Filmmaker Ravi Tandon was born on 17 February, 1935 in Agra, UP. He produced and directed several hit films in the course of his career. Tandon made his directorial debut with Balidan (1971), graduating from being an extra on film sets to sitting in the director’s chair himself. His directorials include at least 25 films including Anhonee (1973), Majboor (1974), Khel Khel Mein (1975), Zindagi (1976), Muqaddar (1978), Jhoota Kahin Ka (1979), Waqt Ki Deewar (1981), Khud-Daar (1982), Aan Aur Shaan (1984), Rahi Badal Gaye (1985), Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (1986), Nazrana (1987), Albela (1989), and Professor Ki Padosan (1994), among others. The range of subjects he explored in films like Majboor, Khel Khel Mein, Jawaab (1985), and Zindagi display the variety of his work.
Tandon had started off as an extra on film sets and eventually went on to wield the directorial baton for numerous films. His initial wish had been to get into medicine. However, after graduation, he was unable to clear the pre-medical test. Having participated in a few dramas, and selected for an all-university youth festival from Agra University, he thought of trying his luck in the film industry. He thus left Agra, despite his father’s reluctance, to reach Bombay. He started work as an extra in Filmistan Studios, earning Rs.100 a month, playing different characters such as a policeman and a bandit. He is credited with appearing onscreen essaying roles in Deep Jalta Rahe (1959) and Love In Simla (1960). However, in six months, he realised he couldn’t be an actor. The desire to be connected with and part of the world of cinema was still strong, though.
Approaching filmmaker RK Nayyar who was starting work on Love In Simla (1960) for producer S Mukherjee, Tandon was hired as Nayyar’s third assistant in the film. Satisfied with his work, Nayyar hired him as his chief assistant in his next, Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke (1963). Tandon soon caught the attention of actor Manoj Kumar who recommended him to producer Arun Verma. He went on to be hired as director for the Manoj Kumar-Saira Banu starrer, Balidan (1971). Unfortunately, due to a combination of reasons, Tandon’s directorial debut film didn’t do well at the box office.
When his friend Gullu Kochar approached him with the offer to produce a film that would be directed by Tandon, the latter already had a ready subject which he had written himself: Anhonee. Convincing Sanjeev Kumar to come on board for the film, Leena Chandavarkar and Kamini Kaushal were also signed on. The film, a suspense drama, went on to become a mega hit, cementing Tandon’s place in the film industry. Over time, Ravi Tandon went on to work with all the leading stars of the day including Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Smita Patil and Sridevi.
Tandon had a penchant for thrillers, making films replete with twists and turns such as Anhonee, Majboor (1974) and Khel Khel Mein (1975). Looking for a change of genre, he went on to make Zindagi (1976), a story about an old couple played by Sanjeev Kumar and Mala Sinha. While the film was appreciated, it didn’t give his status the desired boost in the film industry.
While Anhonee, Majboor and Khel Khel Mein rank high amongst Ravi Tandon's films, there is also Jawaab (1985) which he directed for producer Premji, featuring Raj Babbar and Smita Patil. The film, however, did not succeed at the box office.
Known to be a versatile director, Ravi Tandon effortlessly handled comedies like Khel Khel Mein as well as psychological thrillers like Jawab and Majboor. A hit directorial, Khel Khel Mein was a suspense thriller with popular music that included peppy favourites Ek main aur ek tu, and Khullam khulla pyaar karenge. The film starred Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh and Rakesh Roshan as college students, who play a prank and end up getting involved with a dangerous criminal. Jawab followed the adventures of a singer Ramprasad Singh and his family who keep have to adopting new identities in order to protect themselves from a gangster. Majboor was loosely inspired by two English films of 1970—Zig zag and Cold Sweat. The film was later remade in Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati and Malayalam, and also inspired the film Jimmy (2008).
Known as a ‘gentleman director’, Ravi Tandon was liked and respected by all his stars. A private person, he largely shied away from undue publicity for himself or his films.
Ravi Tandon also produced Anhonee which he also wrote, as well as Apne Rang Hazaar (1975) and Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. He also appeared onscreen essaying roles in Deep Jalta Rahe (1959) and Love In Simla (1960). He had worked as Assistant Director on Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke (1963) and Love In Simla (1960).
On the personal front, Ravi Tandon is married to Veena Tandon. He and his wife are parents to Rajeev Tandon, an actor turned producer/director who made the teleserial Heena, and actress Raveena Tandon.