TALENTED star Tabu is the go-to actress for Indian producers looking to add weight to their movies, with the heavy hitter able to take on any big challenge.
This has resulted in the globally acclaimed actress playing an impressive range of roles and regularly getting the best reviews for any project that she is a part of.
Her latest success was a dynamic double role in horror comedy Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, powering it to become the first commercial Bollywood hit of 2022. It adds to a stellar career that stretches back to the 1990s for a performer regarded as an all-time cinema great.
Eastern Eye caught up with Tabu to discuss her Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 success, what she thinks is the secret of a good performance, inspirations, why she loves characters with shades of grey and future hopes.
Bollywood has been going through a difficult time. How do you feel about your film Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 becoming the first commercial hit of 2022? (Smiles) It feels amazing. It’s gratifying and I feel that my responsibility has been successfully fulfilled. It’s nice that the film is in the public eye and getting a positive reaction. It’s a bonus when you’ve enjoyed the experience and then the journey finally ends with success like this.
Have you got used to the fact that whenever a film is released, your performance always gets the best reviews? (Laughs) I don’t know. It’s always overwhelming. I don’t know what to say to that, Asjad. I just want to experience it and be grateful and hope that my next piece of work is also satisfying. And also that I can do it to the best of my ability.
How have you been able to maintain such a high standard for such a long time? That’s an amazing question. My God, it’s a lovely question and I have no answer to that because I don’t know if I can have a formula. I don’t know if I can really articulate it, or you know, break it down, but yes, my intent and intention when I get into a project is to have conviction. I put in a lot of effort and do it with a lot of belief. My intention is to do the best job possible at that point of time, with whatever resources are available to me. I want to give it my best and that is my intention every day when I go on set.
It’s remarkable how you are able to do that every time… I want to fulfil this responsibility and feel that it is my job to do so. I need to deliver the goods for the director and producers. So, I want to do a good job for them and feel that I have given my best. I don’t want to come home feeling I have done it half-heartedly. Whatever my best today is, I have to give it.
What I love most about your performances is that your characters are always unpredictable. Do you think about that when you are choosing a film? I think it’s amazing that people like you take that from my choice of characters. I don’t think I can engineer that, but the fact I get these roles is great. It is always exciting to do unpredictable stuff. I think as a person I’m like that. I don’t think anything about my life has been predictable. Nothing in my life has been planned.
I thought you were following some successful method… (Laughs) No, not at all. Even if I try to plan tomorrow’s breakfast, something else may happen or it may stay like that. So, I think somehow that unpredictability has led to me getting those kinds of roles, and they have that quality. I don’t know how it comes across. I don’t know how that is achieved.
You’re one of the nicest people working in Indian cinema, but do you like playing negative and grey characters in among your projects? (Laughs) I love it. There was a time where everything was just black and white. The hero was always very good, and the villain had to do bad things. There was no justification for the bad guy’s behaviour. That was all fine, but when I started off in movies and listened to scripts, as an actress I wanted to play characters that were not just completely good or completely bad, because a human being has so many layers to their personality.
Was there a turning point for you? The character shades in Maqbool and Astitva was the actual reason I just sank more into these films and roles. It gave me a chance to explore my own abilities and personality, and it felt amazing that these characters are real people. We are all good, bad, ugly, terrible, nice, generous, wicked, and more, all in one lifetime. So how can a person be just one thing? There has to be some vulnerabilities and cracks in a person. I think the definition of a villain had to change and it has, of course. Our audiences are also accepting of it. Earlier the quintessential hero or heroine never had any shades of grey, but now they do.
You are versatile, but primarily seen as a serious actress. What was it like working in horror-comedy Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2? I feel every film has its own world and reality, so you can’t compare or have reference points between each one. Even I cannot compare or put Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 in a frame with my previous films to see where the similarities are or how different they have been. Or how different I was or how I should perform. Each film has its own existence, and everything has a value.
What was it like being directed by a comedy specialist like Anees Bazmee in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2? I have been a huge fan of Anees bhai since (his film) Welcome, which is many people’s go-to film for comedy. I have not laughed as much as I have watching Welcome, which I’ve seen many times. So I’ve wanted to work with him for the longest time. Then he came to me with this, which is not just a comedy or horror-comedy. It is much more than that where my character is concerned. Working with somebody like him with so much experience, meant I just followed his vision. Like I said, every film is the director’s vision. I want to do the best for that filmmaker and bring my own stuff to the table.
You have played the whole spectrum of characters. Do you have a dream role after all these years? I don’t know. I mean, there are so many characters in the world, so I’m sure there will be something I haven’t done. There are many more shades of a human being’s personality that I would love to play. But only when a film or character comes to you is when you understand that this is something I have or have never done before. Or even if I have done something similar, what is the newness to this film? So, you just keep growing with each project.
You’re getting more gorgeous as you’re getting older. What’s your secret? (Laughs) Thank you, but I don’t know, there is no secret. If you are saying that then maybe it’s because I am thankfully blessed with good genes. That’s it. Nothing else. It’s the way you are looking at me.
What inspires you? The world inspires me. Just to live in this world and to remain connected. To constantly keep making bridges between you and the world inspires me. I want to just reach out to the whole world and see how I can live in it and make a space. You know, just spread myself in this whole beautiful world that we live in. Other things that inspire me are music, a piece of good writing and people’s personal stories and journeys – what they have endured and achieved. The curiosity of children also inspires me.
Why do you love being an actress? Because it’s a new day every day. Every film is a new experience. It just makes you feel newer and more excited. Every film is a new character and an opportunity to explore. You’re undertaking a new journey and meeting new people. I think that’s the best part of this job. I think that’s why people love doing this and carry on, especially for me. You get to meet new people and form new associations, for yourself, your mind, and your brain. And you are faced with a new challenge with every new film. Each day you go on set, it’s a new challenge.