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Tabu: I have never been insecure

Tabu: I have never been insecure – If you had to describe Tabu in a few words, they would probably be versatile and rule-breaker. Her filmography right from Maachis (1996) to AndhaDhun (2018) is enviable. She seems to enjoy masala movies like Golmaal Again (2017) as much as she loves bringing to life characters like Ghazala in Haider (2014) or Simi in Sriram Raghavan’s crime thriller. While her body of work is intimidating, talking to her is a lot of fun. Before I begin my conversation with her, I confess that I am a huge fan of her work and should not be blamed if I fumble. “Don’t worry, I’ll forget those bits,” she reassures me. On that note, we begin our chat. Excerpts…

AndhaDhun has had a great run at the box office, but it was quite a risky project…

I always wanted to work with Sriram. I have immense respect for him as a filmmaker as well as for the way he tells stories. The characters in his films are different from what we see in other movies. I had met him at the preview of Badlapur and told him that I wanted to collaborate with him. A few months later, he approached me with this idea, which was so unusual. I jumped at it because this was a journey that I had not attempted before.

Go on…

With him, everything seems natural and easy because he sounds so convinced about the story and the characters. Working with him has been a learning experience for me. The film was pushing the boundaries in several ways. And it gave me a lot more than what I thought it would. Also, it was a democratic, collaborative process, which made it so much more enjoyable. The entire experience has been rewarding. I felt like I could own the experience and the success. I am sure everyone who worked on the film feels that way because they were made to feel a part of it. The movie was plot-heavy, and the characters were woven in a different format. And Simi was definitely a challenging character.

From Maachis to Haider and now this black comedy crime thriller, are you surprised that such diabolical characters come your way?

(Laughs) I am not surprised, but I am excited to get these characters because they are extremely engaging. The role has to engage me mentally and emotionally, so that I feel that I have to go all out. The more challenging it is, the more utilised I feel. These roles have always appealed to me as they allow me to go beyond the usual, stretch my limits, explore myself and keep growing. That has been my only mantra. Yes, I agree these characters are quite diabolical, especially Simi. The dichotomy of that character is that it looks very organic and natural because that’s the way Sriram makes his films, but they are not your usual characters. There are so many layers, and I am sure people are looking at the ones that are beyond what you can see on the screen. Many plots and sub-plots are woven in the script, and yet, you don’t deviate from the story.

You are often described as being a rule-breaker or a risk-taker. Do you identify with these tags?

I am sure it’s valid, but I have never made the choices thinking I want to be called the rule-breaker. The titles are the end result of what I did organically. Maybe subconsciously, I don’t feel that there is just one way or a correct way to do things. I haven’t believed in such demarcations either in my personal or professional life. The kind of person you are will reflect in the choices you make. It’s great to do things according to the norm, too.

And most often, we do lead our lives according to them, but I don’t see any reason to not do anything that’s not the norm. This is cinema, a creative field, so everybody should be allowed to do what they want to and express themselves. The roles I picked up didn’t feel like a risk to me; it was the only way I could live or do my work. For me, that was natural because these parts were exciting and gave me an opportunity to do something that one wouldn’t normally get to do as a creative person. It is also because of the people who are writing them. They do it with so much depth. It’s just about doing justice to that. The characters and the vision of these directors resonated with me and what I wanted to say through my work. So, they are just a reflection of me and my life.

There was a time when you were not doing many films. Were you always confident that the right roles would come to you if you were patient? Weren’t you insecure?

I have never been insecure. Even if I wasn’t working, it wasn’t that I was waiting for the right role. I knew that I would do something only if I was convinced about it. I had to be clear about the reason why I am doing a particular film. It’s not that I wanted to make the most correct or impactful or dramatic choices, but it all came down to whether I knew why I was doing it.

Despite the constant influx of younger actresses, you have carved a niche for yourself…

I never did anything with the thought of creating a niche for myself. That space was created by doing the things I wanted to do and doing it my way. I never thought ke mujhe yeh jagah banani hai, toh mein aisi filmein karti hoon. I picked what would work for me or suit me. I don’t know whether you can create a space for yourself by going about it consciously. It is rewarding when people say that I have made a place of my own. It has come with a lot of conviction and love for the work that I do. I am happy when I work with a lot of love towards the project.

As an actor, following your own path has always been important to you…

Yes, I wanted to do things my way. I did not follow a certain path because that was the done thing. I didn’t adhere to things like expressions aise hi hone chahiye, ya heroine ko aise hi karna chahiye; that was very annoying for me. I hadn’t come with a rule book or even with the intention of becoming an actress. People always want to tell you what to do and what not to, especially at the beginning of your career. And I would always wonder, ‘Why not?’ I knew that if I was allowed to express myself in my own way, it would work. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same. There’s no point in that. That’s why when films like Kalapani (1996), Maachis (1996), Hu Tu Tu (1999) and  Chandni Bar (2001) came my way, it was exciting because I knew that through these, I could ignore the, ‘yeh hi chalta hai’ thought and go beyond it.

Tabu: I have never been insecure

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