COVID-19: Bollywood star Raveena Tandon turns warrior

Raveena Tandon
Raveena Tandon
Image Credit: Pavitr Saith

National Award-winning Indian actress Raveena Tandon, who is spearheading the campaign #JeetegaIndiaJeetengeHum (India will win, so will we), is urging all to treat health-care workers with respect. She felt disillusioned when she saw a video of a doctor’s “torn face” after being pelted with stones.

“How can we stoop to such low levels as human beings?” said Tandon over the phone to Gulf News.

“If we don’t raise our voices against such injustices, then we have failed as a state. It’s not OK to attack doctors or health-care professionals It’s not OK to hunt them down and throw stones at them … They are our foot soldiers at this moment. It’s a war-like situation in our country and they are fighting on our behalf,” she added.

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In Shool
Image Credit: Supplied

She’s leading by example by throwing her celebrity behind fundraisers. A few hours before this telephone interview, Tandon had just hosted a virtual concert to raise money and pay tribute to doctors, health-care workers, police officers and sanitation workers on the front lines.

“As celebrities, it’s our duty to talk about such injustices to our fans. Ultimately, it’s a fact that cricketers and stars like Salman Khan have huge fan bases and as celebrities, if we condemn such acts of violence, it will reach a lot of people,” said Tandon.

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Image Credit: Supplied

The actress, whose credits include socially-charged films like ‘Daman’ that explored the dark, relevant topic of domestic abuse and commercial blockbusters like her hit comedy ‘Dulhe Raja’ and ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’, claims that the coronavirus pandemic in India has been the biggest leveller in her lifetime.

Tandon, who is married to film distributor Anil Thadani, believes that the Hindi entertainment industry is going to take a long time to recoup the damages set off by the pandemic.

“Balancing the scales in our favour is going to take a lot of time. We aren’t functioning now and imagine the plight of daily wage film workers … While we are privileged, my heart goes out to those workers who don’t know how they are going to feed their families. We are going to face an economic recession on a very large scale.”

Tandon, who will be seen in the second instalment of the hit Kannada period epic ‘KGF’, believes that in many ways the coronavirus outbreak has made people aware of the life of excess they led.

Naseeruddin Shah and Raveena Tandon in Mohra (1994)-1588749487947

“The bubble had to burst somewhere. The planet was going overboard with all our splurging beyond our means. The kind of access to luxury, the vacations, the buying of gadgets and putting pressure on the planet hasn’t done us any favours. Now we are leading a frugal life. Imagine if we had done that years ago.”

Tandon’s career peaked in the 1990s and early 2000s, but she took a sabbatical after marrying in 2004 and has been working sporadically on projects that excite her.

“I have been getting a lot of offers for a long time. ‘Mentalhood’ [web series that stars Karisma Kapoor] was offered to me. But I wanted to take it slow and easy. Truth be told, I am partial to thrillers,” she said.

Here is Tandon’s take on …

The loss of two cultural icons Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan Khan last week:

Rishi Kapoor Irrfan Khan
Bollywood Rishi Irrfan
Image Credit: Supplied

“Last week, their deaths were literally the last straw that broke the [camel’s] back. The last nail in the coffin. These two losses [were] so sudden. It’s very tragic and the entire industry has come together, trying to get over that loss. We are just pulling along, trying to keep our spirit alive.”

Being choosy about scripts:

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With Salman Khan in ‘Pathar Ke Phool’
Image Credit: Supplied

“I love films or series that are slightly dark. I want them to hold your attention from scene one and I like films with grey characters in them. I don’t want to be a part of been-there-done-that movies. I have a family and if I am working, it should justify the time I am away from them. I don’t want to work in films or shows just for the sake of it. I love compartmentalising my life. I love my family time, my vacation with children during their vacation … Something strong and exciting is the only thing that is worth taking me away from my family.”

Experimenting with roles in her career:

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In Daman
Image Credit: Supplied

“There was a time when I was only getting offered to play rich brats who sing on mountain tops. But then I intentionally signed on films like ‘Shool’ and ‘Aks’ and they challenged me to get out of that comfort zone. ‘Daman’ won me my first national award. But it was ‘Aks’ that won me accolades and maximum awards.”

Turning down director Oliver Stone’s ‘Alexander’:

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Oliver Stone
Image Credit: Agencies

“I was not comfortable kissing on screen and if I didn’t have chemistry with anyone real…I don’t like anyone touching me. There was a strong lovemaking scene in ‘Alexander’. Oliver was willing to use a body double, but I knew that I would still be required to do some intimate scenes. I was not comfortable at that idea at all. I remember dragging Rakeysh [Om Prakash Mehra] to my meeting with Oliver. He couldn’t believe that I had turned down a Hollywood project over that. He asked me if I was mad. But if I am not comfortable doing such a scene in a Bollywood film, why would I do it in a Hollywood film?”

On drawing boundaries in life:

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In KGF 2
Image Credit: Supplied

“There’s a very thin line between sensuality and sexuality. There’s no rule that says that you can only look sensual if you show a lot of skin on the big screen … I believe in have certain limits in life. Ultimately, it’s all about what you are comfortable doing and what you are not comfortable doing.”

Her state of mind:

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With Govinda in Dulhe Raja
Image Credit: Supplied

“I have no regrets. I am so content that God has given me everything that I wanted in my life.”

Life after coronavirus outbreak:

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Image Credit: Supplied

“Lots of families are re-discovering themselves during the lockdown. And that’s a good thing. There are such beautiful stories of humanity triumphing over evil during these tough times. To see people donate for a good cause or distributing food to the needy is so touching. It gives you the strange feeling that we will overcome this crisis with our humane spirit intact.”

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