“What more can a mom want?” Raveena Tandon asks at the very end of her interview, having just spoken glowingly about her four children, Pooja, Chhaya, Rasha and Ranbirvardhan. In 1995, the year she delivered some of the biggest hits of her career and definitely, some of the biggest hits of the 90s, Tandon became the legal guardian to two of her cousin’s daughters. They were eight and 11. Tandon was 21. They were more like her friends, really, she says. She’s given them advice and warned them about the world, sure. However, at the end of the day, she’s given them their space and allowed them to make decisions for themselves. Maybe that is why her children are so successful and loved today. They’re not individuals in their own right and not just “Raveena Tandon’s kids”. In an exclusive interview with Filmfare, Tandon told us about her headline making move in 1995, her take on online classes in the post-COVID world and filming her grandchild’s first breath.
At the very beginning of your career, at the age of 21, you adopted two girls. What made you take that decision?
My mom’s always been my inspiration, she’s worked with a lot of people, a lot of NGOs and charities. Right from childhood, I used to see her contribute towards orphanages in and around Mumbai and I used to accompany her to most of these occasions when she used to go visit the orphanages. I think children absorb a lot of what their parents do and how they are and that’s why I tell people that they can be the biggest example for their children during the upbringing stages. I think that’s what my parents were for me. They were my true inspirations. They never said no to anyone who needed help. These girls (Pooja and Chhaya) were born in front of me. They were my cousin’s children and they weren’t handed over to anyone in my family after their mum had passed away. I had a meeting with my cousins and I spoke to them saying that the girls aren’t brought up the way they should be. I told them that I’m willing to become their legal guardian and take over completely. I used to hear stories of them not being treated well and that broke my heart because I was already working for so many orphanages and charities and here was a case close to home and I was so helpless. The minute their father gave me permission to become their legal guardian, I immediately got them home and since then, they’ve been my best friends and complete support system. That’s what I keep telling them everyday that now, they have to look after me.
The girls were eight and 11 years old and you were 21, so is it safe to say that it wasn’t a typical mother-daughter relationship?
This is the most beautiful part, actually. We were always more like friends. My parents were more like parents and grandparents to them while I was like their friend and elder sister. Even now, we have a WhatsApp group – just the three of us – where we talk about everything under the sun. Rasha and Ranbir are not in that group, it’s just me and Pooja and Chhaya. Then we have a WhatsApp group called ‘Brats’ which has all my children and Shawn, Chhaya’s husband. That chat is called ‘Brats’ because all five of them are my brats. Even back in the day, when they were much younger, I used to tell them everything that was going on in my life. If I had made a mistake or was in a bad relationship or had gone through a breakup or a professional low – I shared everything with them and never sugar coated life for them. I’m so proud of both of them, they’re such successful, young women and doing everything on their own. They are settled well and are successful in their chosen careers. My heart bursts with pride when I think about them.
In this post-COVID-19 world, a lot of children are losing out on normal life and traditional schooling. How are Ranbir and Rasha coping with that?
Luckily, my kids are coping well. Unfortunately, they are spending a lot of time online which I really don’t like. I wish schools would shorten the school time because my son goes at 8:30 AM in the morning and he’s online till 8:30 at night. School gets over at 4 PM but they’re making them do extracurricular activities online which, I think, is such a waste because children should take a break and do something in their own home. They’re making them do stuff like cooking classes online, no practical stuff. They’re sitting in front of a laptop and watching everything. Instead, they should tell them that this is an extracurricular activity, take a break and shut your computer, read a book and tell us what you read in that book or play a game and describe the game or go and plant a tree. I would have done that.
Your foundation is working towards COVID-19 relief so when you talk to your kids about what’s happening outside, is there any sugar coating of sorts happening there?
