#CoverStory: All eyes on Rasha Thadani

No one saw it coming, but it’s happening. From being the star kid who the paps had zilch access to, to gearing up for her silver-screen debut, Rasha Thadani has adulted and how. In her debut cover interview (ever), the 19-year-old talks about the before, the after, and more...

05 April, 2024
#CoverStory: All eyes on Rasha Thadani

She’s just shy of 20!?—I think to myself prior to the interview. My brain automatically goes into the ‘Let’s break it down...what do we know about Gen Z?’ mode. But before I know it, Rasha confirms: there’s a reason why assumptions aren’t facts. As we chat for the next 50 minutes or so, I find myself improvising on the questions I have prepped for her. Why? Because behind that ‘I’m just a teenager’ vibe, Rasha’s an old-school at heart; it is almost as if she’s half-a-millennial trapped in a Gen Z mind. Midway through the interview, I think to myself, if we get the time to play a game of ‘How well do you know the lyrics to everything from the Backstreet Boys’ to Whitney Houston’s songs?’, Rasha will (probably) beat me to it. Even her maturity rivals most her age—or, at times, those older than her as well.

In all likelihood, it is because a lot has happened even before she graduated from high school. From being superstar Raveena Tandon’s daughter who the shutterbugs had zero access to, Rasha was suddenly in the public eye—the paparazzi seem to love her given she throws in a quip or two at them as they follow her everywhere from the salon to her dance studio. Then, there were talks about her debuting alongside south Indian superstar and producer, Ram Charan, a national sensation after the film, RRR (2022), which won the S2023 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Later, Rasha bagged a movie with none other than the national award-winning director, Abhishek Kapoor—known for films including Rock On! (2008), Kai Po Che! (2013), Kedarnath (2018), Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021)— alongside Ajay Devgn’s nephew, Aaman Devgan. And, she’s just wrapped up her first Cosmo cover minus the nerves, she claims—“I was very excited...I’ve always loved Cosmo because of the magazine’s edginess and spunk!”

Giving wings to her dreams was definitely on Rasha’s agenda for 2023. And this is the year when she is ready to soar. Excerpts from her first cover interview ever...

Cosmo: Congratulations on your first cover—how do you feel? 

Rasha Thadani: Of course, I was a little nervous. But, after shooting for a while, the jitters have kind of gone. I follow mantra—I take my little mandir (temple) with me, which has Shiva, Ganpati, and Sai Baba’s murtis (idols); I set it up in my vanity van or in the green room; and do a little pooja (worship) before I start my day. That helps keep me calm. 

C: I am surprised to hear this from a Gen Z-er. Are you religious or spiritual? 

RT: A bit of both. My mom and I visit temples around India. I love going [to temples], doing darshan (viewing the deity at temples and pilgrimage sites), and taking blessings. I think it is very important. 

C: Were there any words of affirmation or advice your mom gave you prior to the shoot? 

RT: My mom has always been supportive of everything that I have done. She’s been my backbone; she will encourage me and say things like ‘go kill it...you’ve got this’. I look up to her—the way she works, how she handles the managers, make-up, and styling team, etc. I admire how she respects the people who work for her and with her. Also, she’s very honest both personally and professionally. And I believe honesty is important, because it is just good karma. 

But, it is my father who has given me a lot of advice—he’s silently there through everything. In fact, the best piece of advice he’s given me is ‘stay grounded, you have nothing to prove...just let your work speak for itself’. That’s something I revise every now and then. 

C: Belated happy birthday BTW—you just turned 19. How do you feel about being one step closer to being out of your teenage years? 

RT: Thank you...and you know what that means right!? I can’t use that ‘I’m a teenager’ excuse anymore, which got me out of the little troubles (laughs). But I am excited to see what life has in store for me. Hopefully, this coming year is going to be big—it will be full of responsibilities and work; I am looking forward to it. 

C: You graduated from high school a year back. What about dreams of going to college? 

RT: Performing arts has always been my forte—and I was always clear about what I wanted to do. But that doesn’t mean I get to discontinue my studies. Currently, I am attending a university to get a degree in business management, and I am sure that’s going to help me a lot. 

