Tabu doesn’t really want to do an interview over the phone. Stuck in traffic somewhere in Mumbai, the 45-year-old actor would rather chat than answer inane questions about her choice of roles, hobbies, her singlehood, and so on. “I’ve been answering the same damn questions for years. Ask me something interesting, yaar, it’ll make my day,” she says.
Since Chandni Bar (2001), cinegoers consider Tabu “the thinking person’s actor”, a tag she’s happy to embrace. “Main toh woh hoon hi! I’m very happy that people think so, because so many of my heavy roles were unintentional. But what does it mean exactly? Do they consider themselves thinkers, or I’m an actor who thinks? But how do they know that for sure,” she says.
So, Tabu’s latest release, Golmaal Again, is not a film most of her fans would associate her with, but it has already become the second highest-grossing film in Bollywood this year. “It’s actually a serious role. The film is from my perspective, I’m narrating the story, and I’m not in Golmaal team’s comic space at all. For some time now, I’ve wanted to be a part of an established and successful franchise, to be a part of something so big — I wanted that experience. I had reached out to Rohit Shetty before, and this time, he had something for me. Ajay (Devgn) is an old friend, and I knew the rest of them, so it was fun,” she says.
Tabu’s friendship with Devgn goes back to a time before numerology erased a letter from his last name. In 1994, they starred in Vijaypath, and they’ve done five films together, “six if you count Fitoor (2016),” she says. “What I like about him the most is that his core hasn’t changed, what formed the basis of our friendship has stayed the same. I think it takes a lot for somebody to be so consistent in this industry,” says Tabu, who is known for staying away from the Bollywood social scene. “I show up for the Diwali parties,” she says.
For long, Bollywood has considered Tabu a bit of a recluse, and while she hasn’t actively contributed to her mystique, that viewpoint has offered her a way to be free of any expectations the industry might have once had of her. Tabu is only on Instagram because she likes taking pictures. “Tabutiful” is a woman who loves dogs, Roger Federer, Tintin, and happens to be an actor who appears in several magazine shoots. “I like saying something through an image, I am interested in photography. It’s not in my temperament to converse with so many people at the same time. So, I like to post pictures I’ve taken, and maybe some selfies too, because there’s no pressure to engage,” she says.
Tabu describes herself as “a little non-cinema” and as somebody who does not necessarily think about films as art or entertainment. “I’m not all that passionate about cinema, I’m not a student of the form. I want to do my work well, and that’s the only RELATIONSHIP I have with the craft. I don’t take cinema seriously, and that might be strange for people to know,” she says.
Tabu is now shooting for Sriram Raghavan’s next, Shoot the Piano Player, with Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte, that is slated for release next year. “I don’t know what I’ll take up after that. I’m always wired for something to happen, and I spend a lot of time thinking about my life journey. For me, cinema has always been about the people that I work with, they’ve had the most impact on me. I’m always secretly hoping to meet somebody who will make me see the world in a different way, and it’s happened so many times.”