Just like it did for Tabu when she was a child. “I grew up in
the 70s and films for us were larger-than-life masala enter-
tainers,” she laughs. “Films like Shaan, Sholay, Muqaddar
Ka Sikander and so many others... they’ve been a part of my
growing up years.”
So, if she’s signed on a film, you can be sure it’s one she’d
like to watch on the big screen.
“I work for myself,” she says firmly. “I do a film because I
would love to be a part of it, but I also think
from the audience’s perspective. Our pro-
fession survives because of our audience. In
the end, what matters is logon ko kaisa
lagega (How did the audience like our
Was that why she agreed to be part of
Drishyam, her film before Fitoor?
Or was it the opportunity to act with her
old friend, Ajay Devgn — or VD (short for
his real name, Vishal Devgn; they’ve known
each other since they were children) as she
calls him — after 18 years?
Or was it just the fact that it is the remake
of a fantastic film, originally made by her
“friends” in Malayalam (starring the incomparable Mohanlal) in 2013?
Not really, she says. “There is so much
that my character has to do that I was hop-
ing all those things come across.”
She does not worry about comparisons or
about the fact that she was doing a remake.
“The moment a character is done by a dif-
ferent person, it automatically changes.
There was no effort to play my character in
a different way. I wanted to be true to what
the script needed.”
What about that teeny-tiny lure, her old
friend, Ajay (their first film together,
Vijaypath, was a hit while their last outing
together, Takshak, proved a damp squib)?
“In all the years that I have known VD,”
she smiles, “he is still the same. His value
systems haven’t changed at all and that is
the best thing about him. He is a person
who thinks with his heart.
“He will stand up and be there for any of
his family and friends whenever they are in
need. He has done a lot by giving breaks to
new directors. Rohit (Shetty) used to be an
assistant director during Haqeeqat (Devgn
gave Shetty his first break as director with
Zameen, which was an average grosser, but
their later collaborations like the Golmaal
and Singham series ruled the box office).”
Tabu says her friend has matured... just a
little. “The only obvious change in him is
that he has become a family man. He has
mellowed down a little. His pranks (on the
sets) have reduced.”
Tabu’s fondness for her buddy — Devgn
says they are just like two boys hanging out
together — is evident on her face.
“I always feel proud about him,” she smiles. “He was a big
star since the day his first film (Phool Aur Kaante, 1991)
released. He has made such big name in all kinds of cinema.
He is one of the few actors who has managed to do so much
work and become a big actor.”
When it comes to being on the sets, though, it is
the masti that matters, isn’t it?
Tabu’s look says it all.
“Personally, I wouldn’t do it, so I like being around people
who do a lot of masti. That is why I like to work with Ajay,
Sanju (Sanjay Dutt), Salman (Khan) who are all mad and
fun people. It’s always good to maintain a light atmosphere
on the sets.”
But Salman, she complains, has become too serious ( They
acted together in 2014’s Jai Ho and 1999’s Hum Saath-Saath
Hain). “Salman is like family to me. He has changed a lot in
the past few years. He was totally different when I shot with
him for Jai Ho. He has mellowed down, but I don’t like him
like this,” she laughs.
But when it comes to romance (of the on-screen variety),
neither Ajay nor Salman make the cut.
“I think it was good to romance Irrfan Khan,” she says
thoughtfully. “I can’t think of someone with whom I found
romance very difficult.”
In an interview to The Times Of India last year, Irrfan —
who Tabu says understands her like very few people do —
wished his friend and co-star ‘a lot of love in her life’.
While talking about Begum Hazrat, her character in Fito-
or, in a promotional video, she says, ‘Her belief in love is shat-
tered… that is the worst thing that can happen to anyone.’
Has the ‘worst’ happened to Tabu? Does she miss a partner
in her life?
I don’t know if I miss it, but I think it is a very nice thing to
have. I don’t know if my belief in love has ever been shat-
tered, but I really do believe that a love like that exists. Two
people can really share each other’s lives and be part of each
other’s lives and still not be… kya bolten hai (what do you
call it)… not stop each other from growing.”
She pauses to gather her thoughts. “It’s not idealistic at all.
I think it is a very achievable thing. I see many couples
around me who are like that and are leading really, really
normal, good, loving lives with each other. So I don’t think
that’s not possible. But it will be a great thing to happen.
“It is always good to have love in your life. It is a natural
need, a natural feeling for you to want to have someone in
your life you can anchor yourself around, you know… not to
be dependent or be a parasite on each other but really have
that sense of home, of belonging to somebody.”
Tabu admits that, though she does not open up easily, there are relationships
she shares in the industry that are not
“I try and talk to Santosh Sivan. I share a
special bond with Gulzaarsaab. People like
Tabu remembers every aspect from her
first film, Coolie No 1 (the Telugu film, star-
ring Venkatesh, released in June 1991). “Till
today, I remember the lyrics of all the songs
and all the dialogues.”
There are other movies too that are part
of her memories of this fantastic journey.
“I remember a snake which came on the
sets of Kalapaani (the 1996 award-winning Malayalam film, which starred
Mohanlal) and scared everyone.
“I remember finishing Astitva in 14 days.”
Even today, she insists she will only do
films that allow her to express herself “in a
way that comes naturally to me. It’s a little
self-indulgent to think like that, but that is
how I have always worked.”
This ‘indulgence’ has allowed her to play
characters that were deeply challenging.
How does she play such draining charac-
ters, like Ghazala Meer in Haider for insta-
nce, without letting it affect her psyche?
“Acting is a very crazy profession to be in,”
she says. “Mentally and emotionally, we
have to go into a particular zone and come
out of it and keep on doing it. Most of the
time, I can switch off once the camera is off.”
It could also be the reason why she refuses to judge her
“It is a very subjective thing to do,” she says. “When a film
doesn’t work, everyone thinks about what went wrong. I have
been very fortunate that the audience has never rejected me.
They have respected, loved and supported my work and have
always been with me.”
At the same time, she says that movie-goers will never
allow actors to forget their past.
ÂTHE FILM INDUSTRY IS A TRAPÊ
Tabu as Begum Hazrat in Fitoor.