Not really. I think my kids are old enough and adapting to this new normal and they are witnessing what’s going around. Yes, we have to control them a bit when they want to go somewhere or order food from some place. But they are understanding and touchwood, I think I can say that I’ve done a good job with my kids. We’re all keeping each other occupied. For example, once their schooling and tuitions are over, we play pictionary and articulate. I think that has been a boon where I’m getting to spend time with my children which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. This past one year has been a complete pleasure where we’ve been at home with each other and it’s brought so many families closer. I’m getting them to do things around the house like gardening and getting them to be with our pets. Everyone is pitching in, washing and cleaning. I’m also teaching them to cook.
When you were raising Pooja and Chhaya, there wasn’t any social media and Ranbir and Rasha are living in a world that cannot do without social media. How has your parenting style changed?
Social media is a boon and a bane. It is a boon for people like us who can reach out to their well-wishers, their friends and fans. It can be a bane because it gives so many hateful people a chance to spew venom as well. That is what we have to prepare our children for – for all the stuff that goes on on Twitter whether it is body shaming or harsh and abusive criticism. This is where we have to harden them and tell them to ignore it. A lot of children get carried away where they go on these sites and chat sites which can lead them towards wrong things. So, one has to keep a watch and keep guiding them well. Like I said, luckily I’ve never brought up my children as ‘children’, you know? I’ve always communicated well with them right since they were young kids. Instead of shutting them out or punishing them in different ways, I would actually sit them down and talk to them about what is wrong and why it is wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of parents bar their children from doing something but never explain why.
In retrospect, it didn’t affect your career but when you did become a legal guardian to Pooja and Chhaya, were you worried about your career?
It didn’t even come into my mind. There weren’t people who were talking about my career but many discouraged me and said that nobody would marry me because of the “extra baggage”. They told me it’s such a huge responsibility and wondered how I would do it. Honestly, it didn’t bother me. Even in my interviews from 1995, I’ve said the same thing – whoever truly loves me, will love me and respect me for what I’ve done and that makes that man worth it. Because if he loves me, he also loves my family, my girls and my dog. We come as a package deal. God has been kind and Anil is the best thing that could have ever happened to me, in my life.
Tell us about the moment you held your grandchild in your arms.
Pooja’s son was born in South Africa and unfortunately, I couldn’t be there for the delivery. However, Chhaya’s son Rudra was born in front of me in the operation theatre. I was filming the entire thing and I cannot tell you what a magical thing it is because I could not see my own moment of delivery with Rasha and Ranbir. When Rudra was born, I was there filming his first breath.
After all these years, if you had to pick one special memory in your parenting journey, what would it be?
I have brought up four different individuals. Then, I’ve had numerous pets all my life so I’ve been a mother to them as well. My friends tell me that I was born to be a mother. All four of my children have different personalities and I have different special memories with all of them. It has been a learning experience for me. I have learned so much from my children and each one of them has been an individual gift. Like my Pooja . . . She’s a successful go-getter. She’s tough on the outside but I know what she’s on the inside because the times that she breaks, it’s in front of me. She’s made a huge success of her life. She’s someone that I aspire to be. My Chhaya is exactly like me. She was born to be a mother, to be giving. She can literally wrap someone in her wings and they immediately feel comforted – she’s got that gift. She’s someone who has accomplished so much that I don’t think I could have. When I got her, she had not attended school regularly and had to get double promotions and you will not believe how hard that girl worked. When it comes to Rasha, she’s very ladylike and proper. She’s so prompt and patient. When my friends and her friends’ mums call me up, they tell me that she is the sweetest, kindest girl they have ever met. And then, there’s my Ranbirvardhan. He’s a wise, old soul. I believe that he’s my grandfather or someone like that who’s been born to me again. He is so mature for his age. When we used to go for parent-teacher meetings, they would tell me that he’s such a gentleman. There was a supervisor who used to call him ‘Buddha’. She used to say that he is a wise, old Buddha who talks less and does his work. Academically also, both the kids are doing so well. What more can a mom want ya? Underline that – what more can a mom want.