C: In a number of your mom’s interviews, she has mentioned how she always thought you would be a rockstar like Ariana Grande or Dua Lipa. Was that a dream too? 

RT: A hundred per cent—but not just a rockstar or popstar, performing arts, as a whole, has been my passion since I was a child. I have grown up in a house that gives so much importance to theatre and arts. When I was little, I used to dance and sing in front of the mirror; I was basically living in my own world. In fact, the more I learn about it, my love for dance and music only keeps increasing. 

C: The songs you played while on set were more millennial than Gen Z. How did that happen? 

RT: It is because of my mother— when I was growing up, I would listen to her iPod that mostly played classics. Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa happened way later—it all started with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I have grown up listening to "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston on repeat. And not just English songs, it’s also Hindi songs like "Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo" by Farida Khanum or "Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar" (Hum Dono, 1961). I am old-school in that sense. 

C: Photography is a passion as well... 

RT: Yes! I was always fascinated by wildlife—my mom is into animal conservation, and I inherently got into it as well. I would join her when she'd visit Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan; Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand; and other forests in India. 

I am a nature’s child. It is important for me to have balance—the minute I know that the chaos and drama of city life and social media are getting too much, I need to separate myself for a day or two and give myself a break. I love the calm, and now I cannot separate myself from the jungle. Having those three days without network and being in nature is beautiful—it is a blessing. And photographing that beauty is just an added passion. When I am 80, I think I will retire in the jungle (laughs). 

C: When did you realise ‘I want to be an actor’? 

RT: I think I always knew. You know, when people started asking me in school ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’...I would watch my mom and think: ‘That’s what I want to be’. But, I never said it out loud, because I wasn’t sure of how I’d feel about admitting it TBH. It is not a very nice world we live in right now— everyone has an opinion about others. If I had said ‘I want to be an actor’ out loud when I was younger, and if someone said something negative, it would have affected me a lot... especially with my family and the legacy that I carry.

C: Being in an Abhishek Kapoor directorial is a great flex—did you audition for the role? 

RT: Gattu sir [Abhishek Kapoor] is not someone to just take ‘somebody’ in his film. I auditioned for the role; I was a complete disaster (I am not embarrassed of saying it). But, he must have seen something in me that he thought of giving me the chance; and I am lucky and grateful I got the opportunity to work with him in my first film. He is one of the greatest directors I’ll ever work with—I look up to him. 

This whole journey has been a learning process for me. I turned 18 on my third or fourth day on set. Since I was still studying, it was tough at the time, I’d go to school at 8 a.m., get back, and go to workshops (which were till 11 p.m. every day). Then I’d be back home and complete my homework or study for my 12th board exams. I was giving my boards while shooting, so the routine was hectic. I feel like I have matured in the process. But yes, it is a dream come true. It is a beautiful film (we’ve completed the shoot, and that’s all I can say about it). 

C: How was your first day on set? 

RT: I had 102° temperature—we were shooting in Madh Island, Maharashtra, and I was surviving on Electral with absolutely no idea of what was going on (laughs). I feel bad for Gattu sir who was so lenient. I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous in my life. 

C: How are you grappling with this new-found fame given your legacy? 

RT: While growing up, mom tried to keep us away from the spotlight, and I was grateful that we were not exposed to pap culture at the time. I was 17 when I was papped alone—it took me time to warm up but now I am pretty chill. With the increased amount of social media platforms, it is hard to keep away from it. Obviously, social media isn’t our work—while it can be fun, it can also be nasty. 

When you talk about my legacy, I have to say I look at my grandfather [former filmmaker Ravi Tandon] and my mom, and all the work they’ve done, and I hope I can even achieve half of what they’ve done. I am so proud of them, and I hope I can make them proud, and carry our legacy and name forward. 

C: Do you run your scripts past your mom? 

RT: Yes, she’s always there to advise me. But, at the end of the day, she leaves that decision to me and my instinct...I like that she gives me the leeway to do what I feel. 

C: What genre do you prefer working in? Also, you have a black belt in Taekwondo...will we see you in an action film? 

RT: I’ve always wanted to do an intense romantic film—fingers crossed, it will happen soon. And yes, I would love to do an action film. I started Taekwondo when I was seven, and earned my black belt at 14. I never thought that I would use it in a film—but hopefully, I can. 

