Your latest, Karmma Calling, sees you playing a calculating woman, Indrani Kothari, a former Bollywood actor-turned-vindictive socialite, a part that came back to you after you turned it down 10 years ago. What made you have a change of heart?
Ruchi Narain, the director, wanted 280 days from me for the schedule. I never say no to anything, but at the time, my son was young, and I was not keen on leaving him. I was a hands-on mother and was busy with my children’s admissions. This time, however, it was perfectly timed. Besides, I had never essayed such a character in either film or digital space. It is best described as a never-seen and never-done-before role, and was a challenge for me.
Indrani is a complex woman, who has several layers to her. You said she was difficult to decode. Were there any aspects of her you resonated with?
This woman believes the world is her stage, and she can do mean and awful things to people. That was something I would never be able to do, ever. But, then her actions make you ponder, whether she is right or wrong, and maintaining that balance can be difficult. It was important for me as an actor to perform her without judgment, and let the audience decide for themselves. There was, however, one aspect of her I identified with; that I can go to any lengths to protect my family. Anyone can come at me, but my family is off limits.
From being part of some of the biggest commercial blockbusters such as Mohra, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan to choosing parallel cinema like Daman and Satta, and now OTT, you have had an illustrious 33 years in cinema. Was it difficult to break perceptions and carve a new path?
I am a reluctant actor. I started at 16 and did my first film, Patthar Ke Phool, a year later. It was tough initially as I did not have any training or attended an acting school. These days actors are all so prepared. In my case, I learnt on the job. There was no one guiding me on choosing roles that would challenge my craft. I believed that if it is a big film with a big director, I should sign it. I was synonymous with playing the rich, spoilt brat, and all that changed in my films was the costume. It was only in the late 90s, after doing one comedy and masala entertainer after another, that I realised I had had enough; that I needed to do something different. That’s when Shool came to me, but the producer, Ram Gopal Verma, was hesitant. He had said, ‘Raveena, I cannot see you in this role, because all I can imagine you as is the Ankhiyon Se Goli Mare girl.’ But, I told him to give it a shot. After that, it became easier because then people saw me doing films like Daman, Satta and Ghulam-E-Musthafa. Then, there was no looking back, and I could experiment with the roles I wanted to do.
Your daughter Rasha Thadani is all set to make her debut this year opposite Ajay Devgn’s nephew Aahan. Any words of advice for her?
My life has led me through my mistakes. I have been honest and upfront about who I am. I think mine has been a path of destiny, and I wouldn’t want to change anything. So, with Rasha too, all I want her make mistakes and learn from them. It will be the hardest lesson to learn, but one that will shape her as a person. A lot of experience comes from that rather than from me preventing her from making those mistakes. I think it’s important to stumble and fall.
What are your thoughts on the kind of changes coming in the industry, when it comes to representation of women in cinema, on and off screen?
There is way more equality today, in pay and representation, with women contributing a lot more to cinema, on and off camera. But, I want to see a safer environment in all walks of life. Also, women should realise they have an innate strength to push against the odds. We should never undermine ourselves and our capabilities, and should enjoy our achievements for what they are.