“That is such a terrible thing because you like to
disengage from the past and move on.”
The good — and the bad — thing about being an
actor, she says, is that you can never completely forget.
Tabu has played a wide variety of roles in her extended career and, each time someone comes and talks to her
about any of them, the memories come flooding back.
“There are times when I see myself on television and I am
like, ‘Arre, yeh main thi, yeh maine kiya tha.’ I wonder if it
happens to everybody else too.”
So then, if she had to invite three characters she has played
in the movies, who would it be?
Aditi Pandit of Astitva?
Veeran of Maachis?
Mumtaz of Chandni Bar?
No, actually :)
“Sadhana of Hum Saath Saath Hai, Nina of Cheeni
Kum and Lovely of Biwi No 1,” says Tabu with a big smile.
“She was such fun, wasn’t she?”
Sometimes, she says, people tell her to sit and watch her
movies once more. “I have been a part of this industry for a
long time and once I have done something and experienced
it, I feel that I have grown out of it and need to move ahead.
But I think it will be a good exercise for me to sit back and
see my films,” she laughs.
Tabu may not remember all the characters she has played,
but there are some moments that will never fade from her
Like the National Awards.
In a strange twist of irony, in 1996, while Tabu was honored
with the National Award for best actress in Maachis, a film
directed by Gulzar, whom she
looks upon as a surrogate father, she lost the
Filmfare Award to Kajol in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
“The National Award (for Maachis) was one of my most
memorable and fantastic experiences.
“I remember I was unwell and had 102º temperature
(fever). I was totally unhealthy. I was thin, scrawny and had
short hair. When I look back at my photograph with the
President of India (Shankar Dayal Sharma) receiving the
award, I wonder how I could have been so dumb?
“Koi make-up nahi. Sirf neend se uth ke naha ke, salwar
kameez pehen ke main chali gayi award lene (I wasn’t wear-
ing any make up. I just woke up in the morning, had a
bath, wore a salwar kameez and went off to receive the
Her second National Award for Chandni Bar and the
Padma Shri “were nice”, if a bit “unsettling.”
“People around you make you conscious. They start advis-
ing you about what you should do and what you cannot do.
It almost felt like there was something wrong with me,” she
laughs. “But I didn’t take anyone seriously.”
There’s something else Tabu does not do. She has never
chased after a film or a role, even though she wishes film-
makers would exploit her range and talent in all kinds of
films and not just serious cinema. “I want to do a role like
Biwi No 1 which is loud and hilarious. I had so much fun
doing that film,” she laughs.
“I don’t think I have ever chased a film. Karna chaiye tha
na (I should have done that)?”
It was a different story, though, when it came to her moth- er, Rizwana.
Her mom, says Tabu, was “thrilled” when her younger
daughter — Tabu’s elder sister, Farha, who is now the mother of an 18 year old, was a popular star in her time — did
films like Life Of Pi and The Namesake.
“She is very happy because when she goes for her morning walks, her friends talk about me and give her news
that is related to me. They get press cuttings and show it
to her. Later, when she comes home, she says, ‘Unko sab
malum hai ki Tabu toh Hollywood movie kar rahi hai
(They all know that Tabu is doing a Hollywood film).’
What about Tabu? What does working in
Hollywood mean to her?
“There was a huge growth with those experiences.
Any new experience always increases the bandwidth
of an actor,” she says. “I worked in a completely dif-
ferent atmosphere, with new people who have different
approach to life, who have different thoughts. It changed
and altered so many things, which are intangible.”
But there are some things that Tabu will not completely
submit to. Like paying the price the public demands of
“I can never ever come to terms with the fact that everything about me is always been documented and so many
people always want to know about me,” she says, looking
“I am aware that these things are a part of the industry, but
I still cannot accept it. It will always bother me, but I think it
is like a package in your life. When you get a lot, you also tend
to lose something.”
Tabu, too, has had to make sacrifices at the altar of her
“I feel I could have educated myself,” says the actress, who
was barely 20 when her first film as an adult (she had done a
couple of films as a child artist in the 1980s; one of them,
Hum Naujawan, was with the legendary Dev Anand), Coolie
No 1 in Telugu, released.
It could be one of the reasons why Tabu is an avid reader
and traveler, and she values her leisure as much as she values
“I want to focus on contentment and satisfaction. Hamesha
nahi milta hai satisfaction. Kabhi kuch cheezein chhoot jaati
hain and experience incomplete reh jaate hain (You don’t
always get satisfaction. You lose out on a few things and the
overall experience remains incomplete). I think if I get that,
then I am successful.
“I’d rather put it this way... I should be successful in being
content and satisfied.” n
ÂTHE FILM INDUSTRY IS A TRAPÊ