Raveena Tandon is basking in the glory of her latest Netflix series, Aranyak. After receiving acclaim for her performance as a police officer in the thriller, the actress, on FC Front Row, talks about her learnings from the show, how the OTT revolution has paved the way for creating meatier opportunities for talented actors and the massive difference between the roles female actors used to receive back in the 90s vs. what they receive now.
Anupama Chopra: It's so thrilling to see you in Aranyak and Sushmita in Aarya 2. A few weeks ago, Lara (Dutta) had Hiccups and Hookups. I was just looking at this and thinking about how streaming tends to create opportunities for all these talented female actors. At times, I think Bollywood has become better, but it is still taking baby steps. You've spoken very generously about the Tip Tip remake, but for me, as a viewer, it was dispiriting. There is a certain leeway that men have and women don't. Do you think streaming take the risks it does because there is no box office involved or is it because there are more women in positions of power in OTT platforms?
Raveena Tandon (RT): There's no fear of proving to be a box office success on OTT platforms, which has been a liberating experience for filmmakers. Our audience is now also exposed to global cinema. There are shows coming from Iran, Korea, China, and they all are doing well. Earlier in the 90s, when we would want to watch a foreign film, we could only catch them on film festivals or by buying a DVD if someone recommended a good film. Now, everything is on your fingertips. Our audiences are exposed to different kinds of genres, ideas and experiments. I believe there is an audience for everything now. So, for our filmmakers today, there is a freedom to not be under any pressure or restraints like, "Everything else is fine, we just require an item song [to pull the audience]." That has helped our filmmakers approach scripts that they wouldn't have dared to go to in the past because of the pressure they would be under from distributors, exhibitors and producers in order to deliver a formula masala film for the box office. Hence, this exposure has really helped cinema grow.
AC: It's thrilling to watch you do Kasturi Dogra in Aranyak, who is handling many issues at work, in her marriage and with her children. What was your biggest learning as an actor on the show? What did you take away from it? What did it force you to think about?
RT: We all know that women try their best to multitask. They want to be the best mom, the best daughter in law, they want to please their in-laws, their husband, their children. They try to be everywhere and try to do everything that is expected out of them. Aranyak is a fictional story but about real people who are flawed. Kasturi is not a superhero. She tries to be there for her children, she tries to manage the kitchen, she tries to manage her home, but she kind of fails. The thing that stayed with me was the fact that we have been privileged to have our families back us up to pursue our dreams and achieve our careers. I took the time off when I wanted to and got back to work when I wanted to. But I realized that there are so many Kasturi Dogras out there who don't have that support and backing. All they hear are sarcastic comments when they go back home. They are unappreciated. They run back to their offices the next day and the boss is throwing another one at them telling them not to 'play the woman victim card' with them. It's a very thankless situation. The fact remains that so many of them sacrifice so much to still try and be everywhere. Even if they're getting an equal opportunity, they're not able to grab it because of their ties at home that are pulling them down instead of being the wind beneath their wings. That was a very big takeaway for me.
AC: You have shot for six different films in a day, and spoke about how difficult it is for you to keep playing a rich, spoilt brat in love with a poor guy again and again. Did you ever feel shortchanged as an actor or was it just the way it was and did you just go with the flow?
RT: My entire career was so unplanned and because I never grew up with dreams of becoming an actor. I had other plans in life. I never thought I'd be an actress, nor did I ever go for any acting or dancing classes. Patthar Ke Phool (her debut film in 1991) just happened, and that too because of my college friends. I was sitting in the canteen and bragging about getting offered a film with Salman Khan and they convinced me to say yes to it. They said, "Tu karle film, hum log shooting pe aayenge, phir uske baad tujhe karna hai toh karna, nahi karna hai toh chhod dena (Do the film so that we could come to the shooting. After that, you can take a call if you want to continue with it or leave it)." I did Patthar Ke Phool with that intention and just gave it a shot. After that, there was no looking back, I just signed films non-stop. I was 17 when I started, so those were the kind of roles [of a rich, spoilt brat] I would have received anyway because I was a Mumbai kid. The opportunities the new generation is getting are amazing. They get such great opportunities in their third or fourth film, whereas we would only get it after our 11th or 15th film, when we really had to prove ourselves. That too was an effort that we really had to make to convince the filmmakers that, 'Let me do this. I want to explore what I can do and push myself to see what boundaries I have, what are my limitations, what I can do and I cannot do.' And I just learnt – I learnt camera work, I learnt everything along the way, and I think experience is the best teacher.