abu, you are in a very tough pro-
fession. They make the best of the
best doubt themselves.’
The “truth” of this observation,
made by a close friend, “hit” her like
very few things have, says one of
India’s finest actress. “The film ind-
ustry is actually a tough place to sur-
vive,” she says.
There are unsaid rules to follow, clear divisions of loyalties,
rivalries, backbiting and a harsh, glaring public spotlight
that, in this era of mobile phones and social media, does not
allow a whiff of privacy to sneak in.
Tabu, who celebrated her 44th birthday this past November, skirts it all. Her armor consists of her incredible talent
and of her felicity of slipping away into her private world,
sometimes for a couple of years, when she feels like it.
“It’s (the film industry) a trap, and I think you need to be
aware to disengage from that trap and still do your own
thing,” she says.
“I am Tabu unwound,” she laughs. “I like to spend time
with family and friends and share my experiences with them.
I laugh, cry, go for movies, eat popcorn. All these things are
pretty relaxing for me.”
Ah yes! About the popcorn.
It plays a very important role in her life. She carries packets of the microwave variety with her everywhere, especially
when she has to sit down to publicize her films. And she’s
pretty willing to share it, even as she fiercely guards her private life.
“I am only unwinding,” she laughs. “Actually, wind karne
main time lag jata hai (It takes time to wind me up).”
Don’t let the languid demeanor fool you; it hides a pretty
This was why, instead of indefinitely waiting for the release
of what would have been her first film, Prem (produced by
Boney Kapoor to launch his youngest brother, Sanjay, it saw
multiple delays), she opted to debut in Bollywood with Pehla
Pehla Pyar, where she co-starred with Rishi Kapoor.
Prem released a year later, in 1995, by which time she
already had her first
It’s this ability she
has — to focus on
what she wants,
and turn away
from what she
does not — that
allowed her to take
a drastic career turn
when she found herself instinctively leaning towards the cinema
of realism and natural
It could be the reason it
was easy for director Abhishek Kapoor to convince her to
step in as Katrina Kaif’s mother in Fitoor, when Rekha excused herself from the film.
Incidentally, the role was
originally offered to her so, she
says, she didn’t need much prepping. With 48 hours, which
were spent in a parlour getting
her hair coloured red, she was on
the sets, ready to shoot.
Tabu looks luminous in the film,
almost eclipsing the stunning-looking
“Actually, the credit for all that goes
to Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor). Mera koi
lena dena nahi hai. I have no contribution. He wanted her to look royal.
“Besides, she is stuck in time. She’s still
wearing those same clothes. She’s still attached to her jewelry; iske chakkar mein
bahut glamorous ho gaya character (so the
character became very glamorous),” she says.
“Of course, we have a great director of photography (Anay Goswamy) who has shot the film beautifully. Everything glows.”
Through the glamour, she was also required to
bring through the character’s dark side, born out of a
broken heart. “Gattu wanted her to be intimidating;
he kept saying that. The child should be intimidated
by her, not scared of her. I don’t want her to spook him
out. There was a thin line between the two.”
It is walking such thin lines with such apparent ease that makes Tabu such a
“I was really excited when films like
Kaala Paani, Maachis, Chandni Bar and
others came my way,” she says. “The sheer
fact that I would get to portray various
emotions was thrilling. I also got an
opportunity to showcase my talent.”
And she did, in a most fabulous fash-
ion. Take a look at some of the strong
women she’s brought alive onscreen.
Meera Deshmukh in Drishyam.
Ghazala Meer in Haider.
Panna in Hu Tu Tu.
Nimmi in Maqbool.
Or even the regal Begum
Hazrat in February 12’s
But Tabassum Hashmi,
or Tabu as we know her, is
nothing like these characters.
In fact, Tabu’s got an unexpected streak of humor that creeps up on
you when you least expect it. She’s not
grim. Or serious.
She is, if one were to describe her in
a movie-goer’s term, the kind of person who’d like to sit in one of the
front row seats of a movie theatre,
Tabu absolutely loves, loves, loves
commercial cinema. Which could
be why she and choreographer-turned-director Farah Khan are
such good friends.
“I totally love it (commercial cinema),” she says yet again.
“As a viewer, I will go and watch
only commercial films. I think the
films that I have done haven’t been the
drab, boring kind. Whether it was Cha-
ndni Bar or Astitva, I was very clear abo-
ut choosing films that I knew had com-
mercial elements in it.”
Incidentally, it’s not easy to get Tabu to
sign on the dotted line, as the gaps in her
Ask poor Vishal Bharadwaj.
“He chased me for six months for Haider,” she says,
When she picks up a script, she says, she wants to be
“entertained. By this, I don’t mean that I just want to laugh.
Even when there is drama or suspense, or it is a musical film,
it has to engage the audience.”
Tabu is, if one were to describe her in a movie-goer’s term, the kind of person who’d like to sit in one of the front row seats of a movie theatre, chomping on popcorn and Samosas, and whistling at each dhamakedar moment on screen.
ÂTHE FILM INDUSTRY IS A TRAPÊ
But Tabu knows just how to disengage
from that trap and do her own thing.
Over laughter, popcorn and multiple
conversations, the actress gives
Savera R Someshwar and Sonil Dedhia
glimpses of the real her.