|What’s even more interesting is that this film has been a winner at various film festivals even before its release. Raveena has already won the Best Actress Award at the Houston Film Festival as well as a special award at the 7 Island International Film Festival recently. Now if that isn’t any indication of her returning to the game, then what is? Ask her how it feels to be showered with awards for her comeback film and she smiles, “I feel on top of the world. When you do a film after a long time and you are appreciated, it feels superb. More than anything else, I wanted to challenge myself as an actor with this film. So when that was accepted, it felt wonderful.”
Now that she’s making a splash with her comeback film, can we proudly say that the Mast Mast girl is finally back for good? “I don’t think I ever left Bollywood to admit that I have returned. Of course, I did a full-fledged film after a long time. I hope the ‘Mast Mast’ label remains with me because over time, I have learnt to completely love that tag,” she states breaking into a laugh.
Shobhana’s 7 Nights sees Raveena essaying the role of a 38-year-old socialite-cum-writer who falls in love with a struggling actor in Bollywood. Ask her if it was an emotionally draining role for her and she nods in agreement, “Yes, to play an accused woman was tough. There are a lot of conflicts within this woman. But it was amazing to play this character too. I just fell in love with the script and this was something I’d never done before. I was inspired by Rekha because I was playing a person who is old but at the same time so beautiful and talented.”
Talking about Rekha, not too long ago, this mother of two was also offered a chocolate commercial alongside the diva. However, she turned it down. The commercial has been directed by Imtiaz Ali whom Raveena has been yearning to work with for a long time. Unfortunately, she had to opt out of it as she wasn’t too happy with the script. “I have done about 40 endorsements so far. It was a dumb script. I’m dying to work with Imtiaz. But he said that his hands were tied because there was a certain way the agency wanted things to be. The script didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t think it would click with the youngsters. I just feel that I missed an opportunity to work with the amazing Rekha and of course, Imtiaz,” she says.
Coming back to her role in Shobhana’s 7 Nights, married actresses generally shy away from playing bold characters and prefer to return with something safe and commercial. But Raveena doesn’t seem to play by that rule. She explains, “Agreed that this topic is very bold. But it’s not a film I’m embarrassed of. I have never and will never do anything that I will be embarrassed about. As for choosing a non-commercial film, like I said, I just fell in love with the script. I think director Sudipto Chattopadhyay is very talented, and I have seen his earlier film Pankh, which got him, accolades from various international film festivals. Even this subject is hard-hitting. It was very compelling for me to do this film. I’ve done the regular commercial roles so many times. So this was a great opportunity for me. When you have challenge, you get more intrigued.”
Making a comeback is no easy task. It must be rather tough for an actress to reconnect with the audiences after a sabbatical, right? “You know, that’s what we feel. Let me tell you that I have been constantly making appearances. I’m on Twitter. When people send me comments, I realise that they haven’t forgotten me. Honestly, good work is never forgotten,” she proves her point.
Though Shobhana’s 7 Nights will be her full-fledged comeback on the big screen, the actress had made a guest appearance in Bbuddah... Hoga Terra Baap last year, which didn’t exactly fetch her a remarkable response. Wasn’t that disappointing? “When the makers came to me with the film, I turned it down because I didn’t want to do a loud comedy. Then Ramu (Ram Gopal Varma) and David Dhawan, who are friends in the industry suggested that I should try it out. Even Amitji (Amitabh Bachchan) said that I should do it. I didn’t want it to look disrespectful. So I just went ahead with the film. When they shot this song Main Chandigarh Di star, they told me it was just a promo song and that it wasn’t going to be there in the film because I was just doing a guest appearance. Then I went for the press conference of the film and my whole introduction was that the item girl is back. It made people believe that the song was there in the film. That was the backlash I got because everyone who watched the movie didn’t see the song. So in that sense, I was disappointed,” she states dejectedly.
However, the actress is quick to add that she doesn’t regret doing the film because she certainly benefitted from it. She says, “The critics panned my performance saying that I was over-the-top but those idiots who are pseudo intellectuals don’t understand that my character in the film was supposed to be over-the-top. I don’t regret anything in life. The film was a hit and it worked in many ways because people saw me after a long time.”
