What not to ask Tabu

July 29, 2015

Interviewing movie stars is usually a cut-and-dried affair. When a new film is about to open in cinemas, entertainment reporters get a call from the publicity agency. A couple of days later, you are ushered into a room with a dozen waiting journalists, and after an hour or so, you are taken to the celebrity for the promised interview. With the warning: 15 minutes only.

The questions follow a set pattern – the film, the star’s other projects and perhaps their career. But one interview with Tabu is enough to shatter this template.

The fiery actress, whose latest role is that of a ruthless police officer investigating her son’s disappearance in the Bollywood remake of Malayalam film “Drishyam” (Visual), is tired of answering questions about her career choices.

I am so bored of answering why I do such few films. Everyone asks me that. It’s almost like they’ve decided that if it’s Tabu, you must ask her this. If someone acts in a particular way, that’s their temperament, right? Why should I be forced to explain myself all the time?

If there ever was a hopeless cause, it is this interview. So you abandon all pretence of asking questions and launch into a conversation instead. And that’s when the true Tabu emerges, talking animatedly about her beginnings in Hindi cinema, narrating anecdotes, pointing to your recorder and saying “switch it off” before sharing a juicy tidbit of gossip.

Tabu, a winner of two National Awards, has for long been considered one of Hindi cinema’s finest actors. Movie critics praised her portrayal of a conflicted mother and wife in the 2014 film “Haider“, a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

But the 43-year-old says she is still hounded by the media for her reluctance to take on too many films.

Don’t ridicule or condemn someone. They are constantly making me feel bad about myself. Films are not the only thing on my mind – there are other things that I live for.

Tabu’s performance in “Haider” has only reinforced what many already knew – that she is a master at her craft while playing characters with moral ambiguity.

I really enjoy these kind of characters because it comes with a lot of liberty. You can interpret it in many ways. In real life also, our prism is like that. We might like to teach our kids about right and wrong, but when we behave in everyday life, things are different.

There is so much to do in each scene – if your groove of films is one that supports and allows it, you can go all out with your emotions.

In “Drishyam”, a remake of Jeethu Joseph’s super-hit 2013 Malayalam film of the same name, Tabu’s character is certainly not one that will arouse sympathy.

You cannot slot her – she is an IG (inspector general) of police and comes with the baggage of power, which makes her arrogant, but you can’t hold it against her. You remain emotionally distant from her because that is how she conducts herself.  Even when I played her, I was removed from her.

Such roles come naturally to Tabu, but there is one movie genre where “dark roles” do seem out of place.

When there is romance and there is darkness, I can’t digest it. You’ve always perceived romance and love in a certain way. When that goes down, it’s a different kind of space.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Tony @TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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