Saadhika Randhawa’s career was in full swing during the ’90s. She starred not only in some notable Hindi films but also explored southern cinema extensively. In 2003, she made her television debut with Karisma Kapoor’s Karishma - The Miracles of Destiny and continued to juggle both films and television for several years to come.
It won’t be exactly fair to suggest that Randhawa was washed up because she took a hiatus from acting as great offers were not coming her way. Groupism and casting couch also led her to say no to numerous plum projects.
Now that OTT has opened new avenues for everyone, Randhawa feels it is the right time to stage her comeback. She has notched up a high-profile streaming show, which will begin filming soon. She is in talks for some other exciting projects as well.
In an exclusive interview with BollywoodMDB.com, Randhawa opens up about her beginning and initial days in the industry, the menace of groupism and casting couch back in the day, transitioning to television in 2003, and much more. She also spills the beans on her comeback web series wherein she portrays a powerful character. Read on…
You started your career with Sanam Harjai in 1995. How did you become a part of Bollywood?
This is when I was in Jaipur. I was in my college and Ms. Jaipur was conducted there. It was a contest, so I participated in it. I won the crown and after that Saawan Kumar, who hails from Jaipur, saw my photos in Rajasthan Patrika, a local newspaper that is quite famous there. He was actually looking for a girl for his next Hindi film. And from there, he approached my mother, and then I came here and signed my first film. I also completed Roshan Taneja’s acting course and then a dance course as well.
You did not have anyone from your circle working in films. Your initial days must have been difficult. Tell us something about that.
Yes, actually because there is no one from my family in the industry, it was a tough ride. My sister, Jesse Randhawa, participated in the Miss India contest a year later. Before that, there was no one. So, it was a little difficult for me despite the fact that my father and my mom were very supportive. I got a lot of support from my family. That way, it was not that tough. People come here, then they struggle, and then they sign films. All that happens but it was quite the opposite for me. I signed the film and then I came here. So, thank God, touchwood, there was no struggle as such. So, it was a very smooth beginning for me because Saawan Kumar Productions at that time was a big name. Before I worked with them, they had made such successful films as Souten, Bewaffa Se Waffa, Chaand Kaa Tukdaa, and Sanam Bewafa, to name a few.
After the release of your first film, how was your journey in the industry?
After that, I had to face the politics in the industry. To be honest, everyone has their own group. That way, you know, big banners approached me. Like Boney Kapoor called me for Sirf Tum. I was in touch with Saawan Kumar ji for a second film also. Like I was getting offers from the big banners but nothing clicked and then, I shifted towards the southern film industry and did 4-5 Telugu films, all big banner films. The main reason I shifted to south was that I did not fit in here due to groupism. There were a few groups. As Saawan ji was the one who gave me the break and I never spoke against him and people did not like that. And he was a loud mouth and there were many groups who opposed him. So, it was not smooth after that but yes, I shifted to south and whatever came my way, if it was good to me, I went on doing it. Unfortunately, none of the films did very well. There was a film called Kaabu which was not a big film and it did quite okay at the box office. And I kept on doing a few films here and there.
We talk a lot about nepotism today. Did you have to face it back then?
It was there but, to be honest, I don’t think during that time it was that bad. Shilpa Shetty is self-made. There are several other actors who created their own space. It was not the same at that time, but after that, I can’t say too much about it because, as I told you, my beginning was smooth. See, I never struggled but here what happens is that when somebody does not get that chance because of nepotism, then they turn out to be more experienced.
Did you ever have to leave a project after signing it?
Yes, there were so many films that I had to let go of. As I told you, I was in talks for a Boney Kapoor film which never saw the light of the day. After that, Kaante was there where Malaika’s role was offered to me and even that had reached the final stages but because of some reasons, which I don’t want to talk about, I did not get the film. So, there were many films, to be honest, because of the industry’s rules which I don’t want to talk about, and due to that I didn’t want to do something out of the way, and I lost on many big banner films. But I did not repent because I wanted to live the way I wanted to. I mean I wanted to do films with respect where I should not be compromising on anything. That is one of my important rules. I did not actually do many big banners’ films. Some I left; others did not materialize.
