Raveena Tandon returns to Bollywood with Shobhana 7 Nights, her first major role in five years, in which she moves from hapless housewife to high-society cougar. A t2 chat with the mast mast girl. Yes, she’s still very mast mast!
Shobhana 7 Nights has started off well in the festival circuit…
Last night (Sunday) I was at the Gandhinagar Film Festival where Aparna Senji had her retrospective. It was screened as the closing film there and got a standing ovation. Everyone was very positive about it and appreciated the film. In mid-September, it goes to the Chicago Film Festival.
You were seen in Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap last year, but Shobhana 7 Nights is your real comeback. What made you choose this film to return with?
Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap was just a guest appearance that I had, in fact, rejected at first but did it only at Ramu’s (Ramgopal Varma) insistence. But even that was good because people saw me in a glamorous image after a long time. While signing Shobhana 7 Nights, I never really thought so much of a comeback-comeback, but I wanted to do a film which challenged me as an actor and excited me enough to say ‘yes’ to it. This is a film that has given me a very strong role… someone I have never portrayed before… a woman of substance. It’s basically the changing personalities of a woman… how circumstances and life in general can change her from a loving housewife to a hardcore, street-smart woman of the world.
The film also deals with how she finally realises her follies and tries to come back to what she was. It’s this journey of self-discovery and her interactions with the three men in her life. There’s Anupam Kher who plays her publisher, a senior man who is in love with her. Then there is Rohit Roy who is her abusive husband. And then there is this younger boy played by Amit Purohit who completely showers her with love. I met a lot of women after the screening, many of whom were actresses, and they told me how much they identified with my character.
Your director, Sudipto Chattopadhyay, has claimed that your character, and also the film, has many real-life parallels…
It is pretty rampant in Mumbai at least. There are these bored housewives who pick up these younger guys as escorts. It’s actually a flourishing business today. But this story is not actually about a hardcore toy boy… the younger guy in the film actually comes from a village to make it big in Hindi movies. But you know how Mumbai is… Mumbai can completely engulf you and you have to struggle to keep afloat. The poor guy actually has to pay his rent and also send money to his house and he has no means to do it. We see a lot of models and wannabe actors in Mumbai who end up being toy boys.
The film must have been an emotionally draining experience for you…
Yes it was, especially in the sequences with Rohit where we have a young daughter who is witness to the fact that we have a violent marriage. Those scenes were more emotionally challenging than anything else.
Did it ever play on your mind that your children can’t watch your comeback film, given its adult content?
My children don’t even watch the films I have done earlier, so I don’t think they would be keen to watch this! (Laughs). The only thing that my daughter (Rasha) asks me is: ‘Are you a good person in this film or a bad person?’ because for my daughter anyone who smokes is a bad person. So about this film I have told her: ‘I am a good person who becomes a little bad and then becomes a good person again’. That’s the only definition she needed from me because I don’t think she even wants to watch the film.
The domestic violence apart, what was the toughest thing about this film for you?
To convince people that I am a smoker. In real life, I am allergic to smoke. I did a film called Aan with Madhur Bhandarkar and in that I was required to smoke. I just couldn’t do that scene because my eyes would start watering. It took me many shots to get it right. For Shobhana 7 Nights, I had to observe a lot of smokers, especially the high-society ladies at parties to get the correct hang and the correct adaa (laughs).
Was it uncomfortable playing the part of a cougar?
I don’t think so because Amit is only about six or seven years younger than me. We hit it off really well and used to laugh through most of the scenes. We were very comfortable with each other.
Will we see more of you in films now?
A film a year and that too something that challenges me. See, I am not into that rat race where I am chasing the box office. If the film does well, it’s a bonus for me; if it doesn’t, I am not going to tear my hair over it. I don’t have that greed… I have been there, done that. For me, my performance to be appreciated in a film that I have liked personally and which has really challenged me is of utmost importance.... Films are just a part of my life now, it’s not my life anymore.