Why We Love Tabu

The actor doesn’t give too many interviews, but we’ve got some gems to share from Tabu’s past conversations with Film Companion.
Why We Love Tabu

Veeran, Mumtaz, Nimmi, Ashima Chaudhary, Ghazala Mir, Simi Sinha, Krishna Mehra — the women Tabu brings to life with her performances invariably stand out for the way they make the audience think of the worlds they inhabit, of the individuals they are. There’s a middle-aged woman grappling with the problems of new love while mourning an old one; a seductress willing to go to any length to have her way; a homemaker out of sorts in a new country. Tabu is each of these women with the same, profound degree of believability. Sometimes she transcends the script she’s given; sometimes, she becomes the secret weapon of the story. Over a career spanning eighty roles (and counting), Tabu makes a role feel special, no matter how much screen-time she may get. There is also an aura of mystery surrounding her as a celebrity. The actor has remained taciturn about the details of her process, how she dissects her roles and prepares for her performances. As such, it feels like her acting has an ineffable, intuitive quality to it, making Tabu a joy to behold. 

Whether she’s sinking her teeth into a complex Shakespearean character or hurling swear words like we’ve seen in the trailer of her upcoming film Crew, it’s no secret that we love watching Tabu on our screens. Here are some of our favourite pieces of insight that Tabu has shared with Film Companion over the years.

On her approach to acting and why she isn’t the kind to do research

“I didn’t learn acting that way. I didn’t go to film school, so I’ve been learning on the job. I wouldn’t even know how to do proper research or how to apply technique or what the technique is. I think I should sit and ask all these theatre actors ki technique kya hoti hai, batao? (what is technique, anyway?)”

Tabu in Maqbool
Tabu in Maqbool

On taking risks and never playing by the rule book

“If you tell me to follow some rule, I’ll purposely break it. That’s how I’ve led my career. Yeh mat karo! Nahi karo? Achcha, main woh hi karoongi aur bataungi ki this works. (‘Don’t do this!’ ‘Oh, you don’t want me to do this? Okay, I’m going to do exactly that and show you that it works.’) Actually, I got lucky because it all worked for me. I was just doing what was not normal for a Hindi film actress to do, not because I wasn’t getting a chance to do that but because despite getting those chances, I wanted to go the other way and do it my way and put in my own thing and do roles that come naturally to me. I think it’s fantastic that I got accepted that way, and that people liked me, the fraternity accepted me, and that this whole thing worked for me. I could make a success out of it. But even if it wouldn’t have worked, I would’ve stuck to what I wanted to do because I was never thinking of how it’ll position me or how it’ll affect me. People say that you took all the risks, but mujhe (to me) they never felt like risks. Maybe that’s why I could do them.”

On her process

“Something happens in front of the camera. I’m sure there is a subconscious, subliminal process and you know where you’re getting and you know what the director wants out of you, you know what sur (note) you have to play on. And you have your co-actors, you have so much else that is happening, so somewhere I feel that that the entire thing takes over and becomes your process.”

Tabu in Crew
Tabu in Crew

On her collaborations with Vishal Bhardwaj

“It’s very special, how he writes for me and how he sees me is very very special, different from how others [directors] have seen me. But what it did for me was very special and defining, personally and professionally, the experience of Maqbool (2003). What he can give me in a character, in a role is very different. Only he can do that. And what I share with him, I don’t share with a lot of others. It’s something that I can’t really define. In an interview [Bhardwaj] said, ‘Main uske bina kaam nahi kar sakta (I can’t work without her)’ and it made so many things in my life feel worth it. It is a very very very big thing to say.”

On Irrfan and what she learnt from him

“I learnt a lot, he affected me a lot, and I think I changed a lot after working with him. It’s like one of those people who come into your life and redefine it and make you see things in a different way. I learnt how to be completely true to your characters, and how to be completely true as a person and bring that to your work. I can’t even start to say how he affected me and the experience that I had with him and what he meant [to me] but I can definitely say that what I shared with Irrfan on screen, I don’t know if I can or have shared it with anyone.”

You can watch Tabu’s complete interviews with Film Companion here and here

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