With diverse and prolific interests, film and television actress, writer, and creative director Ranjani Raghavan thanks Karnataka, her fans, and the industry for being supportive.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? American author John C. Maxwell’s beautifully worded question for inspiring people often resonates in television and film actress Ranjani Raghavan for stirring herself into taking up newer challenges and chasing them wholeheartedly. “It gets me into thinking about the latest passionate project I am into for keeping my mood, morale, and spirits on the run,” says Ranjani in a phone interview. “Even now, I am just returning from an audio recording of Anupama Niranjana’s Kannada novel ‘Anantageete.’ This is yet another branch of my interest developed over the years for reaching out stories to people in many formats that I am crazy about,” she says.
The actress who shot to fame after her years of acting in the popular TV serial Putta Gowri Maduve is also an accomplished Carnatic, and Bhavageethe singer has done the screenplay for Ishtadevate teleserial and is now essaying the most-loved Kannada teacher Bhuvaneshwari opposite actor Kiran Raj in yet another admired TV-serial ‘Kannadathi’ which incidentally has had a continuous run, defying the lockdown lull.
Despite Ranjani’s major draw being her television and film presence, there’s much more to her multi-faceted persona, the latest being her love for authoring short stories in Kannada, with more than 15 of them published too. “I have had the habit of writing travel diaries, memoirs, and penning small stories, but for the first time, my short stories are being published in the digital magazine Avadhi, and the whole experience has been incredible. So I request people to read and share their opinion,” she says.
When she addresses her fan-gathering, people go wild with requests for her songs that she soon obliges, including her memorable rendition of the famous ‘Putta Gowri Maduve’ title song she once presented to a large crowd blaring with appreciation! No wonder if one catches up with her Facebook post with a Bhavageete of Ku Vem Pu, her Insta post is seen with thousands of likes for the Pillari Geethe, as she is trained in classical music too.
The 26-year-old actress who started her career with a small role in the television serial ‘Keladi Chenamma’ moved forward with ‘Akashadeepa’ before becoming a household name with Putta Gowri Maduve… and then, as they say, the rest is history.
Stepping onto the big screen with Rajahamsa that had people notice the fresher, Ranjani ‘s journey has been on an uphill. However, the actress will soon be seen in her upcoming films (ready for release) as Takkar, Aadharindha, and Kshamisi Nimma Katheyalli Hanavilla. She is also part of a new venture, an Anthology directed by five Kannada directors with five stories in which she is part of Director Jayathirtha’s story.
That explains Ranjani Raghavan, forever striving to be part of something fresh from when she was a little girl studying at Cluny Convent in Malleswaram. Permanently open to social causes and humanitarian work, Ranjani’s latest involvement for a reason is what she is excited about, “ I was part of the shoot for arts revival boutique Madhurya Creations in South Bangalore for building awareness on handloom weaves. I was glad to be part of a meaningful exhort and have people support weavers who are struggling to have their looms going during the pandemic, as part of the National Handloom Day,” says Ranjani.
Ranjani Raghavan, in a chat with Balcony Stories, spared some time for unraveling her multi-dimensional persona.
Tell us something about your background and the creative ambiance you grew up in that moulded your personality?
I am a native Bangalorean, Malleswaram, born and studied at Cluny Convent. I went to Seshadripuram College for B-Com and then got an MBA in HR and Marketing. From the beginning, I wanted to be part of every single event in school, be it the band, NCC, cultural skits, fancy dress, mono-acting, or singing…I was a greedy kid who wanted to win all competitions and was active in cultural events and academics.
From my first year degree itself, I started acting, and music and studying happened simultaneously for me. I was brought up in an ambiance of Sangeeta and Sahitya at home. My father wanted me to delve into the Carnatic genre and got me books covering various subjects. In my summer holidays, I would go to Chinmaya Mission camps too.
Can you explain the Carnatic music side of you?
