Renuka Shahane on being a director, her co-stars and more

by | April 27, 2021, 21:57 IST

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Renuka Shahane on being a director, her co-stars and more

My parents used to watch Surabhi and loved it. What they liked most was the ever-smiling anchor Renuka Shahane, who together with Siddharth Kak regaled the viewers for 10 years. The actress made her mark in films with Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! (1994) playing Madhuri Dixit’s elder sister. Though strangely, she never capitalised on that success. She married Ashutosh Rana in 2001 and afterwards got busy with her married life. Her sons Shauryaman and Satyendraand kept her busy. She did come on and off in TV serials but didn’t pursue acting actively. Renuka was seeking different horizons and made her debut in direction with Marathi film Rita (2009). Now a decade later, she has made her directorial debut in Hindi cinema with Tribhanga. She has some fond memories of working with Madhuri Dixit Nene, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan in the past and also of directing Tribhanga. She also speaks of her sepia romance with Ashutosh Rana. Excerpts from an all-heart interview
You started your journey as a co-presenter in Doordarshan’s Surabhi. How has the journey been from then till now?
I didn’t start my journey with Surabhi, I started with a serial called  PC Aur Mausi in 1987 starring Farida Jalal, Pankaj Berry and  me. Then I did Circus, Lifeline and then Surabhi came into my life. And I did it for 10 years. I still have viewers coming up to me. They are CEOs of companies and they approach me saying I was their childhood icon.During Lifeline in 1988 I was also an assistant director to Dr Vijaya Mehta  I was her fourth assistant and that’s when I developed this interest in direction. After marriage, at the behest of my husband Rana ji (Ashutosh Rana) I started writing screenplays. The first film I directed was the Marathi film Rita (2009) which I adapted from my mother’s (Shanta Gokhale) novel Rita Welingkar. In 2013 I was part of Mumbai Mantra’s Screenwriters workshop and I wrote a 10 page treatment which later was expanded into Tribhanga. I had named it Tribhanga because I wanted this metaphor where three women from different generations offer three different perspectives about similar things in life.

How was your experience of directing three awesome actors like Kajol, Tanvi Azmi and Mithila Palkar for Tribhanga and how did you manage to bring them together?
When I approached Kajol for the role of Anu, she just loved the script and her character Anu.  And once she stepped into it, everything just fell into place. Tanvi and Kajol had already worked together in Dushman. When I narrated the script to Tanvi, she loved the script, she loved her character so she came on board. Mithila also loved Masha as she felt that nobody else would have cast her as Masha because she’s always that chubby little girl next door. Once Kajol was on board, Ajay Devgn also read the script and stepped in as the producer. Then we got Siddharth Malhotra, Banijay Asia, Netflix on board as producers as well. It was like a dream production for me.
What do you think of yourself as more – Renuka the actor or Renuka the director?
Definitely as a director because I feel I’m more driven as a director than as an actor. As an actor you’re dependent on other people. As a director you’re doing your own thing. You’re the captain of the ship.

How do you look back at Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!
I had to give three auditions before they selected me for it. Working with Sooraj ji (Barjatya), Madhuri (Dixit) and Salman (Khan) and Reema ji (Lagoo), Laxmikant Berde was such a beautiful experience. And the amount of fun we had on the sets and the amount of warmth we did the work with, got reflected in the film. Nobody thought it would run for long at that time and it did. It broke all kinds of records. It made me feel powerful, you know. I could say no to projects at the time when I was getting really good roles.

Renuka Shahane

What’s it to have two seasoned actors under the same roof?  How does that work? Tell us about your journey of love with Ashutosh Rana?
We met at the trial of Hansal Mehta’s film Jayate, which never got released but at least we got introduced that day. And after that we kept in touch. We were supposed to do a television serial together, so we got talking on the phone and we actually fell in love over the phone. After three months of just talking with each other on the phone, we started dating. The dating then converted into marriage in 2001 after two years. I never thought marriage would suit me so much but it has. And the credit for it goes to Rana ji for making life so much better. He’s one of my best friends. He’s very intelligent and extremely well- read. Whatever I write, he’s like my sounding board. Most people think there might be an Abhimaan like situation between us. There is nothing like that because we are completely egoless with each other because like I said – friends don’t have ego amongst them.  

You have worked with both Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, how different is their working style?
Their style of working is different. Salman is an impulsive, spontaneous sort of an actor. And he’s playful on the sets. Shah Rukh is a director’s delight. If you tell him to work for 72 hours straight, he will. Every time he comes on the set, he has the same kind of freshness, the same kind of energy and the same kind of passion, which is really what I learnt from him. Because I’m not as driven, and he’s a very driven person.
Renuka Shahane

What are your views on the OTT content that’s being made these days and what is on your watch list currently?
Well I want to watch The White Tiger as I’ve heard great things about it. I’m a crime fiction fan. So that’s always on my watch list – from all over the world – so Spanish, Polish, German – you name it and I have seen it.  I think  OTT, is a huge blessing,  as we  get to see content not only from our country but also from all over the world. And it allows us to put our stories out there for the world to see.

Which is the one series or film which has stayed with you?
Big Little Lies. The women’s characterisations many of them in both season 1 and season 2 were awesome. They were women of various shades at various points in their lives, whether marital or work life. It was wonderful to see all those actresses playing those roles and wonderful to see Reese Witherspoon being the producer of that kind of content. All the characters in Andhadhun stayed with me. And recently, Ludo – I liked all the characters in Ludo.
I liked the quirkiness of the characters I liked the fact that all the men as well as the women are shown with a lot of shades of grey in both Andhadhun and Ludo.

Who’s your all-time favourite co-star and why?
My all-time favourite co-star is Madhuri Dixit. Because she’s wonderful as a human being and so beautiful to see as an actor. Her discipline, her grace, her poise. She’s such a huge star but she never throws her weight around. She’s just the most delightful co-star to work

Renuka Shahane
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