Tabu-tiful: In conversation with the lovely Tabu at IFFM 2019

Every Bollywood generation has one actress that grows more and more beautiful as she ages. This generation, it’s undoubtedly Tabu.

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Actress Tabu is delighted with her first ever trip to Melbourne, Australia’s cultural capital.  “I am getting a very positive vibe from Melbourne ever since I’ve arrived,” said the elegant actress as she crossed her legs gracefully and pushed a strand of errant hair behind her ears. “I am so happy to be here and I hope I can come back again.”

Photo credit: Ravindra Jabbal

She wished to make the most of the two days she was here as guest of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM 2019), happily content to hang around the hotel where she found many things to see. With the current weather conditions in Melbourne – lashing winds, freezing temperatures and depressing rain – definitely a wise move

We moved on to reflect on the theme of her much awaited upcoming film Jawani Jaaneman where she is paired opposite Saif Ali Khan, produced by Saif’s house production Black Knights Films. The two are reuniting to work together after two decades since their previous hit multi-starrers Biwi No 1 and Hum Saath Saath Hain.

The film, directed by Nitin Kakkar, is a coming of age story launching Alia Furniturewalla, daughter of actress Pooja Bedi. Tabu plays a cameo role as Saif Ali Khan’s girlfriend. Are the teen years portrayed in this film vastly different to her own teen years?

“It’s totally changed!” Tabu observed. “Teenagers today, and the new generation, are very different to when we were growing up. Their stories and lives are very different so obviously that will reflect in this film. The representation of teenage years is very courageous in this film.”

With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Tabu is a seasoned, stellar actress with many strong roles and stand out performances to her credit. Does she feel that she now completely understands her craft, or there are things that can still surprise her?

“I can never, ever feel that I completely understand my craft, because it is not a technical term, it is an organic and human process. It will keep growing and with age, wisdom and experience it will keep evolving. Till my last breath it will keep growing inside me,” said the agelessly beautiful actress.

Besides garnering multiple national awards for acting and receiving the Padma Shri award from the Government of India, Tabu has also featured in Hollywood film Life of Pi directed by Ang Le and Mira Nair’s drama The Namesake.

She is currently working in several South Indian films and has a great flair for languages. Known for her acting prowess in films like Astitva, Chandni Bar, Cheeni Kum and most recently in De De Pyar De, she is an empowered, independent woman who does not feel the need to be defined by relationships or marriage.

Does she think gender equality is a dream or possibility in Bollywood?

“We need to promote equality in many areas in our world, not just in the film industry. We need to find ways not to subjugate women just because of their gender. For example not considering them for certain jobs or not allowing them freedom to choose. Women should be considered as an asset (to society), a strength not a weakness,” mused the actress who has brought many strong female characters to life on screen.

Tabu took home the Brest Actress Award at IFFM 2019 for her complex role in the critically acclaimed as well as box office hit Andhadhun. The Sriram Raghuvan thriller received rave reviews from critics and audiences and was among the highest grossing film of 2018. It also won the 66th National Best Hindi film 2019 award recently. How did she navigate between the black and white, right and wrong in that unusual role?

“I am still perplexed on how I managed that character!” the award-winning Tabu revealed with honesty. “The beauty of it was that no one could confirm whether my character Simmi (who murders her husband) was crazy or good, villain or victim. There is no core that she belonged to. Other than that I really cannot remember how I managed the process!”

She claimed to be delighted, however, that the film was winning so many accolades.

Bollywood has traditionally put a huge premium on ‘fresh’ and ‘young’, yet this defiantly feminine actress is ageing beautifully, has a commanding screen presence, and continues to serve as an inspiration for women of all ages in Indian cinema. She will always be known for her innate ability to adapt to any challenging role and land completely authentic emotions on screen.