The mast mast Raveena Tandon has almost everything a woman could ask for -- a plush home, loving parents, successful career, awards, adulation.
Close on the heels of Karisma Kapoor, who made her television debut with Karishma - The Miracles Of Destiny earlier this week, Raveena will be seen in the period tele-serial Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam, based on Bimal Mitra's novel of the same title.
She is expected to play the role enacted earlier by Meena Kumari in the Guru Dutt classic which also had the same name. Buzz is that the classic will also be released as a film, at around the same time. It's presently being made by Pritish Nandy Communications with Aishwarya Rai as the female lead.
As for the serial, it will be shot in Kolkata to lend it an authentic ambiance, and will be aired on Sahara TV by March next year, according to Sahara entertainment and media chief Sushanto Roy.
According to sources, executive producer Pallavi Chatterjee, who has bought the telecast rights of the novel, has signed on Rituparno Ghosh as director and Joy Sengupta to play the Bhootnath character, while Ayub Khan will play the role of Chhoti Bahu's debauched husband.
An interview with this Chhoti Bahu Tandon is an experience in itself. She is a person you will remember for a long time -- smart, forthright, assertive and yet as friendly as your best friend.
Vickey Lalwani caught up with the 'ravishing Ravs 'on the sets of Mehul Kumar's forthcoming flick Jaago at Kamalistan Studios. Excerpts :
To say that I am surprised to see you having signed a TV serial would be an understatement. Hadn't you categorically stated once that you wouldn't do television?
I hadn't stated that I wouldn't do television ever. Today, television is not a small medium. It has increased by leaps and bounds.
Is that the only reason?
That's not the only reason. There's a lot more than that. Actually, a lot of channels were chasing me, more so for dailies. Surely, I had no time for dailies. But there was no way I could say no to this exceptional theme.
Besides, it is a classic novel, a weekly soap, friendly producers, a fantastic director (Rituparno Ghosh) and for Sahara. I am a part of the Sahara Parivar. You know, I was very keen to work with Ghosh -- he is a genius. Ever since the day I received the Best Actress award for Aks in Kolkata where he was a part of the jury, we were talking about doing a project together. Somehow, things had not materialised for so long.
But at last, they have. Soon, I might be signing even one of the three films which he intends starting shortly.
"Sahib Biwi... is not going to be an ordinary serial. It will be like Devdas on TV"
Could it be that the stars who have stepped into television are having very few films in hand, hence...
(interrupts) That's not the case with me at least. I have nine films on hand. But I don't know about others.
You said that you are a part of the Sahara Parivar. Please elaborate on that.
I share a great rapport with the company. I know Subroto Roy since I was eight years old. My parents inaugurated his first office in Lucknow. I have always seen him as my father's younger brother. Later, I even started tying him a rakhi. His sons call me didi. If he suddenly spots me in a party, he might even come over and pull my ears, almost as if I haven't grown up (laughs).
Considering you are like his family, will you be getting your market price for this serial?
Here, money is no criterion. It has not even been discussed.
Chatterjee has said that Raveena has that strong, sensuous yet vulnerable look, which is why she was our choice.
Your performance will be compared to Meena Kumari's?
I know. Comparisons are inevitable but unfair. Even if I do as well, there will be people who would complain. Once a classic is made, it is difficult to shake it off. This role is the mother of all challenges.
Is the whole novel being recreated?
I think so. The film was a concise version. They are going the whole hog.
What about the film you have made for Sahara?
Yes, I have made one. It's titled Pehchan. It will be a theatre release, to begin with. After one week, it will be telecast as a mini series on TV.
How are you going to juggle both films and television?
I have shelled out only seven days per month till March for this serial. That's the amount of time they have asked for. I would shuttle between Kolkata and Mumbai. Anyway, travelling has always been a part of my job.
"I just detest this thing called 'attitude'. Life is so uncertain. Why not be real?"
Do you know that television involves more hard work than films?
Of course I know. My brother's company is into serial-making. Heena is our product, it's completed more than five years -- I guess, it's the longest running serial in India. I am taking to television as a challenge. Let's see how it goes.
Will you be able to adjust to memorising lines which are written on the spot?
That will not happen in this case. This is not going to be an ordinary serial. It's going to be a magnum opus. It will be like Devdas on TV.
Ghosh, being the creative head, is not going to work in a wishy-washy manner. He has a big name and I am sure that I have not signed a frivolous thing.
How important is public relations in your line?
I guess it is important.
Many artistes use their PR skills to throw out their counterparts from projects. I have been a victim and I know. I got chucked out from at least seven films in my career. But haven't you heard the age old saying: 'As you sow, so shall you reap'?
I, for one, would never trample on anybody's share. Anyway, I know this politics will never stop. It happens everywhere. Why only in films or television, it happens in private and government offices as well (pauses).
My parents taught me kisika nivala cheen kar nahin khaana chahiye, kabhi hazam nahin hoga (Never deprive anyone else of his food to feed yourself).
Sometimes when I look at the opportunists, I question this teaching. But when I go closer, I question myself 'Are they really happy from within?'
How satisfied are you at this point in your career?
I am very satisfied. But I would love to take a short break. Sometimes when shooting schedules are hectic these days, I become depressed. I yearn to be sitting at home. At some point in your life, you need to sit back for a while and enjoy life.
No doubt you are successful, but is true or just a fallacy that most men feel intimidated by successful women?
I have never had a firsthand experience of this. This must be because I have failed to develop an attitude, as my kith and kin say.
Somehow I just detest this thing called 'attitude'. Who knows where I'll be tomorrow? Life is so uncertain. Tell me, where am I going to take this attitude? Why not be real? Anyway, it's too late for me to change.
Has life gone the way you wanted it to?
Not really. If it had, I would have been married and had several kids by now (laughs). Anyway, I am giving more than 100 per cent to what destiny chose for me.
You are not greedy at all...
How do you say that?
Greedy people don't give honest and candid interviews...
Hey! That's a b-i-g compliment. Thanks a ton!