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In the spotlight again

Rati Agnihotri has tested new waters with "Divorce Me Darling", which marks her debut on stage. She talks to SAVITHA GAUTAM

"I AM a Tamilian at heart, a Punjabi by default" is how Rati Agnihotri likes to describe herself. As if to prove it, she baffles one of the backstage helpers at the Music Academy by asking him something in near perfect Tamil.

Looking radiant, without a trace of make-up, the affable actress is absolutely thrilled to be making her stage debut in what she calls her home — "Madras." "My best friend lives here. And believe me, I miss those lovely thair vadais at Woodlands Drive-in," she says, her 100-watt smile that once lit up the screen, still intact.

It is a fact that Rati began her reel life in Kollywood under the watchful eye of director Bharatiraja in "Pudhiya Varpugal." Her first co-star was Bhagyaraj with whom she also did "Nirum Maradha Pookal." Not to forget the gawky, yet charming belle, in "Murattukalai" with Rajnikanth.

After having graced the silver screen for over a decade (Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi), a short stint in television ("I did a short film titled "Kabhi Tho Milenge" for Zee"), Rati settled down with businessman Anil Virwani. After a 16-year hiatus, the actress returned to the silver screen with "Kuch Khati Kuch Meeti." Films such as "Yaadein" followed.

Rati decided to test new ground when she accepted a role in the play "Divorce Me Darling." She says, "I felt I had tried out every platform, except theatre. I thought why not give it a shot. Also, I got several offers from theatre persons. I liked this particular script as it was a light comedy, something I enjoy doing. And so, here I am." Comedy is not something new to Rati. Remember her roles in "Shaukeen" or "Pasand Apni Apni?"

Was it a difficult platform to handle? She is quick to say, "Definitely. On stage, the audience is your camera. And the gratification is instant. No retakes. No going back if a mistake is committed. I think theatre is a challenging medium." The latest fascination for Bollywood actresses is television. Big time stars such as Karisma Kapur, Sridevi and Raveena Tandon have entered our living rooms today. What about Rati? "There have been offers. Right now, I don't have the time. My time is divided between family, plays, films and social causes," is her response.

Rati will soon be seen in "Krishna Cottage." Then there are Govind Nihalani's "Dev," Yash Chopra's "Hum Tum" and "Dukaan," to name a few.

As she talks about her 18-year-old son Tanuj, her eyes soften. Will he join the film industry? "I don't know. He's never shown much interest in films. He's doing Commerce right now. If he wants to join films, I shall support his decision."

What about social causes? "I work with cancer and AIDS patients. I also deal with women's health issues." Of course, she indulges in candle and chemical-free soap making and dry flowers. (I just made an orange-based soap for my friend, she says with a twinkle in her eye)

Politics? She laughs. "Not for me, baba. At least not immediately. I have more on my hands than I can chew."

Not many know that the deeply spiritual Rati is a Reiki Master. "I meditate a lot and perform a havan everyday. All these help me retain that inner glow and experience a sense of peace." We take leave of her at this philosophical moment.

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