Every self-respecting ’90s kid was enraged on Raveena Tandon’s behalf when her iconic hit Tip Tip Barsa Paani was remade recently. But Tandon has a refreshing take on it. “The best time for Indian music was the ’70s and then the ’90s. In the late ’80s, with films such as Pyaar Jhukta Nahin, melody became king again. And then the ’90s had fantastic music all over again. Those songs are so hummable, you remember the lyrics for long. Even today, the music is amazing and it’s just been great hearing all these songs come back, getting a new life, and a new beat. And it’s a win-win situation for me, from then to now, because I end up owning them again.” Now that’s a mic drop if we ever heard one.
But it’s not surprising that, after 30 years in the industry, Tandon knows exactly what her legacy is, even if she thinks that’s too big a word to describe her tremendous body of work. She’s happy being complimented on her professionalism instead. “A producer’s actor is what I always used to be called. A ‘no-tantrum’ kind of star, lucky mascot, hardworking, sincere, always on time, punctual. I don’t leave behind a legacy of being an unreasonable, difficult actor to work with. That is what I’m most proud of – my professionalism and my hard work,” she tells us.
Let the record show, though, that, even after three decades, she’s breaking new ground and exploring new avenues. Last month, she made her OTT debut with the Netflix original Aranyak, a dark thriller in which she plays a cop who’s investigating a murder. We wanted to understand what made her choose something so twisted, but it turns out she’s always loved a whodunnit and, having idolised Kiran Bedi, has always wanted to play a cop on screen. But what further struck a chord with her was her character’s struggle to try to be everything to everyone, which she’s seen played out in real life far too often.
She explains, “There is this struggle of women being in a career where they have to give it their 100 per cent, plus they have to give their home and their families their 100 per cent, and then there is the kind of support that they don’t get. There are so many successful women who thank their families for being the wind beneath their wings. Me being me, if I were a very successful cop being awarded, I would’ve gone on stage and said, ‘I would start off by thanking myself for being so hardworking and sincere and trying to be everywhere, trying to be the good mother, the good daughter, the good daughter-in-law, the good wife and the good worker.’ And then I’d thank my family. But there are so many out there who don’t get that kind of support and still pursue their careers and stay involved with their families, and that was really close to my heart.”
Kasturi, her character in Aranyak, is complex and layered, but one look at Tandon’s illustrious filmography – with films such as Satta or Daman, or, more recently, Maatr – will tell you that she is no stranger to playing compelling roles on screen. Prepping for these characters, putting yourself in their shoes and making their struggles your own sometimes results in actors losing themselves in such roles, while others are easily able to shrug them off. But it’s not so black and white for Tandon.
“It’s been too many years, so I know when to shut off. But there are times when I can’t; it kind of carries, like when I did Maatr. It took me a long time to shrug that character off. I’ve been advocating for fast-track justice for women and I’ve been very vocal about violence against women and children for many years now, but there is still so much more to be done. I don’t think criminals really fear the law. Our law has so many loopholes that it just takes years for a case to be heard. In the interim, the poor victim is threatened and probably violated all over again, many times over. We’ve seen so many criminals out on bail and threatening the victim or the family, so the victim is victimised again and again. I did Maatr in 2017; from then to now, I don’t think anything’s changed.”
She pauses, then adds earnestly, “But we shall all continue to raise our voices and work towards change.” Tandon might be hesitant to label this her legacy, but we can’t find a better word to describe her passion.
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