In her career of over three decades, the versatile Tabu has donned many attires on celluloid. She has been a conventional homemaker, the 90s love interest, the remorseless killer with a dark sense of humour, and a bar dancer. And she has done it all in the way only she can — with a lot of talent, unmistakable charisma and grace. The actor has been a part of the commercial space and danced with her ‘heroes,’ and she is of course the mainstay of realist cinema, having crossed over to the foreign shores, with Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (2012) and Mira Nair’s The Namesake (2006).
Ask Tabu if she cares about the labels at all, and does it sometimes irk her to be known as an ‘intense actress’ and her response, multiple times over, has been no, she doesn’t care much about the tags. But just like the rest of the world, she also likes to mix things up a bit and have some fun; be light on her feet, not over-prepare or care too deeply constantly. Just have a ball on sets. Unsurprisingly then, Tabu has managed to do that as well. Here’s a quick glance at five of her characters which are the very definition of fun.
In this Malayalam remake of the 1989 movie Ramji Rao Speaking, filmmaker Priyadarshan cast Tabu as the simple girl from a lower-middle class household, Anuradha Shivshankar Panikar, who just wants to make both ends meet to feed herself and her ailing mother. She needs a job and she is willing to fight the hard fight for it. But things take a funny turn when she runs in to the troubling trio of Babu Rao (Paresh Rawal), Raju (Akshay Kumar) and Shyam (Suniel Shetty). Her interactions with Shyam, with whom she is paired romantically in the film, is simultaneously sweet and awkwardly comical, and who can forget a pig-tailed Tabu dancing on the streets to “Main Ladki Pom Pom?”
Nina (Tabu) is a 34-year-old based in London who one day rejects a desi chef’s (Amitabh Bachchan) recipe of Hyderabadi Zafrani Pulao. She insists something is amiss with it, and that her mother would have known how to perfect it. An indignant Bachchan is miffed with this brand of humiliation and takes it upon himself to walk up to Nina’s table, demanding an explanation regarding what went wrong, all in his sardonic, biting tone. And so begins their unconventional love story.
Tabu is quieter here, often letting her side glances and smiles do the work. But when she does open her mouth, she manages to put Bachchan’s character in place whilst making us quietly laugh with her and root for their happy ending.
In this 2018 Sriram Raghavan thriller, Tabu is a killer who has committed multiple murders in order to hide her first crime. The dialogues and the script penned by Raghavan, Hemanth M Rao, Pooja Ladha Surti, Arijit Biswas and Yogesh Chandekar is top-notch, doing a great service to Tabu’s undeniable skills. You detest Tabu’s scheming Simi, but it is difficult to keep a straight face when she is on screen, considering how dispassionate, matter-of-fact and unpredictable her character is.
“I’ve heard that after watching the film (Andhadhun), some people fear me, so do the kids in my building,” the actor had told Mumbai Mirror lightly in an earlier interview. Only an actor of Tabu’s caliber can evoke the parallel emotions of joy and fear in the viewer while watching the same movie.
Tabu was a delight in this half-baked Saif Ali Khan and Alaya F movie. She was Ananya; the hash-smoking, yoga-loving ‘hippie’ mother of Alaya’s character in this 2020 release. Sample her entry sequence in the Nitin Kakkar directorial, her first question to her pregnant daughter is — “Kiska ghar hai ye, iss ghar ki energy thik nahi hai (Whose house is this? The energy of this place is not quite right)”, and then expressing silent surprise post finding out about her long lost partner — “Mil gaye? Kaun hai? (Oh, you found him! Who is he)?” And nothing can top this memorable line: “Meditation aur hashish ke beech I had found inner peace” (Somewhere between practising meditation and smoking hashish, I discovered inner peace). Although only a cameo, Tabu once again proved why she needs but five minutes to steal the show.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2
Considering the massive box office success of Kartik Aaryan-led Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, I will just presume that most of you reading this have already watched it. I was not a fan of the film, but it is truly hard to not be a fan of Tabu’s work, even if it is in a silly, slapsticky world of Anees Bazmee. Tabu plays dual role of Anjulika and Manjulika Chatterjee, where she gets to be a vamp, a jealous other woman, a spurned lover and a ghost all rolled into one horror-comedy ride. Needless to add, Tabu was sensational.
More of this Tabu, please.