`I am where my destiny has brought me'
RATI AGNIHOTRI lit up the silver screen in the 80s and is now back on screen as mama. She made a confident debut on stage with "Please Divorce me Darling". Rajesh Khattar, who acted opposite her, is a well-known writer and television personality. The two came together for another play helmed by Vandana Sajnani (she directed "Divorce... "), "Love hua Once More" and got along like a house on fire.
Rajesh decides to play anchor man and fires questions at Rati who is game for some good-natured grilling on life, theatre, films and everything in between. At one point Rati insists on the dialogue being carried out in Telugu much to Rajesh's horror. Mini Anthikad-Chhibber plays observer and recorder for the sparkling, crackling dialogue.
Rati: Okay Man Friday, shoot!
Rajesh: Why only Friday?
Rati: I said Man no? And why did you gulp just now?
Rajesh: Fear, plain and simple. I do not know what to ask. Okay, films, theatre, television, what next?
Rati: Is there anything else? If there were any other platform, I would surely venture there.
Rajesh: How about street theatre?
Rati: Is that nautanki? Well if there is no bheed-bhaad (crowd), then why not? I would rather go to the street for a cause though.
Rajesh: What about international projects?
Rati: I did one English film, cinematographer Madhu Ambat's debut feature An Ode to Lost Love.
Rajesh: Do you feel theatre gives you roles that are not available to you in cinema?
Rati: At this stage of life, they are few and far between.
Rajesh: People think you are too young to play mum.
Rati: Sweetheart, what matters is screen time. I have been on screen for 25 years. Now all the kids in the complex call me `Hum Tum mummy!'
Rajesh: But look at Hollywood, Demi Moore is older than you and doing lead roles.
Rati: She is younger than me. She is 41 and I am 43. It will take some time - at least 10 to 15 years for Bollywood to reach that sensibility.
Rajesh: So should you be in Hollywood?
Rati: I am where my destiny has brought me.
Rajesh: Should you try?
Rajesh: Do you have a favourite Hollywood role?
Rati: I liked Erin Brockovich and Stepmom
Rajesh: Whose role did you prefer in Stepmom - Susan or Julia?
Rati: So you are on first name terms with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon? And I would prefer Susan Sarandon's role.
Rajesh: In a two-heroine project, did you ever feel that you could do the other heroine's role better than her?
Rati: No. Once I am in a project, I do not have any questions. I am basically content by nature.
Rajesh: Ever thought of doing a horror movie?
Rati: Horror movies scare me! But acting in a scary movie and watching it are totally different.
Rajesh: You love to cook and feed people...
Rati: Cook, feed and eat!
Rajesh: On stage did you ever feel something drastic is going to happen?
Rati: All the time! Since I keep falling over things! I remember my brother-in-law had not come for the premier of Divorce me... He, however, kept sending SMS asking, `has she fallen?' I have been modelling since I was ten but then all I had to do was walk beside this huge man, I remember he was called Sattar Seth.
Rajesh: What do you enjoy best?
Rati: The stage of course
Rajesh: Are you an actress by choice?
Rati: I am an actress by default.
Rajesh: I just love this question! Describe your feelings during black outs?
Rati: Oh that was crazy! The lights went off at the end of the scene and there was no curtain so one had to get off stage and I was terrified of hitting the props. I was kind of skipping and horrified of the lights coming on catching me doing these weird, mincing steps!
Rajesh: This is another of my favourites - Do bats have a special place in your scheme of things?
Rati: Oh that was so bizarre! When those seven bats swooped on stage! I was really frightened and the funny thing was the bats came on stage only in our scenes. When we got off stage and told the others, they were like what bats?
Rajesh: What would you do if you were caught for drunken driving in a foreign country?
Rati: I do not drink and will not drive if I am drunk.
Rajesh: No, just hypothetically...
Rati: I'll beg for mercy, I am petrified of policemen.
Rajesh: Do you have memory lapses?
Rati: All the time. People come up to me and say hi and I cannot put a face to a name. I met a classmate of mine after so many years and it took a while to place her.
Rajesh: What do you expect when you go abroad?
Rati: I expect to have a whale of a time but I need to come back as I love India and Mumbai too much.
Rajesh: So if you get this major offer to work in a foreign film...
Rati: I will let it go. Why even outdoor shoots, I do not like to be out for more than a week. I guess this is the longest I have been away from home and I will do it only for Vandana (Sajnani).
Rajesh: Vandana, what irritates you the most about Rati?
Vandana: She is a perfectionist
Rajesh: And Rati, what irritates you about Vandana?
Rati: She is not as organised as I would like. I am very organised. I think it is a birth defect. I cannot be haphazard even if I try!
Rajesh: And what irritates you about me?
Rajesh: I am flattered that you have to think so hard to come up with an answer! I thought you would reel them out!
Rati: No, nothing irritates me. I just need sinking time that's all!
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