Incidentally, a while ago, the actress turned down an exciting film like Gulab Gang. Along with Madhuri Dixit, the film was to star Raveena in an integral role. But she opted out of the film and the role eventually went to Juhi Chawla. Ask her what went wrong and pat comes the reply, “Gulab Gang originally started with me. I introduced Soumik Sen (the director) to Madhuri. He narrated the script to me three years ago. But later, it became a complete mishmash. So I decided against doing the film.”
But is she disappointed that she couldn’t be a part of an interesting film? “If the script loses its originality, then the fun goes away. I wish Soumik had the guts to make what he had originally conceived. But he is someone who really needs a break at this moment. He’s my friend and I want him to be successful. I believe in him and his kind of filmmaking. The only problem is that he was under a lot of pressure to change things. That’s okay, I guess. If you ask me, I don’t regret opting out,” she says categorically.
She may be over the moon about her comeback with Shobhana’s 7 Nights but reports suggest that Raveena’s hubby Anil Thadani is not too pleased with her return to films. Is that true? She states emphatically, “Not at all. In fact, I couldn’t have asked for more. Initially, the plan was that I’m going to be busy with the kids. Now, Anil and I both see that the kids are growing up. So he is fine with me doing a bit. I’ve always believed that it’s important for every woman to stand on her own feet because it gives you that sense of self respect. You can’t just be idling away your time going for kitty parties and shopping for diamonds,” taking a breather she adds, “I can never be that wife who just sits at home, keeps beautifying herself and talks only about holidays and handbags. I have worked from the age of 15. I never asked my dad for money. I’m also the kind who will very rarely ask my husband for money! Anil really respects that in me.”
Films and family, Raveena is currently balancing both incredibly well. But sometime ago, the actress had suddenly decided to become a homemaker and devote all her time to her kids Rasha and Ranbirvardhan. Naturally, her decision had upset many of her fans. Wasn’t she afraid to take this long break? “Not at all! I love being a mum. Every moment with them is beautiful. They just come up with such adorable things all the time. I love being a parent to them. There’s no other job in the world I would want,” she says with a glint in her eyes.
There’s no denying that Raveena was one of the most popular actresses in her days. So does she often tell her kids how big a star she was? “No, my kids never knew that I was in the movies. One fine day my daughter came back from school and told me, ‘Mama, I know who you are’. So I asked her who am I? She said, ‘You’re an actor’. She was learning about actors and the teachers happened to tell her that her mum is an actress. And that’s how it came to them. But even now, they haven’t seen any movie of mine. I’d love to have them watch my films but there’s a correct age for everything. They’re still pretty young.”
Years later, if Ranbir and Rasha wish to become movie stars, would she support them in their decision? “It’s not that I don’t want them to get into acting. It depends on their interest. My son is more interested in being Chhota Bheem. He is obsessed with that cartoon. My daughter is still in the world of princesses and fairytales. But if they want to take up acting when they grow up, it’s going to be entirely their decision,” she maintains.
Raveena has always been rather forthright about her personal life. Today, she is a happily married woman. Akshay Kumar is also happily married with two kids. Have they both spoken since their much publicised split? “Yes, we have. I can’t say we’re friends but we’re social acquaintances. We had a broken engagement. But what’s the big deal? Everyone has a past. My husband was divorced when I met him. One day I was surfing the net and I read this strange article, which said that I had broken my husband’s home. The whole world knows that I met him after he got divorced. There’s no big deal about having a past. I don’t know why people make a hoo-ha about all this. Whenever I bump into Akshay, we’re cordial. There’s no awkwardness between us anymore. Let’s all grow up. It’s not necessary that you will get married to the first guy you meet!”
Moving on, now that she’s back in Bollywood, how much has the industry changed since the ’90s? She exclaims, “Oh, a lot! Earlier we used to chat and bond during shoots but now everyone is busy with themselves. People are too self-absorbed and disconnected. When we went on outdoor shoots, the entire unit would become one big happy family. We would play antakshari, talk about our lives and spend time together. That does not happen anymore. Even the concept of vanity vans came in late. I’ve changed and dressed up in generator vans! But of course, the good thing is that now, it has become far more professional and there’s plenty of work for everyone.”
Admitting that she is in no hurry to sign one film after another, Raveena states that she is looking at doing quality work from now on. She concludes, “I do things at my own pace. As for what I’m doing next, only if something really exciting comes along, I will do it.”