The fairest of them all - Ragini Khanna

Home  Tinsel Personality  Interviews The fairest of them all - Ragini Khanna

Intelligent, self-aware, witty and extremely modest, Ragini is not your average starlet. Loved by all, she has managed to wow us with her performances time and again. ‘Sasural Genda Phool’ may have been a turning point in her career but her portrayal of Suhana was a turning point for Indian television. Suhana was  the bratty rich girl who could do no right but the role was a challenge that Ragini dared to take up and she managed to get it more than just right! The darling of television, this girl can act, sing, dance and melt our hearts with that award winning smile! From Snow White’s stepmother to the princess on Indian television, Tinsel Gupshup brings you Ragini Khanna




TG: I read that you used to participate in plays and dramas in school so is that where your interest towards acting started?

RK: I have always had an inclination towards the performing arts however acting was the last on my list. My first love and priority was singing followed by dancing and then somewhere at the bottom was acting! Honestly speaking, I never thought I could act and I have never attended an acting class or course. So everything I have learned about acting has been on the job. Leave aside school plays and dramas; the first time I actually delivered a dialogue was on the set of my first show. It was a nerve wrecking experience!



TG: So when you say singing was your first love, is that what you wanted to pursue?

RK: Absolutely! I have trained in Classical and Semi-Classical forms of singing for 15 years. In fact, as a child, I have done some playback and chorus singing for ads, jingles, music albums. None of those were super hit songs and I have never sung for a film. So, I was very passionate about singing and at that point I really did want to pursue it seriously.




TG: Your first show was Radha Ki Betiyaan…how did that happen?

RK: I wanted to become a singer but I really did not know how to go about it. I did not know any music directors, I had no contacts in the industry and that is a fact. I was very clear about the fact that I did not want to seek assistance from my parents or anybody else. Basically, I wanted to make it on my own! People around me used to tell me that I was pretty and I should audition for television (pauses), actually I am not sure if they meant it or not! So, I worked at a call center, made some money, got my portfolio done, distributed my photographs and started working really hard to land a show on television. There was a time when I would give 8 to 9 auditions in a day and this went on for a year and a half or so. Radha Ki Betiyaan happened and after that by God’s grace I have not had to audition, I mean I have to do look tests and all but nothing like that period when I really struggled. 15-20 days after Radha Ki Betiyaan ended I landed Bhaskar Bharti and immediately after that I signed up Sasural Genda Phool. In fact, I have not been able to take a break or a holiday since 2008! Right after Sasural ended, I took my first vacation and went to Dubai but even there I was reading scripts, contracts were being e-mailed to me…so my first holiday was a working holiday!



TG: Would you consider SGP as a turning point in your career?

RK: Definitely! Sasural brought me in the limelight and put me up there. My previous two shows gave me critical recognition as an actor and people noticed me and my potential. Having said that, nothing compares to what a hit show can do for you. Sasural just took me to another level!




TG: Suhana was a very different kind of a protagonist – brash, arrogant yet somehow loveable. Was it easy to portray her?

RK: I agree, Suhana was a complete contrast to the female protagonists you see on television today. Somehow I have always managed to do very ‘hatke’ kind of roles in my career and if you remember, my first two roles were not run off the mill kind of roles either. When I am given a narration or when I read a script, the minute I know how I am going to portray the character…it does not excite me anymore! However, when I am completely clueless and I feel like - Oh My God, what is this character they have created, then I get extremely intrigued. I know actors who start building the character in their mind; I am the opposite because I feel the challenge is to create something out of nothing. That is exactly what happened when I heard the narration for Sasural and even Radha Ki Betiyaan and Bhaskar Bharti. When I started Sasural, I had no idea what to do with Suhana so I did not know what she would look like, how she would speak, what her mannerisms would be and that excited me!



TG: How much of Suhana is Ragini and how much of Ragini is Suhana?

RK: I am not like Suhana at all! I am a very patient person and the greatest example of my patience is the way I have chosen all the projects in my career. At one point, I was doing Jhalak, Sasural, Teen Thay Bhai, Star Parivaar…so I was working round the clock, completely sleep deprived, tired to the bone and Suhana is nothing like that. She is lazy, a spoilt brat, she is a rich father’s daughter and I come from a middle class family. The ideologies and personalities were completely different. Obviously the emotions were mine but when you put her together…Suhana is definitely not Ragini! Honestly speaking, it was very challenging to portray Suhana.



TG: Were there moments when as Ragini you just could not understand how Suhana could do or say certain things. How would you deal with that?

