She is known for her serious roles in movie master pieces like Maqbool and Maachis.
However, in real life Tabu has a very candid sense of humour that can catch you unawares.
When I asked her about the rise of women-centric roles in Bollywood, Tabu laughingly stops and asks me to ask her something else.
Perhaps it is this candour and her open strength that has got her the role of a tough-as-nails cop in the new movie ‘Drishyam’.
While her character – police officer Meera Deshmukh – might be tough she is also that true strength lies in the ability to laugh and in honesty.
I caught up with Tabu to find out more.
The original Malayalam version of Drishyam was a powerful film. What attracted you to this story?
You’ve seen the film so you know how powerful the story is. Hence obviously it’s the story, the plot, the characters and the fact that it’s just about these four people and two children: Ajay and his wife, me and my husband and the two girls. You know the story is so strong; we cannot give away the story at all. The characters are so strong and the fact that the plot keeps oscillating between these characters. So, that was the most interesting part and the role is very powerful, very authoritarian.
This is not the first time you are playing a cop how did you prepare for this role?
Actually, I am playing a cop after a long time and it’s different in many ways from the other cop roles in that I’ve never been the inspector general of police and now just with the post there’s so much authority. And it is a powerful position which comes with the post. So, I had to be aware of the fact that she is a woman, who must be so powerful from inside and the kind of experience and training she had to go through to reach this position. So, I had to be aware of that person and bring it in the character.
Asha Sarath played this character in the Malayalam original and she won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. How does that kind of knowledge shape your expectations?
I never have any expectations from any of my movies for any awards. Awards are the last thing ever on my mind. I don’t want it to be ever on my mind. Awards have never ever been a motivating factor to me and I am saying this with all honesty. I feel that the work comes first and the award comes as a result of that work. If you approach your work with the thought of awards then usually the opposite happens. Do your work with all your dedication then you will get the deserved award, reward or criticism. For me, it has always been the work.
As an actor, you’ve done a plethora of roles so do you get frustrated when you are typecast into serious roles? Do you have a favourite genre as such as an artist?
No, not really in fact I find it very interesting. Even if I get bored, to have the opportunity to go to a movie set everyday and do so many complex characters it is great fun for a creative character. I don’t have any such favourite genre but I like to watch comedies. But I also like to watch drama as it really engages you. I like to have a complete experience when I am watching a movie. It has to really engage me and it has to be definitely larger than life and something which takes me away from everything and takes me into the world of the characters. Also, I like the cinematic way of telling stories because there are so many different mediums.
This is your first film with Nishikant Kamat. How was the experience?
It was one of the easiest experiences I’ve had as an actor because he is someone who clearly knows what he wants. So, there’s really no confusion or baggage. There are no extras or any trappings. He knows what he is doing, he knows how to get the work done and he is very quick and precise with what he is doing. So, it was a great fun and he is always open to discussions and suggestions.
Regardless of the genre you veer towards strong women characters. Is it an extension of what you are in real life?
It is probably an extension of what I want to be. I don’t know about my other characters if they are strong women because they’ve always cried and died. But they’ve had strong emotions for sure. And that’s who I am in real life. I also feel that strength is not just that if you are a police inspector you are kicking people, killing people. It comes from being strong in all your emotions. I feel whatever emotions you have there has be strength in them. That’s what has attracted me towards these characters whether it is ‘Maqbool’, ‘Machchis’ or ‘Cheeni Kum’. Whatever they were experiencing emotionally they were experiencing it fully and with lot of strength. That’s what attracts me (towards these characters).
How was it working with Ajay Devgan after all these years? Have you noticed any major changes in him as an actor?
Everyone is asking me this question (laughs). The truth is that we haven’t changed at least I don’t see any change in him. I am also sure he doesn’t see me any differently. We are still the same crazy friends like we were.
From the time you started until now, Indian cinema has gone through a lot of change, what do you make of it? Globally where do you think is Indian cinema heading to?
The interesting thing is there is no huge divide between worlds now. Everything is merging. Our people are going to Hollywood and vice versa. I don’t think anyone is moving in any one direction. People are moving in different directions. They are making an effort to merge with different people. So that’s all very interesting, isn’t it? To borrow and to lend to each other.
The parameters of success have also changed. Earlier, if a film is making 100 crores then it is a success but now things have changed. What do you make of it?
Actually, it is not like that always that 100 crore is the barometer of success for a film. It was never like that. There were and are some films, whose parameter is that so they have a space. But for different kind of films the parameters are different depending on what the film-makers are aspiring for. Some feel successful if their film makes 100 crores, so they set that standard. Some are driven because they want a good review. Some feel if they are highlighted in a film festival they are successful. So for every film maker there’s a different parameter and each parameter works.
Where do you go from here?
Where do I want to go? I want to come to London for sure (laughs). You might see me there in August. I want to stay here for some time. As an artist, I think it will unfold itself. I’ve never had a fixed plan until now. And usually whatever plans I make tend to flop. So, I am not thinking of anything now. I just want to have a lot of fun in my work and I want to work with people who really make my acting experience, my movie making experience open so that I grow as an artist and a human being.