By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | March 08, 2018

All Ragini Khanna wanted was to do one Balaji show and get married. As a school kid, she would go to bed early, only to wake up at 10:30 pm to watch Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. “That was the first thing I told Ekta Kapoor when I met her for the first time,” reveals the actress who started working as a 19-year-old. The surprising aspect is that she has yet not done a single show with Balaji!

Ragini tasted success in her very third show Sasural Genda Phool. “It’s a blessing to be accepted at such a large level at such an early stage in your career. God has been very kind. I have immense gratitude to the universe for giving me what I have wanted. I’m very emotional towards the TV fraternity,” she reveals.

And although Television is what she is passionate about, it was the working hours that finally got to her. Ragini then decided that enough was enough. Almost at breaking point, the actress decided to take a sabbatical.

Here, she is Opening Doorz on the inside information of what really went wrong and why she disappeared from the radar all of a sudden, for over two years. She is also incensed about the fact that you never see a TV actor as a judge on TV Shows? “Why only Bollywood stars? TV stars have immense reach, then why the difference? These are things that trouble me… Moreover, television is not limited to nepotism. There is no sense of entitlement here,” says the actress who has done 14 television shows and four Bollywood films.

Clearly, Ragini is a woman who is not interested in mincing her words. On International Women’s Day, she stands up for her colleagues in the Television industry.

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Continuous work with no time to sleep…
Television is a grueling industry. I started working at the age of 19. I remember going from the exams to the sets and studying on the sets, in between shots. I was working non-stop for almost 22 hours a day with just two hours of sleep daily, for seven years! I lost out on my health. I was young then and did not really think about the repercussions. Also, there was so much work and so much at stake. The sense of responsibility was so high that health took a back seat. Then, things began to crack up; bit by bit. I realized I had to take a break as I needed to catch up on my health. I asked myself a simple question: ‘what is more important: making a living or having a life?’ The answer came swiftly: I realized nothing is more important than good health!

I then took a two-year gap. I was completely out of circulation…
I’m a workaholic by nature. I cannot have a minute free. Suddenly, I found myself doing nothing! That’s when I introspected and worked on all the things I wanted to do. I realized that I was almost stuck in a rut; doing the same things day after day, almost on snooze! Apart from daily soaps, I was also busy with Award shows, promotions, reality shows (hosting and as a participant), performing… As an artiste, my emotional bank was exhausted. I did not even know where the electric switches to my house were. It was very disorienting and scary. I was left wondering: ‘Is this really happening. I freaked out! Lack of sleep was playing up.

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I decided to learn acting once again…
I did not want to constantly keep doing what I was doing. For one year I have done multiple acting workshops, learnt new forms of dance, worked on my riyaz [I also sing and have plans of cutting an album]. All this I could not do when I was doing television. Also, as a 19-year-old, I used to question everything on the sets: why am I wearing a saree everyday? I was revolting to everything. During my sabbatical, I was happy wearing dresses and denims. After wearing sarees and extensions for 24 hours for seven years, I needed to see what I really looked like [laughs].

Please tell me how one can maintain quality…
How do you expect to maintain quality if you are working 14 hours a day out of which you are travelling for three hours? The sets today are in the far-flung Naigaon-Vasai region. Half of the television industry is shooting there. The bigger production houses have all been taken by the studios in the city as it is convenient for the artistes to reach without a hassle.

Things are now being streamlined in the television industry…
Those working there are getting a bit of a control on their lives. Unless we have ‘seasons’ we cannot have breathers. In Television, it is like working in a daily newspaper. Actors now don’t work more than 12 hours. And that’s a huge relief. Imagine doing a daily soap from Monday to Friday for half-an-hour. Twenty-two minutes of footage is required daily. Multiply it into 48 weeks. Imagine the amount of footage you have to deliver. It’s a 110 minute a week! The length of a feature film is around 120-140 minutes. When you work for Television, you are delivering the footage of a film every one-and-a-half week! Today, serials are not starting to air unless there is a bank of 20 episodes.

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Television artistes work a lot more but are still not respected…
We put in a lot more work hours but you will never see a TV actor as a judge on TV Shows? Why only Bollywood stars? TV stars have immense reach, then why the difference? These are things that trouble me. There is a sense of disparity… you don’t feel good about it. Why do you have an issue with a TV actor when it comes to judging shows? I have done 14 TV shows and four films. A film actor who has just done one film is sought after like crazy. This is insane! Moreover, television is not limited to nepotism. There is no sense of entitlement here.

In 2015, all of a sudden I lost my Dad…
I had spoken to him in the evening [He stayed separately]. He had just got his medical reports and he had told me that they (reports) were absolutely normal. My last words to him were ‘I love you Dad, and I am proud of you’. The next morning I get a call informing me that my father had been rushed to the ICU. Even before I reached the hospital I received the news that he had passed away. It was a very scary moment: the ground beneath my feet gave way. He died of a cardiac arrest. It was all too quick. It was such a shock. He had no medical history at all. I’ve never seen my father with viral fever, ever. I have seen him crying just thrice. His level of optimism was unparalleled. His jest to fight for what was right is something I have learnt from him.

There is nothing worse than losing a parent…
You cannot get anybody like a parent. You can have multiple people in your life but only one set of parents. Mom and dad are like God to me. I was quite young when they separated. I believed in my parents and I believed they were totally entitled to the choices they had to make in their life. At the end of it, your quality of life is what is really important. After 27 years of marriage, they made a choice of living in separate houses. Me and my brother never questioned them: we respected their decision.

Now, I am ready to be back…
I’m now geared up to take on work, rejuvenated and fully motivated. Movies, television or even the web space, I’m ready for it all. I have begun meeting people and hopefully, soon I should be able to make an announcement. I’m meeting a lot of people but I am yet to finalize the next assignment. I really want to get back on the sets. I am eager to act.

Also Read: Sonali Bane is a boon for the differently-abled

 

 

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