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Tabu is a quite underrated actor, but these Tabu movies will always have my heart, sparkling with her nuanced acting.
She came into the film industry singing Ruk Ruk Ruk in an extremely cringe-worthy song in a completely forgettable movie, which was just a vehicle for the male protagonist’s Bollywood debut. But while Ajay Devgan has next to no acting skills in my opinion, Tabu movies have made their clear mark in my life.
The list of Tabu movies is a mile long, and unfortunately a majority of these do not have her as the protagonist, or even as a significant character. This could be because of her entry into films at a time when male led, macho movies were the order of the day.
But she certainly has made a mark in any role that she has taken up, even if it is a small one. Here’s my personal list of all time great Tabu movies.
Astitva comes at the top of my picks of Tabu movies. A strong central character, it’s a nuanced role, which unpeels the right of a woman to her sexuality.
Astitva means ‘identity’, the sense of self that Indian women are often denied. Sexuality is also such a delicate subject, especially in the very middle class home that Tabu’s Aditi Pandit is a member of.
It was made in both Hindi and Marathi with a cast of exceptional actors from both film industries – in fact Tabu is the only non-Marathi actor in it, other than Mohnish Behl who did a small but significant role, whose mother’s native language is Marathi.
It goes without saying that I have watched it multiple times, in both languages.
Gulzar’s story, songs, and direction, RD Burman’s music, and Tabu is a major role. What’s not to like?
Tabu’s character, Veera, or Virender as she is also called, goes through an entire spectrum of changes in her life, from a simple, sweet young village girl in Punjab, to a hardened terrorist willing to die. One of the early Tabu movies, this must certainly have been the one that established her a s a serious actor.
Cast opposite a much older Amitabh Bachchan in this December-May romance, this was a very different film for an Indian audience.
A 34 year old woman and a 64 year old man in a romantic relationship isn’t your average Indian’s idea of a couple in love. Even if we’re known for our child marriages where the groom could be of any age. But hawww… how can we show a woman expressing her feelings so freely? Who gave her that freedom?
A pathbreaking film worth watching at least once, and if you’re like me, many times.
This was a complete shot in the dark.
It was a day I had taken off, in almost another life pre-pandemic. I wanted to watch a movie in a theatre – my pull is almost always the caramel popcorn. There were a few interesting sounding movies running at the time, and I decided to pick between Neena Gupta’s Badhai Ho, Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma’s Sui Dhaga, and Ayushmann Khurana’s Andhadhun.
As last minute movie plans go, the other two were full, and tickets were available only for Andhadhun. As I had quite a crush at the time on Ayushmann, (Badhai Ho also has him), I decided, why not, though it had released just 3-4 days ago, and the nearly empty theatres probably meant it was a dud. But – the caramel popcorn.
I always take on these popcorn based movie expeditions alone. Unless my daughter has time to come with me. But I digress.
It was a revelation. From the minute Tabu appeared on screen, I had eyes only for her, crush or no crush on Ayushmann. I even ignored Radhika Apte whom I love too. This role of Tabu’s made me realise exactly how powerful an actor she is!
No list of Tabu movies is complete without a mention of Chandni Bar.
Chandni bar is completely Tabu’s movie, from her entry on screen, till the end. No mistake about it. She says so much just with her eyes, and the cinematography has made excellent use of close shots.
The complete character arc that tabu plays in this film – she has almost becomes Mumtaz, the poor orphan girl who is lost in the big city, the unwilling dancer in the bar and sex worker, the wife who leaves behind everything for a better life, and then the mother… I can see all her avatars in front of my eyes as I type.
Which one is she? The young village girl of Maachis? The bar dancer/ helpless mother in Chandni Bar? The empowered urban woman in Cheeni Kum? The determined middle class woman who has just awoken to her own identity in Astitva? Or the mysterious and dangerous woman in the black comedy Andhadhun?
There are many other Tabu movies that I still have to watch, which I know fro what I have read about them, are just as good. The Namesake, Drishyam, and Maqbool are three that I must, soon. But that’s for another time.
Here’s wishing Tabu a very happy birthday!
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In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya
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