RK: (Laughs) believe it or not, most of the times while reading the scripts I would be thinking – what kind of a girl is she?? That would be the first thing that would come to my mind but then I made it a point to read the script with Suhana’s mindset. As Ragini I would never be able to understand why Suhana was so difficult. So to project her it was very important for me to become her and that was the only way I was able to do Suhana’s character justice. If I had been reading the script as Ragini and questioning everything it would have been impossible and the actual transitions of emotions would never have come across. In a daily serial, you don’t get much time to prepare and rehearse so it was very important to be in the right mode mentally to be able to get that scene right in that limited frame of time. I have to give complete credit to my directors and amazing writers who held my hand and guided me through the whole thing.



TG: Now that the show is over and you have a birds eye view, what were some of the most challenging moments or scenes for you?

RK: Oh God, every single scene was challenging. The first initial year of portraying Suhana in Sasural Genda Phool…each scene was a challenge. I am not kidding when I tell you that I am nothing like Suhana!! It was so difficult to portray someone who is very cute and loveable in one scene and in the very next scene she is throwing a temper tantrum for no reason at all! Seriously, each scene was challenging…just imagine, this girl would lose her temper at the drop of a hat, for no reason at all and then the very next moment she would calm down, smile, laugh as if nothing had happened. Everything Suhana did was wrong and on the other end she had a sasural and family who were so sweet and willing to forgive her and make her understand. So my intention was to make Suhana so loveable that she should be able to get away with murder! Though it was hard work, the complexities of this girl made it fun and portraying her gave me immense satisfaction. Whenever my director would compliment me, I would be on top of the world. I don’t know if I got it right or wrong but I do know that I gave it my 100%.



TG: Apart from daily shows you have done many reality shows as well. You hosted Jhalak Dikhlaja recently but you were also a participant in the previous season. What was that experience like?

RK: As a contestant I would be extremely nervous before each performance. As much as I love taking on ‘Hatke’ roles and edgy stuff, those very same things scare me so much! I love that thrill and I am always pushing myself…it sounds funny but that is how I am. If something bores me then it will bore other people as well so why should I invest my time in it? I have no formal training in any international dance forms so Jhalak was an amazing opportunity to learn some brilliant dances. At rehearsals, my choreographer would show me some new steps and ask me to follow; I would look at him as if he was mad! Once, he wanted me to try a handstand for a dance routine and I just burst out laughing…I was looking at him asking him – are you serious? And of course he was serious! We worked very hard and I actually did the handstand…it was exhilarating!


“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”


TG: Star Ya Rockstar must have been great experience considering you were so passionate about singing?

RK: It was a fantastic experience. The only thing was that I had been working nonstop for so many years and obviously my singing practice suffered. I had not had a chance to practice at all and whether it is your forte, your passion or even if you are truly gifted, practice makes a huge difference. I loved being a part of that show because it brought me back to my roots.



TG: You mentioned that at one point you were doing 4 shows simultaneously. Give us a day in the life of Ragini during those days…

RK: I was doing Sasural and Jhalak simultaneously so I would shoot for Sasural from 9am to 9pm, come back home by 10pm and have dinner, reach rehearsals for Jhalak by 11:15pm, rehearse till 4 in the morning, come back home, sleep for 2 hours, wake up by 6:30am, shower and head back to the shoot. Jhalak went for about 3months and once that ended I started rehearsals for Star Parivar and after that got over I got busy with the promotions for Teen Thay Bhai. So during that period, I would fly to Chandigarh in the morning, come back and shoot for Sasural at night. I used to be exhausted but I just did not give myself the time to think that I was tired. Believe me, if at that point I would let the exhaustion sink in…I would have broken down mentally and physically. Television is strenuous and exhausting and if you are the protagonist of a show then you end up shooting for 13-5 hours at a stretch every single day. At that point I was acting, singing, dancing, hosting and I was not just performing or going through the motions, I was giving it my 200%! After all that, now, I feel I can do anything.




TG: from a contestant on Jhalak to a host on Jhalak, how does it feel?

RK: Initially I was unsure because I have never hosted a reality show before but since I was a contestant I know exactly what the present participants are going through. I have been in their shoes and I can completely empathize with them and appreciate their efforts and performances. Jhalak is the kind of show that really pushes you and it makes you a better performer. It is not just a reality dance show, rather it grooms you, tests you and makes you stronger and that is the beauty of Jhalak!




TG: Some people say Ragini has beautiful eyes, some love your smile. What do you consider as your universal appeal?

