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Nepotism can’t take you far, says Bollywood diva Raveena Tandon

‘Your father will make one movie, two movies, three movies... beyond that is your hard work, talent and public acceptance’
Raveena Tandon

Saionee Chakraborty   |   Published 20.07.21, 01:28 AM

Raveena Tandon doesn’t mince words and her candour makes for refreshing conversation. Be it on nepotism or the male domination in the industry. In Rendezvous with Raveena, organised by Young Leaders Forum (Indian Chamber of Commerce), the stunner joined in from Bandhavgarh National Park, where she was away on a vacation with her family. “What better destination than our own beautiful Indian jungles? It is very important for our kids to see what we have, the heritage we have in our country,” said the National Award-winning actress who is “passionate about wildlife”. In the course of the conversation, where Raveena shared how “the industry found her”, the Andaz Apna Apna actress also revealed how much she wanted to join the IPS and how she looks up to Kiran Bedi. She had cried a lot while watching her father Ravi Tandon’s film Zindagi, of which Baghban was a “remake”, and her story of how she landed up in an old-age home in Dahisar to visit a former schoolteacher, tugged at your heartstrings. Excerpts from the ‘mast, mast’ chat.

I am in this industry completely by default...


I passed out from Jamnabai Narsee School and went to Mithibai College where I did until my second-year BA. Being in this industry was unintentional though my dad was in the movies. I was this plump, shy, reserved kid who no one ever thought would become an actress. I used to be chosen for a lot of school annual functions because I was a good dancer, but never ever was acting on my mind. I always wanted to get into ad film-making and production. In between finishing the 10th and starting the 11th, I had a three-four-month break when I joined Genesis, the production company run by Prahlad Kakkar, as an intern. I ended up working for nearly a year for Genesis. My dad (Ravi Tandon) is a film-maker and he has made films like Khel Khel Mein, Majboor, Khud-Dar... renowned movies, but we never really grew up on the film sets. My brother (Rajiv Tandon) and I would only be able to visit the sets when we had our holidays.

Prahlad used to always say that ‘You are not meant to be behind the scene. You are meant to be on the camera’. And, I would look at myself and say, ‘Me, an actress? Never, never, never!’ Hence I never did any acting classes. But I kept getting offers. Shantanu Sheorey heard about me and said he wanted to do my portfolio. Those pictures went around and I got offered my first ad on camera, for Sunsilk shampoo. I just did it for fun, for pocket money.

I sat with my dad one day and asked him, what should I do since I was getting so many movie offers. I got a couple of movies offered opposite Sanjay Dutt and a love story by H.S. Rawail saab. In my first year of college, I got an offer from G.P. Sippy saab. It was opposite Salman Khan, in Patthar Ke Phool (1991). I did that film for the sheer pleasure of my friends because I remember sitting in the college canteen and telling them I had been offered a film opposite Salman Khan. There was screaming and shouting happening with my girlie gang. They were like: ‘Just do it for us! We’ll come for your shoot, meet Salman Khan and go!’ I was 16-and-a-half, 17.

Then there was no looking back. I am in this industry completely by default. My training and evolution happened in movies after I started working. I am still learning. When you see a movie like Shool, that was different for me completely. I really wanted to experiment and it worked out so beautifully. Then there was Aks which had some great music and performances, an explorative kind of film, in a different genre. There were such great performers like Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan). Manoj (Bajpayee) was just new but he is such a bomb of talent that he explodes in front of the camera. Then you have Dulhe Raja, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan... I have loved doing all of them.

There is a lot of great cinema that’s happening...

I think things have changed very positively and I love the way the industry is headed at the moment. Unfortunately, the pandemic has been a setback, like it has been for every industry, but we are all hoping that the theatres will bounce back. There is a lot of great cinema that’s happening and it is terrific to be in a time where there is so much exploration in different subjects and scripts...

We used to connect and know what is happening in everyone’s lives...

The only difference I see in the industry today is that people are much more into themselves rather than the kind of the bonding we had in the ’90s. We had those old Nokia handsets and not the extra smart phones. Now the minute everyone finishes shooting, they are into their vanity vans.... We had no vanity vans and we had those rickety, aluminium chairs that used to be pulled out for us and we used to connect and know what is happening in everyone’s lives.

What the heroes would say would be the last word...

It used to be quite a male-dominated industry. What the heroes would say would be the last word. If the heroes were unprofessional, it was all accepted. If the hero wanted to work with a particular heroine, she would be immediately signed and the minute he didn’t want to work with her, she would be out of the movie. I wish and hope that even now the industry becomes much more professional. I wish we all got into contracts. When the #MeToo campaign started in the industry, I thought things will change for the better and people have become a lot more careful.

If anyone has to accept me or love me, they have to love me for me, my family, my dogs, my girls...

There was never a backlash. In fact, a lot of people appreciated the move that I made. A lot of people, however, told my mom, how will she get married because she comes with extra baggage. Neither did my mom and dad nor I even care about what people said because I knew what I really wanted to do. The day I turned 21, I could become their legal guardian. Because in those days single moms couldn’t adopt, the thing that I could become was their legal guardian. And, I immediately took that step. My parents supported me wholeheartedly. If anyone has to accept me or love me, they have to love me for me, my family, my dogs, my girls....

I wanted my life’s experiences to be a lesson for them and never sugar-coated lives for them....

It wasn’t honestly really difficult (to balance work and motherhood). I was very young as well and my parents have been more parents to them (Chhaya and Pooja) than me in those days. My mom used to take care of their schooling. When they became teenagers and they would go out with their friends for parties, my dad used to stay awake all night, waiting for them. I was always their friend because I used to come back from shooting and the girls would have stories to tell me. I never hid anything... what was happening in my personal life. I wanted my life’s experiences to be a lesson for them and never sugar-coated lives for them. They are super achievers today and I am so proud of them. My younger one used to fly first for a couple of airlines and now she is settled in Goa and is running her own furniture business. My older one is in pharmaceuticals and she is in South Africa, married and settled there. We call her the head honcho, one of the top executives.... They chose their own careers and flourished and are my best friends. My older one is around 11 years younger than me and my younger one is around 13-14 years younger than me.

Compassion, kindness and responsibility...

My mom has always worked with children and I think that got instilled in me. My dad also used to help a lot of our industry workers.... I think it is very important that we teach our children compassion, kindness and responsibility. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in our world. I have raised my children to appreciate the wildlife and help the needy.

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