The 90s was a crazy time for the Hindi film industry. It’s when an actor could shoot for six films on the same day, say pretty much the same dialogue in all, and get her make up changed while being fast asleep. We get Raveena Tandon, who’s been a part of some of the most defining pop culture moments of the 90s, to recount memorable tales of the era.
Before the release of her revenge drama Maatr, she takes us back to filming the iconic Tip Tip Barsa Paani with a fever and nearly turning down Patthar Ke Phool with Salman Khan.
A Reluctant Star At 16
I initially turned down Patthar Ke Phool opposite Salman Khan but later my friends convinced me because they wanted to come on the sets. I didn’t think I was ready for movies. I had said no to a lot of films. Heer Raanjha and Fateh opposite Sanjay Dutt. A film titled Lucky that was to launch Lucky Ali, one more film called Paap Ki Duniya.
I started my career when I was around 16-years old. I was just out of 10th grade. My dad wanted me to graduate so I kept turning down film offers. I had to discontinue my course in the second year. My professors asked me to do a correspondence course because it was becoming difficult to allow me to attend exams!
After Maatr, I plan to complete my graduation. I have been talking to my professor from Mithibai college and they will help me to do a correspondence course.
Playing The Eternal Rich Spoilt Brat
I look back at most of my work and ask myself what the hell I was thinking! At that time we used to do nearly 30 films at a time. In fact I have done six films for six different producers in one day. How difficult is it to play the rich spoilt brat in love with a poor guy in every single film! I only had to change my clothes and shoes. I was saying dialogues like ‘Nahin papa nahin! Goli isse mat mariye mujhe mariye.’
At one point, the schedules of three of my film shoots were clashing. So I told all three producers that I will be in a particular studio and they could all come there to shoot with me. I used to shoot for Ghaath from 7AM to 2PM, from 2PM to 7PM I shot for Akhiyon Se Goli Maare, and from 7PM to 5AM I shot for Aks.
People don’t believe we used to work like that. For seven to ten days at a stretch I was in the studio shooting songs in these shifts. My make up artist Cory Walia used to walk into my vanity van where I used to be sitting on a sofa with my head thrown back, asleep and he would change my makeup while I was sleeping!
Shooting In A Wet Sari Is No Fun
Many people don’t know that I was running a high fever during the shoot of ‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’. We were shooting on a construction site with nails and pebbles and in an attempt to look sexy I ended up bruising my knees badly.
I was having shots of adrak tea and honey with hot water to survive the cold. The water we use on the sets is chilled tanker water and it’s freezing cold. It wasn’t sexy at all.
Being A Sex Symbol Can Backfire
On social media I have people passing remarks like ‘you’re just an actress. What do you know? Go put on some makeup and do a song.’ But I tried to do a lot of things differently back in the day. I have refused a lot of films with double meaning jokes and vulgarity. I did not want to wear a swimming costume and be the focus of attention.
I remember there was a scene in Prem Qaidi where the hero unzips the heroine from behind. I rejected the film because I was very uncomfortable doing it. It went on to become Lolo’s (Karisma Kapoor) launch vehicle.
Even in Darr there was a scene where there was a swimming costume and some champagne involved which I turned down. I have always believed in sensuality and not sexuality. You can look romantic without having to be half naked.
It’s Embarrassing To Have A Huge Entourage
The way people travel nowadays is a bit ridiculous. Today an actor’s entourage includes a make-up guy, his assistant, a PR person with an assistant, a hair stylist with an assistant, a stylist with an assistant and then a personal manager. The list is neverending.
An actor has a 10-member team walking in with them and I’m thinking “Oh God, the poor producer!” I probably have that sense because my father was a producer and director all along. I know how traumatic it is when those five-star hotel bills come for one actor and ten additional rooms for their entourage.
Learning Comic Timing From Govinda
When I got scripts back in the day I used to look for those five scenes, which featured me. I mean there had to be a song somewhere, right? There were times when I would suddenly get a five page dialogue in the morning which I had to memorize for the day’s shoot.
I taught myself so much along the way. I learnt on the job which camera angles work for me, how I need to learn my lines. Chi Chi (Govinda) taught me comedy timing. I used to learn by just watching him. It’s been a good journey how much ever I may make fun of it.