RK: I really don’t know…hmmmm…am I appealing? I know that a lot of people look forward to my work as in, my fans always want to know what I’ll take on next. So my fans appreciate the fact that I try out new and different stuff. People did not expect me to do a show like Jhalak or Star Ya Rockstar and after Bhaskar Bharti, Suhana was a complete surprise. Some people find my positive attitude very appealing, some like my smile, some people love my happy go lucky attitude…so I really don’t know what it is. Honestly speaking, I never thought I would become popular and more importantly I never imagined that a television actor could have this kind of a reach and popularity. When Sasural started I was working round the clock and my routine would be home to studio and back home so I was in this cocoon, completely unaware of what people were making of my role outside. With those kind of work hours, you are completely out of touch with the world and you don’t know whether people like you, hate you or are just indifferent to you. Sasural was such a huge turning point for me and it is only during the course of the show that I realized that television is so powerful. I performed at the Wembley stadium in London and the minute they announced Suhana’s name, I heard this roar from the crowd. It was surreal…I went out on stage and the stadium was packed. I was standing there thinking - really? So many people like me? So I don’t know what people love about me but I am happy knowing that people love me.




TG: I am always curious to find out whether you can switch off from your character easily or do you bring the baggage home?

RK: Initially I would take the baggage home with me. I think as time went by and with practice, I started disconnecting. I remember when I was doing Bhaskar Bharti - the way I spoke, my mannerisms were completely manly. With Sasural, I learnt how to switch off and leave Suhana on the set. I did not want Suhana to come back home, I wanted my mom’s daughter to come back home.





TG: Do you bring your own personal touches in your characters in terms of costumes and accessories?

RK: Absolutely. A character is made up of so many different things and costumes get up, accessories are all a part of it. I used to hate dressing up and I just love my T-shirts, shorts and chappals but because of my profession I have learnt the importance of dressing up and appearing prim and proper. I do make it a point to be well turned out for events and functions. Having said that, I am very particular about what my characters wear and I work along with my stylist to make sure that my character looks good . For example, I made sure that Suhana looked classy because she was a rich girl. I really pushed my stylist in terms of Suhana’s costumes and appearance because we had to make sure that she looked the part. Suhana had this rich girl attitude and we wanted that to reflect in her clothes, accessories and shoes.




TG: What are your plans now?

RK: As of now, I want to disconnect myself from this daily work schedule that I have been a part of. I feel like I have become too mechanical, so now I am taking a step back from the acting world so that I can come back fresh, create something new and take on another different role. If I am tired and burnt out then it will show on my face and reflect in my work so at the moment I am in hibernation!



TG: I read that you played Snow White’s step mom in a school play and that has been your favourite role so far?

RK: (Bursts out into peals of laughter) I wanted to play Snow White but my teacher felt otherwise and she cast me in the play as the evil stepmother! I remember it was in the 4th grade and I believed I would be the best Snow White but my teacher heard my laugh and that landed me the role of the stepmom…I did win the prize for it though!


“I believe that in a way, sadness is happiness for there can be no wrong without right, no light without dark, no success without failure, no relief without pain, no love without hatred and no Snow White without the evil queen.” Lisa Cander


Photo Credit: Ragini Khanna


©Tinsel Gupshup

Dec 01, 2012
Her teacher was wrong..she is the snowwhite....but I am sure she must have done the role of the step mother with the wicked glee on her face...she is such a spunky talented girl!!!

Nov 21, 2012
Ragini Khanna : I've seen her growing as an actress,as a performer.. Her interviews always have something that makes me ADORE her even more :D Proud to be ur fan Miss Khanna..U're way too AWESOME! ;)

angel jain
Nov 17, 2012
your web's interviews are so unique..... i want you to feature ragini khanna many times.....pls its a request.....

Oct 30, 2012
Ragini fits into character. She played all 3 characters Ginni, Bharati and Suhana very well .Waiting to see her next in serious and emotional role rather than happy going girl. Please come back soon.

Oct 27, 2012
Nice Interview of the Multitalented Ragini khanna with her journey into becoming one of the popular TV celebs. The pics are beautiful n she looks stright out of a fairytale in them. Thanx TG :)

Aparna T. Spinthakis
Oct 26, 2012
another good interview Tinsel .I have wanting to read more of Ragini Khanna, she is very jolly person n I like her esp after JDJ.indeed very well framed Qs. and ansd well too.Tinsel keep bringing :)

Oct 26, 2012
Interesting interview, thanks! Just reading about her schedule exhausts me, kudos to her determination to achieve this on her own.

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