‘I have lived on my terms’

Film and television actress Rama Vij who was in Goa to attend the ongoing 51st International Film Festival of India speaks with NT BUZZ about the changes in the film industry over the years, her career and film industry in pandemic times, and more


Q. You are a member of the Feature Film category of Indian Panorama section at this IFFI. What would you say about the new films, which were presented before you for selection?

Actually, we the jury members watched 180 feature films in 23 days and selected 20 of them. It was quite a laborious job but I enjoyed these films, some of them were really good. Some two-three films about women empowerment were there too, which was quite encouraging. In fact, this time some of the newcomers have really come out winners. They are making good films, thematically and otherwise.

Q. You have been in the Hindi film industry for more than four decades. How would you say this industry has changed over the years?

I would say every year the films are improving, and in terms of technology there is a huge leap. The filmmakers using advanced technology are coming out with fantastic ideas in their films, every year. The film industry is growing and growing, and I don’t know how much more it will grow further. When I arrived in films with B R Ishara’s ‘Pal Do Pal ka Saath’ in 1978, with Shekhar Kapur as my hero, it was different, and now it’s something else. However, there were good directors at that time and there are good filmmakers now.

Q. You have been a very active performer on television, especially acting in serials like ‘Nukkad’, Vikram Aur Betaal’, ‘Intezar’, ‘Manoranjan’, ‘Circus’, and so on, during the golden age of Doordarshan. Has television given you more than films have?

I really don’t know. I had acted in lot of films before working on television. In fact, my two films including ‘Chann Pardesi’ (1980) had even won the National Award. My first film, ‘Pal Do Pal ka Saath’ was an interesting production, shot on a hill station within a period of one month. Then I did ‘Taxi-Taxie’ with Amol Palekar, which did very well. And then there were a couple of other films. Finally, ‘Chann Pardesi’, a Punjabi film brought me big acclaim. People still remember that film and I feel proud about it. Then I acted in serials including ‘Nukkad’, which were phenomenally popular. So as you see, I did well in both mediums.

Q. And then there were Punjabi films…

Besides Hindi and Punjabi films, I have also done Bhojpuri, Haryanvi and even English films. I feel films offered in any language were OK with me. I had a couple of days practice with the dialogues and did the job well.

Q. Some of the new generation film and television artistes were found to be taking ‘extreme steps’ during the lockdown imposed due to the Corona pandemic. Do you have any message for them?

Yes, the work has stopped and is taking time to start. Lot of people have also lost their jobs leading to economical problems. When people have no money, how are they going to live? It also happened with film and television artistes. They didn’t even have money to pay their rents. As it is, in the different circumstances people behave differently. Now, if artistes get impatient for roles, there is nothing wrong in it. When I was new and had done one or two films, I met the evergreen Dev Saab (Dev Anand). He asked me what I was doing and when I replied that I was doing nothing much, Dev Saab said that it was bad as I should be doing films “fatafat” (one after another). In the film industry, time flies quickly, and if an artiste doesn’t find work quickly, he or she loses out. 

Q. At one point of time, during the 1980s you were actively participating in car rallies. Can you share that experience?

I was a sportsperson right from my school days. I played hockey at the national level as the Delhi state hockey captain. I was also an athlete. In fact, I have won gold medals in sports. Later, when I joined the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and then got into the acting field, there was no time for sports. Then it so happened that at the time of ‘Nukkad’, I had a car accident in Mumbai while driving back from work. Even though the accident happened due to the fault of the driver of the other vehicle, I was bedridden for three months. After recovery I could not push myself to drive a car again.

Then in 1986, there was a strike in the film industry and I had time on my hand. Around this period, I went to Delhi to receive an award presented to me by Raj Kapoor, at the Siri Fort Auditorium. There I came across an advertisement of a Delhi-Agra car rally. Fortunately, I was free and my car had been done up after the accident. I thought this was the right opportunity for me to regain my confidence in driving. So I participated in it. Unfortunately, my navigator erred during this car rally, and I, instead of securing the third position, came at the tenth place. However, I knew that I could drive again, and continued with many more car rallies throughout India winning quite a few of them – getting the top position on three occasions – and collecting 18 trophies.

Q. Finally, looking back are you satisfied with your career?

Well, I should not be complaining much anyway! I have done quite good work in films and television serials, and later on stage. People have loved my work and nobody said that it was bad. Many times one wants to do much more, but then there is no limit to desires. I also have no regrets about leaving lot of work that came my way. I worked the way I wanted to. Whether in life or career, I have lived on my terms.