Casting couch is a dark part of Bollywood or any show business for that matter. Did you ever have to face it?
Yes, that’s what I was talking about. I started in Bollywood with a big banner. Even in Tollywood, I got to start my career with a big banner, with K S Rama Rao who made Criminal. So, I was offered the film, and I signed the film and I did the film. But after that, when I did another big film with Pawan Kalyan, I realized that just like Bollywood, even in Telugu films, it (casting couch) happens. This casting couch is a thing for the people who even start with a big banner. Even then they have to face all this. I had never expected that. Because of that, I had to bid adieu to 3-4 films there also, all the big banner films. Then I started working with some B+ banners. To be honest, no one could put any condition on me there, you know. That was indirectly the thing. I didn’t go through it because I didn’t want to.
Today, do you think it is easier to talk about these experiences than it was in the 90s? Today’s women are so vocal about it.
Yeah, of course. Today people and women are very open about it but at that time, we couldn’t talk about it so openly. At least not me and many other actresses of that time.
Do you feel the industry is more democratic and accepting of outsiders today?
Yeah, I feel so. That is also true, which is also a very good part of the industry. Like I am seeing on Instagram people are, you know, they don’t have to go through anything. They have become stars because they work hard, and they know what they want. So, in that way, yes, the industry is good. But, you know, I am seeing so much competition nowadays which wasn’t actually back then. There were only a few good banners and a few good actresses. But I think times have changed but for good also. So, it’s always like both sides of the coin: positive and negative.
In 2003, you transitioned to television. What was the reason behind that move?
To be honest, Sanjay Kapoor was a very good friend. I don’t know what I did with him. He was a very good friend. We worked on some film or something and then he actually called me once, saying, “Karishma” is happening where we all are working in this Sahara TV show.” I was like, “a TV show? No way.” He kind of somehow convinced me because, yeah, obviously, he said, “I am there. Karisma Kapoor is there. There are many stars who are working and now this is the time for TV shows and the TV industry, and you should do it too. We are all going to be shooting in New Zealand, and Dubai, and it is going to be a very big show on TV.”
So that’s how it started with Karishma and after that, I was offered some very good roles on television. Sunil Agnihotri, who made Chandrakanta, offered me Chandramukhi where I played the title role. Then there was a show called Shobha Somnath Ki where I was offered the negative lead role. It was with a very big banner and it was a big show in those times. So, I was offered a lot of roles on TV, which initially I didn’t want to do but then I started doing it.
You shared the screen space with Karisma Kapoor in Karishma - The Miracles of Destiny. How was the experience?
The experience was very good, and I think I had only one scene with her, otherwise, all my scenes were with Sanjay Kapoor. But it was a very good experience and she is a very good, down-to-earth person actually. Sheebaji was also on the sets. I think her husband was a producer or something like that. Actually, she was with me on the same flight to New Zealand. We had gone there to shoot important sequences. Everyone was good. Karisma is also a very nice person. I feel if you are good, everyone is good.
If there is one thing that you would like to change about Bollywood and how it functions, what would it be?
Definitely casting couch. That’s the only thing I would love to change because, you know, I think if you are talented, you should just get whatever suits you. There shouldn’t be any politics, no casting couch at all. I feel this is the one thing I will change if I have control. And one more thing I want to share with you.
Could you brief us about any project that you are currently working on?
There are talks going on that I will be doing a web series very soon. I have been on a break for more than 3 years. But now, I am coming back with a bang. Though I was getting some offers in between, I was not very excited about them. I didn’t take up any. Now there is a web series where I will be working as a research officer. It is a kind of RAW agent, which I was actually very excited about. It is at a very initial stage. When I start shooting, I will share more about it with you.
Apart from that, are you in talks for some other projects as well?
Yeah, there are some talks going on. I am in talks for some Punjabi projects as well. One of these projects was about to commence filming before the pandemic. But because of the pandemic, it did not get off the ground. It is with someone whom I have already worked with. So, I think I am waiting for that to go on floors. Additionally, there are a couple of projects which I am going to be doing pretty soon.
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