaise Raveena Tandon’. Little wonder then, that we’ve not seen many actresses like her. With her latest film ‘Maatr’ hitting the theatres, she speaks about why the film is close to her heart and more…

“I think that as an actor, at this point of my life where I’m in my 40s, life has taught me a lot”

What is it that made you do ‘Maatr’? 
I’ve been getting so many films, but I didn’t get anything interesting or challenging as an actor or something that I believe in. When I heard the story of ‘Maatr’, I was crying in the narration itself. Because of the kind of society and atmosphere we live in today, I’m glad this kind of film came and woke up people to what is happening, because if we are seeing what is happening and not doing anything, then we’re equally responsible for our law makers not taking action. If we accept that we want to live in a world like this, then we should let it happen, but if we think this is wrong then as people and citizens we should come together and make a difference. I got offered many films, even something like a ‘Gulab Gang’ but somewhere I thought it was really commercial for my liking and I waited for something real. For me, ‘Maatr’ is a very real film.

Talking about real films, would you also like to do a biopic?
I feel a film should be made on Kalpana Chawla, it’s high time. She took our country to another level and what happened was tragic, I think that’s a film which needs to be made. You won’t believe but in our day-to-day life, we meet so many women who are heroes in their own right and they have such inspiring stories, but it doesn’t reach the screen. We have so many unknown films, so it’s high time many such stories come to life.

Would you also like to write a biography?
I have been approached to write a biography. But my problem is, I’m extremely honest. If I sit to write a biography, many people will run and want to hide. But if I write, it won’t be in the form of first person, but in the form of something to do with women-empowerment and rights.

You’ve always been at the forefront when it comes to women-empowerment or doing something for the society. You took quite a step of adopting two girls at a very young age…weren’t there any apprehensions at that point?
I had some aunties coming to me and saying, ‘how will you get married?’ and that was strange because it didn’t came into my mind at that time. My family supported me a lot. I’ve always worked for the girl child and I used to anyway work with various NGOs at that time. So these were two girls who were born in front of me and I thought they weren’t getting the kind of life they should, their parents were no more. They were my cousin’s children. If I’m working for so many NGOs otherwise, I could obviously work for what was happening in front of my own eyes. It was a no-brainer. I called my cousins and said, that I’m taking the girls home. Unfortunately, the person who was given the charge had a questionable reputation. So, my brother and me, we just got the girls home. Since then, we’ve been their guardians, my parents have been like grandparents to them and they’re my family. I think it’s very necessary for your family also to support you at that point of time. I was constantly shooting and my parents have brought them up like their very own grand-children. There’s no difference, my mom has been a strong factor in my life and she’s taught me compassion and to give. I was 21, they were 8 and 11 when I adopted them. They’re more like my friends now. I never thought of all these things, it was just an instinctive decision I took.

From being a part of totally commercial films and songs, to now doing films like ‘Maatr’…what do you have to say about the difference in the kind of cinema then and now?
When you’re young you’re obviously offered those kind of roles, rich spoilt kid who falls in love with a poor guy. Those were the films being made. Bas accha music honachahiye, item song honachahiye, film is made. But cinema has changed, and evolved over the years. Today, there’s work for everyone. Few days back, someone asked me a question that are married women getting work now?
Ten years back, the question would be relevant but today the world has changed so much. However, instead of progressing, and seeing that crime against women should statistically be on a low, annually it’s only increasing. But the overwhelming response that we’ve to ‘Maatr’ ever since its trailer was out, is wonderful. Like I keep saying, it’s a small film, we’ve got no big daddy promoting us, no big bosses promoting us or no item song or anything. I am also not breaking into an item song. It’s a simple film showing reality of what a family actually faces, after a certain incident happens. There’s no sugar coating. We actually spoke to so many families and women, and their tears haven’t dried.

With the kind of experience you’ve had, how much do you bring in to your roles now? And how much do you take back from films like these?
I think that as an actor, at this age of my life where I’m in my 40s, life has taught me a lot. I identify with a character that I’ve played where my daughter herself is 12 years old today. I have been with my two girls since they were 8 and 11. I fear for them, and the world we’re leaving behind for our future generation. So, we need to be the change ourselves. That needs to come across. As a woman, I find it very enriching. I feel, as women, we can experience varied emotions, thanks to our hormones, but we can experience a lot, whether it is giving birth to a child or bearing the pain, we have kaali, durga, within us and we can be what we want, that is the power within us. To reach in my 40s and experience that, there’s no better book written than life because you’ve experienced that. Nobody can teach you. We teach ourselves.

While you’re remembered for the likes of ‘AndazApnaApna’ or ‘Dulhe Raja’ or ‘Mohra’…there’s also ‘Aks’, ‘Daman’ or ‘Satta’. What lead to that sort of shift or variation?
When I reached by late 20s and I was still dancing on the streets in a short skirt and two pony tails, I thought that for how long will I do this? As you grow older, you evolve, you mature within yourself and there are so many things you find funny and don’t feel like doing. I had reached that point, and I wanted to challenge myself as an actor that can I do something beyond this or no? That’s when I started to reach out to different roles, whether it was ‘Ghulaam-e-Mustafa’, or ‘Shool’, ‘Aks’, and I wanted to push myself beyond limits.

And how do you feel about having that balance and successfully dabbling into both the types of cinema?
Yes, I’m one of the few lucky ones who juggled both. There are so many from the same age group who were either successful in commercial cinema or realistic cinema. That’s where I feel I’ve been slightly successful. That I’ve managed to balance realistic and commercial cinema and I’ve been accepted. I would like to thank all the fans and well-wishers who’ve helped me achieve that.

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