I don’t want to keep hopping from studio to studio, not experience life and then just die one day. I want to watch my kids grow up as normal stable people and not the kind who say ‘whenever we are home, mom was not around’.
Tell us about your role in the much-talked about Bombay Velvet and how did you sign up for it?
■I didn’t want to do any more guest appearances— the last one I did was for Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap and that too because Ramu (Ram Gopal Varma) asked me to do it, and then David called me and said, ‘Ravs do it,’ and then it became such an emotional pressure kind of thing that I agreed even though I didn’t know Puri (Jagannadh). However, Phantom Films is like a friend’s company so it was like a no-brainer.
Anurag (Kashyap) and Madhu Mantena are two rascals who I know since the time I shot for Shool. At that time they were newbies and Anurag was writing the dialogue for the film. He used to help me with the Bihari lingo for Shool and all three of us became very close friends. So these two rascals came to emotionally blackmail me . They told me ‘aap gaane sun lo aur phir decide kar lena.’ I was like, ‘gaane toh main sun loongi but I hope you guys pay me too. Obviously that was a joke, I won’t take anything from these two rascally rouges but I told them that I should be doing their next film (laughs). Meanwhile Anurag came with the songs when they were done and I just fell in love with the songs. The music of Bombay Velvet is very close to my heart because I love Jazz and no film in India has
explored that feel, say like a Chicago. I loved my songs in the film—they are fantabulous. People who have heard the songs say, “Ravs man, that’s too kickass.”
Did they acquiesce to your very legitimate demand of being featured in a central role in their forthcoming film? And if yes, which one?
■ Well, yes. They narrated two stories and I liked one of them which will be directed by Vikas(Bahl), but I don’t want to say much because it’s too premature right now.
There has been a lot of talk of the film being delayed but as an actor, was Bombay Velvet an exciting project?
■When I went to Sri Lanka and saw the set I was shocked. I had seen portions before but when I went and saw the actual club they were shooting in, the scale at which they picturised the songs was unbelievable. When you see Bombay Velvet, you won’tbelieve that you are seeing something that has been made in India. It’s something that transports you to another era so I am glad that I am a part of it. I hope I remain a part of it even after the editing (laughs). One doesn’t know of these things till the final cut and because the film has so much
in it whoever the editor is, will find it difficult to decide what to keep and what not.
Since Anushka’s role in the film is that of a jazz singer, do you play a professional rival?
■There’s no competing singer. It is just that the club, which is central to the story because it’s the place where everything happens, is initially known because of me. Then Anushka comes in, so there’s a little rivalry in the film is established. But like I said, it’s not part of the main story so I don’t now how much of it will be retained.
You have tried your hand at so many things— acting and production among others, so can we expect you take on the director’s mantle any
■I think one does want to expand, but honestly I have been working since the age of 16. I joined Prahlad Kakkar and worked with him for a year and a half which was my whole growing up experience. In the interim I did a few ads because he would push me in front of the camera and tell me ‘why are you going into direction or production? You should be in front of the camera.’
And I was like, ‘who will sign me’ because I was always this pig-tailed hatti-katti kind of kid. So I have been working since then, and the kind of work schedule back in the 90s was crazy. At one time I was working in 30 films! I was shooting for the songs of Aks, one for a film called Ghaath and another film with Chichi (Govinda) called Akhiyon Se Goli Maare. I used to shoot from 7 a.m to 2 p.m in the afternoon, in heavy ghaghra choli and all for this film— 2 p.m to 7p.m for Akhiyon Se Goli Maare and from then till five in the morning for Aks! That is the kind of work we used to do back then. After so many years of non-stop work I don’t have that hunger to get back . Been there,
done that including all the serious cinema and all that kind of thing. Production for me was not a great experience because I had all the wrong kind of people with me. I kind of got cheated very badly and that’s why I gave up on production for a while. I feel production and direction are a 24/7 job. It’s like having a baby. You have to be there for everything— the music, choreography, the fight sequences, the dialogues, screenplay, everything. So right now I am enjoying my life. I am doing Onir’s Shab, attending events, doing endorsements and yet I have enough time to be with my kids. I want to do everything normally. I don’t want to keep hopping from studio to studio, not experience life and then just die one day. I want to see my kids happy, watch them grow up as normal, stable people and not the kind who say ‘whenever we were home, mom was not around’. My mom was always at home for us and somewhere I feel it’s very important for parents to give their kids that kind of upbringing to keep them grounded and strong for them to be able to face any situation in life.
Being an industry kid, would you say that people who grow up within the industry are better equipped to handle the pitfalls that come with a showbiz career?
■ Sometimes when I see girls committing suicide for relationships gone wrong, or because they can’t take the pressure, I wonder why? I came from a film family so nobody made a pass at me so that way you are sort of protected, but in terms of the games people play, that happens with everyone, regardless of whose child you are. There were times that I signed a fim, was ready to shoot and then I found myself kicked out because the hero’s girlfriend was insecure and wanted to be in the film. It has happened so many times with me and not because the hero and I were having an affair, but just because we were a hit pair! ‘I won’t talk to you till you stop working with her’, that kind of a deal you know. And this happened even with heroes who I had known since we were kids.
My mom was a very non filmi person and my dad (Ravi Tandon) was not into planning my career. Many people would tell him that he
should have launched me, but in retrospect I was glad that he didn’t because all fathers love what their daughters do. When you are signed and taken seriously by other directors, then you realise that you are truly worth it.
It does help to get you that first breakthough?
■That could be true. Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) had first seen me when he was shooting outside our building once and dad and I were going somehwere. He came to meet my dad who knew Dutt sa’ab (Sunil Dutt) very well. Sanju told Rahul (Rawail) about me who came to ask my dad for permission to sign me. Dad was like, ‘Really? She’s only in class 10th.’ I said no to Jungle, Heer Ranjha, Phool Aur Kante
and 4-5 other films because I was not prepapred. And then it all started again when I was doing ads and that’s the time papa said, ‘ Looks like this is not going to escape you’. Around that time G.P. Sippy who had seen me in ads called my dad and approached him for a film with Salman Khan. I was shooting for an ad and Salman drove by with another friend, Bunty, and he said, ‘you have to do this film’. Then evetually I said yes to Patthar Ke Phool so I think it was destiny — the more I refused films, the more offers kept coming to me.
Do you feel that with time, the heroine’s shelf-life has expanded due to different kinds of cinema coming to the fore?
■ There are roles for everyone. It’s not possible for me to play a role that Priyanka (Chopra) is playing, else I will end up looking foolish. For guys the advantage is that even as they grow older they are no less desirable. This despite them being married with kids. In India the fact that another man’s wife is bhabhi and bhabhi maa samaan hoti hai mindset still prevails, so I don’t think men visualise happily married heroines with children as fantasy.
But the fact that I am playing a jazz singer in these gowns, belting it out and not playing a mother in Bombay Velvet suggests that we have overcome that thinking to a large extent. That Kajol did a Fanaa wherein she played a romantic lead with the rain song and everything and it worked, suggests that we are leaving that perception behind. That you see Kajol, Shilpa (Shetty Kundra) and Madhuri (Dixit Nene) around in films shows that perceptions are changing.