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Here's to Raveena

Subhash K Jha

Raveena Tandon October 26 was dear friend Raveenaís birthday. We quarrel all the time. She slams the phone down on me, as I do on her. We even exchange heated words specially when I shower the cyanide of sarcasm on her parade.

Itís nine in the morning. Raveena has just landed in Goa when I catch her on her phone. "I hardly slept after the party last night. Now here I am back to work when I would much rather be back home with my family," she sighs.

Ah, stardom! The price one has to pay to be the toast of Goa on your birthday.

With her looks Raveena could trigger off a toast anywhere she went. She sighs, "Everyone tells me Iím looking like a million bucks these days. But whereís the man in my life? Iím still single and raring to mingle."

A gossip magazine announced that Raveena was "seeing" an eligible NRI in Los Angeles. She was even planning to get a green card and migrate, they said. "How I wish that was true," Raveena sighed. "But Iíll have to be introduced to this hot NRI before I marry him. I donít know where these people get their information from. First, I was linked with Gattu (Jeetendra's nephew), then a media baron, now this NRI guy. The magazines are more eager to marry me off than my parents."

On the career front, things couldnít be better for Raveena. She has just signed a film with Madhur Bhandarkar (Chandni Bar) which commences in January. Another birthday gift is a film with the enfant terrible of the filmmaking world Aditya Bhattacharya, Basu Bhattacharyaís son who made Aamir Khanís first film as a leading man called Raakh.

Raveena seems to be at the peak of her career right now. Every director, from Harmesh Malhotra to Sangeeth Sivan knows sheís got the looks and the talent. Post Aks, I recall Rakesh Mehra saying , "With Raveena it was almost like telepathy. I didnít even have to tell her about what I had in mind and she would know exactly what I wanted."

Raveena in Daman Thatís exactly how Kalpana Lajmi felt about Raveena while doing Daman with Raveena. Kalpana had gone so far as to say Raveena had gone beyond Shabana Azmi in Lajmiís Ek Pal and Dimple Kapadia in Rudaali. Looking back, I'd say that, that was just another director getting carried away.

Thereís no doubt Raveena today is one of the most watchable star-actresses in Hindi cinema, as comfortable with Govinda in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan as sheís with Shayaji Shinde in Daman.

I first met Ravs during the making of Shool. Manoj Bajpai would rave about her performance, and I often wondered if she deserved any of the praise. But Raveena surprised me. The death sequence in Shool which has her looking at her husband with adoring eyes before she passes away, unnerves me everytime. That sequence made Shool priceless, just like Raveenaís classy dance item in Aks.

Any other could easily have made the striptease lowbrow. Not Raveena. She brought class to the act, she made the act of discarding of clothes look like a fashion statement.

Raveenaís dance numbers in Aks didnít have the raw spontaneous authenticity of the bar room dances in Chandni Bar. But given a chance, sheís adept at both the hyper-glamorous and neo-realistic acts.

But thereís an emptiness in her heart which is killingly ubiquitous. Raveena has been singularly unlucky in love, so far.

In an unguarded moment she told me, "Sometimes I wake up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror and wonder why I don't have anyone in my life? Then again, thereís so much happening... I'm so busy that sometimes I lose track of what Iím doing."

Recently she had to undertake a multiple-city tour for a beauty soap campaign. One day she was in Nagpur, the next day in Pune. Then the day after she had flown out to Indore. No sooner had she finished with the campaign than she was in Bangalore shooting for a Kannada film.

Raveena in Aks "Sometimes it seems Iím only running from city to city without getting anywhere," Raveena sighs as she looks down from her window at the lights down below which resemble little flickers of hope from the distance. Her face glows in the semi-darkness as the television begins to blare her Yeh raat song from Aks.

"So many people have told me they love me in that song. In fact when I was recently touring with Sunil Shettyís PopCorn Entertainment, the audience would go wild every time I did this number. I was even told I should get myself an agent abroad to do international films after Aks. Do you think they mean it?"

Taking all the compliments about her looks and talent in her stride, Raveena walks alone through the most crucial phase of her career. It actually started with Shool when I first got to know her. So in a way I have watched her grow as an actress. Iíve also seen her smile and sob, enjoy her stardom and curse it.

I knw for a fact, that there asre no NRIs hovering around to sweep her off her feet. I know what Raveena wants in her life partner. And it isnít a chance to be a globetrotting czarina. As a single woman she has seen it all. Now she just wants to be a wife, a mother and a complete woman.

She tried to give all of herself in a relationship once. She failed. But she hasnít given up on love.

Lonely at the top? Yes, but nobody can guess from the bottom. When all those admiring people look up at the star named Raveena Tandon they only see this desirable diva redefining the rule of the drool. But underneath thereís the stillness. And hope.

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