Raveena Tandon
Raveena Tandon Image Credit: Rohan Pingle

“Salman Khan was standing in front of me and I was ordering pomfret for Ranbir [her son],” exclaims Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon.

We were talking about how working women had a lot on their plates on any given day and how everyone expected them to be consummate multitaskers. She was on the sets of Khan’s hit reality show ‘Bigg Boss’ promoting her career’s first web series ‘Aranyak’ when she got a call from her home about how her son was in the mood to eat tandoori fish and not fish prepared in Szechwan sauce. (We mothers see you, Raveena).

Raveena Tandon in her digital debut series Aranyak
Raveena Tandon in her digital debut series Aranyak Image Credit: Netflix

But once she had sorted that domestic crisis in a snap, she had her game face on as she spoke about playing a cop in her new project ‘Aranyak’ with Bollywood superstar Khan.

“But let me add, I am one of the luckier working woman out there. Some women don’t even have this privilege of asking someone else to prepare the fish. They work during the day, cook, clean, and teach their children — all on their own and they are expected to do it,” Tandon pointed out.

Her latest series is a seven-episode crime thriller set in a bleak hill-station in India, where she plays the central role of a harried police officer who is about to take a sabbatical from work to focus on her family. But just as she’s about to do it, an interesting case lands under jurisdiction. Her conflict and her frustration at how unfair life was to a working woman is an important link in this Netflix series, out on December 10. 

“Her conflicts feel real for women who face such dilemmas all the time ... A man often doesn’t have to balance both their work and their family ... She’s not some golden girl who is holding a masterclass on multitasking. She fails sometimes at the balancing act and we tap into such struggles,” said Tandon.

Directed by Vinay Vyakul, her digital debut is tipped as a thriller where a woman has to fight for her place in her male-dominated work space. The murder mystery also delves into the murky world of the supernatural.

“It’s a thrilling crime drama based on a fictional tale, but has some realistic characters,” said Tandon, who has survived in Bollywood for over three decades.

“It’s a great time to be an actor today and you need to tell me if my sheen has worn off though,” said Tandon.

Raveena Tandon
Raveena Tandon Image Credit: Rohan Pingle

Her take on …

Playing a cop role who handles life and sexism at the workplace:

“Absolutely. What you will see is a fictional story about very real people. You will see me as a female cop who doesn’t get the same opportunities as her male colleagues. She has to balance both her work and her family life. She needs to be there for her family when they need her. And finally, when she’s about to take a sabbatical from work, a complex crime case comes her way. But her conflicts are many. She’s a mother with the domestic responsibilities on her. What I love about my character is that she’s flawed, imperfect, and human. She has to be everywhere and yet she’s not this portrait of a great multitasker. She fails while multitasking and that makes her real. We women face that problem all the time.”

A still from Aranyak
A still from Aranyak Image Credit: Netflix

Being offered age-appropriate and strong women roles in films and series:

“Yes, there’s a change and I have been noticing this change in the past ten years now. Actresses like Deepika [Padukone] and Alia [Bhatt] have been doing strong roles in their second or third film itself. But it took us a long time to reach there. Whether Alia does a ‘Highway’ or Deepika does a ‘Bajirao Mastani’ so early on in their career and it didn’t take them a long time to reach there. It’s a great sign.”

Her series being different from series such as ‘Pataal Lok’ and other crime dramas:

“I love working in crime thrillers and I love it as a genre. It’s binge-worthy. And I promise you, it’s going to be fun … And there is no attempt to look glamorous or anything as a female cop. But the women cops that I met were all well turned out. Some wore bindi and their uniform and that’s how Indian cops are! They even wear gold jhumkas (decorative earrings) along with hair in plaits. I play a pahadi cop.”

TAB Pataal Lok-1600162065121
A still from Pataal Lok Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video

Web series vs Films:

“As an actor, when you read reviews from critics like you about a film who say that his or her role/character was very good, but it was not fleshed out, you feel it’s unfortunate. A movie can just be two and a half hours long or less and there’s a story to tell within that time. And you leave many things to the imagination, and that’s movie making for you. But when you are doing a web series, you can look at every story in its totality. We can flesh out each character well because we have time and pace on our side. With Netflix or any other platform, you have the advantage of watching a series or a film at your own pace. There’s no restraints like in a movie if a character is being stretched, you immediately snip it. As actor, we can build our characters well and that’s a great advantage. We have such great freedom and there’s more room to play with different elements.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Aranyak’ is out on Netflix on December 10.