C: Your Instagram game is pretty strong. As a celebrity, there is a thin line between being a brand of your own and being the person that you are. Do you agree? 

RT: For me, social media is just a fun way of expressing who I am. But, it is important to understand self-love and self-care to the fullest first, because social media, as a whole, is something that can be either your best friend or your worst enemy—it can be your biggest motivator or your greatest demotivator. 

C: How about trolling; does it not affect you? 

RT: I am a little stronger that way—I feel lucky I haven’t been trolled all that much (yet). I follow this saying: If your day is a 100%, and something affects 3% of it, don’t let the other 97% get affected as well. If something (like trolling) happens, I believe in processing it, feeling bad for a bit, then forgetting about it, and moving on. 

I meditate constantly as it is good for my mental health. When you sit with yourself, respect your own feelings and thoughts, it makes you a stronger person. 

C: Tell me something about you that’s difficult for most people to believe. 

RT: I Iove time away from the city. Travelling helps me detox—I like being in a no-network zone, disconnecting, having some time to myself, just with family. I know that sounds weird, but it is true. Also, I thrive on junk food—that is horrible, and I wouldn’t advise it to anyone. Dark chocolate cake is my most favourite thing ever (I just had some today *laughs*). 

C: Things have changed for you over the past year or so—you are a legit movie star now. Is it overwhelming? 

RT: Honestly, I am an extreme person—I either like completely disconnecting or I love the chaos and being busy. I like dividing my day and giving myself enough of both worlds— the right balance of work and social life, and self-care. Each generation has their own problems, strengths, and weaknesses. For us Gen-Zers, being addicted to social media is common. Self-care can just mean sitting in a room with yourself or going for dinner alone. It is important to find yourself within the world we’re living in. 

If I look at myself a year ago and I look at myself now, I am a different person altogether. I grew up suddenly—now I am more aware and comfortable with the person I am becoming. I have become more confident—and I have realised the importance of values...especially of being kind to people. 

C: What makes Rasha unique? 

RT: My smile. My empathy—I am very sensitive, and I care about other people’s feelings and about making them happy. Also, my goofiness (laughs). 

C: You’ve been onboarded as the brand ambassador for Crocs. Tell us about this association... 

RT: I grew up wearing Crocs, so did my brother and friends. Being a brand ambassador is something that I take pride in—it is like a childhood wish come true. Crocs is such a young, fun brand, and it is cute. Working with the team has been nothing but a blast. 

C: Lastly, what’s your wish list before the year ends, or before you turn 20? Also, what is it that you want to be known for when crafting your own legacy? 

RT: By the end of the year, I hope to see a better version of myself with a stronger mindset; someone who’s more focused and hardworking. Through my career and the voice that I have, I hope I can build awareness about animal welfare— India is a country rich in forests; we are born in rich flora and fauna, and conserving them is extremely important. I hope I can create a change, help these beautiful creatures and provide the help and comfort that they really deserve. 

[On the work front] right now I am taking it slow—I am taking every opportunity that arises. I just hope that everything goes well (laughs).

Shoot talent: 

Photographer: Tito; Stylist: Sanya Kapoor; Editorial Coordinator: Shalini Kanojia; Hair: Ashis Bogi; Make-up: Pompi Hans; Styling Assistant: Saee Walve, Ria Kothari 

On Rasha: 

Look 1: Classic Clog Bone with Jibbitz™ Charms, Crocs; denim bodysuit and jeans, Saaksha & Kinni; earrings and ear cuff, Hue And Her; rings, E3K Jewelry and Hue And Her

Look 2: Classic Crush Sandal Quartz with Jibbitz™ Charms, Crocs; pink cloud top, Sonam Khetan; jeans and bucket hat, Siddhant Agrawal; rings, Misho, Dashia, Raf Fine Jewelry; earrings, Raf Fine Jewelry

Look 3: Classic Clog Plaster with Jibbitz™Charms, Crocs; dress, ALLNESSetc; cardigan, Mac Duggal; drop heart earrings, Viange Vintage; rings, Misho and Viange Vintage