Again the credit of entering the classical genre goes entirely to my father. Initially, I learned from Asha Vishwanath, and then my father wanted me to be trained by vocalist Chintalapalli Shrinivas who guided me into taking up the senior grade exams in Carnatic. I was three when I had got on to the stage for the first time to sing a BR Chaya’s song on Lord Ganapathi. I have some Instagram posts with light music, and on World Music Day, I posted the first of my Pillari Geethe, Lambodara Lakumikara. I have many more coming up on popular demand.
How did your family take to your decision on acting?
When I started with television, my parents were reluctant as they didn’t know much about the industry. And with people saying that acting as a profession may not suit a family like ours, they got more concerned as they gradually noticed my likes taking root. Then, they felt more secure with a few good assignments that went well, and with Putta Gowri Maduve, heaping appreciation for my work.
What are your memories of your initial projects for forming a foundation?
The first one was accidental; I happened to go to an audition near Seshadripuram college. I was selected, which gave me a lead to the small screen, and then the Akashadeepa serial happened. Later it was a call from the makers of Putta Gowri Maduve that changed the course of my stature in acting.
This colossal break and recognition on the small screen paved the way for offers from the film fraternity. Although I was excited, it had caught me unawares about the requirements for the big screen. So I auditioned for theatre to grasp some lessons, and I joined the amateur troupe ‘Roopantara’ that got me soaked into it for a year. It helped me adapt myself to a different approach. Here my background training in music helped me understand the branch of Ranga Geete (drama music), which was another facet of learning.
Meanwhile, Putta Gowri and MBA were happening simultaneously, keeping me on my toes! I remember I hadn’t taken a single off to spend a quiet day with my family. The serial was a runaway hit in rural areas, too, as it was top-rated at that time.
What was the best thing you liked about Putta Gowri?
Many things! With a simple storyline that had its presence in the nook and corner of all districts of Karnataka, people started seeing me as their child. They could connect with me in a traditional girl-next-door image setting. Not everyone can carry this image. This role brought me closer to people who often say, ‘I feel I know you.’
Tell us about the responses to your current role in the serial ‘Kannadati’ that has also created a record of Kannada words presented in each episode?
Doing the role of Bhuvaneshwari is a great feel. I have always been a bhashe premi, not just Kannada, but I like any language spoken well. So this part of Bhuvaneshwari has always been in me in all stages of my life. I should say roles intrinsic to my persona came searching after me! So ‘Kannadati’ is not just the serial’s name. It is a reward attached to my name.
As for the Kannada word included in the episodes, the credit goes to the channel Colors Kannada who has this rare inclusion to connect with people. The script is written well, and I am just presenting it, in the bargain, learning a lot. Responses have been overwhelming, with people saying ‘wish we had a Kannada teacher like you’ and ‘thanks, we are learning a new word each day.’
And you have done the screenplay too for the serial, Ishtadevate?
I have written the story and screenplay for this story about guilt and love that has been gratifying. This is where I understood the other side of making serials that can be equally demanding and taxing. I had a massive takeaway from this project, as we as actors always tend to look at one side of the coin only but forget the challenging off-screen work to keep the show going. This helped me get a better perspective of the profundity of work involved.
Was the screenplay for ‘Ishtadevate’ an inspiration to taking up story writing?
As I said, my love for writing started from my school days when I dealt with my language papers, Sanskrit and Kannada. Even before teachers began classes, I would have finished reading the textbooks much in advance during holidays at home. I would also check out the good stories in Kannada first language textbook syllabus. School and family trips also had me penning down my experiences, and it used to be light with humor too!
What do you want to master, now that you come across as a Jack of so many trades?
I am more of an explorer; I wouldn’t like to associate myself with a particular kind of art in my profession. To be practical, when it comes to acting, how much can one practically pursue this passion after marriage? It depends on the situation one is in. Right now, I want to stay connected, want to write good films, and act in good movies too. It’s all about good storytelling, be it as a writer or actor. Now I am totally focused on cinema and looking forward to better days in acting as I have started on the right gear.
I have invested a lot of time on the small screen, and as a natural corollary, I want to take up stories on the bigger screen.