MUMBAI—Very few actresses have the kind of debut(s) that Tabu (real name Tabassum, which means a smile) have. The actress made her first and ‘uncredited’ appearance in the 1982 Sagar Sarhadi production “Bazaar,” a success. In 1986 came Dev Anand’s “Hum Naujawan” as an adolescent – Tabu was a schoolgirl then.
Her first lead was in the Telugu film “Coolie No. 1,” a hit. This was because Tabu hailed from Hyderabad. As she put it, “I was very comfortable in Telugu as a language.” In 1992, the Hindi flop “Mashooq” had her cameo. By that time, she had signed Boney Kapoor’s “Prem,” her lead launch-pad. But it was delayed, and her first lead release was “Pehla Pehla Pyaar” in 1994 opposite Rishi Kapoor. In the same year, she shot to fame as the “Ruk Ruk Ruk” girl opposite Ajay Devgn in “Vijaypath.” “Prem” released in 1995 and bombed badly. But Tabu’s career had taken off, and her early triumphs included “Jeet,” “Saajan Chale Sasural” and “Maachis” in 1996.
She had also scored down South. Today, her filmography includes Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali and English (international) films as well. They also include a host of genres in films and roles, and some welcome comedies amidst the serious stuff. Add two National awards and Tabu is indeed sitting pretty.
We met the actress in an extremely chirpy mood at the Hotel Sun’N’Sand for her new release, “De De Pyaar De.”
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Three romantic films with Ajay Devgn in “Vijaypath,” “Haqeeqat” and “Thakshak” and then two films in which you co-starred without a romantic angle: “Drishyam” and “Golmaal Again.” You two are supposed to be great chums. Tell us something about your personal chemistry?
A (Chuckles): Oh, that is something you have to come and see at first-hand! Neither of us has changed, Ajay not even physically, and we took off as if we were in the “Ruk Ruk Ruk” days.
Q: You too look as young still.
A (Laughs): I wanted to hear just that!
Q: You have given so much variety in 25 years, broken so many stereotypes. Did you choose films with that plan?
A: It was a combination of so many factors. You have to choose from what is offered to you. But what is offered also depends on your choices.
Q: Some actors like to forget or disown them – what is your take on your bad films?
A (Laughs): If they were bad, mera qusoor nahin tha (it wasn’t my fault)! Look, I can’t have regrets. I have reached here because of them too. I would not call them wrong choices but learning experiences. That’s how you grow.
Q: Any actor or actors you wish you had got to work with?
A (Instantly): Sanjeev Kumar.
Q: Of late, you have done “Golmaal Again” and now “De De Pyaar De” among comedies. There have been others in the past, like “Hera Pheri.” What attracts you to comedies?
A: Comedies as an experience are fun. You get good practice for interactive work with a bunch of actors, as your timing is very important. You get to say funny lines, and people like to be entertained, so I want to be a part of that entertainment.
Q: Would you say that “Hera Pheri” changed the direction for comedies in Hindi cinema?
A: How can I say that? It would be so pompous! But if you think that way, I am very happy! (Laughs)
Q: In all your variety, what is the genre you most like to watch yourself?
A: That depends on my mood, yaar! But I like to take something back inside me from a film, whether it is happy, sad or anything else. For me, those are the best films.
Q: In “Cheeni Kum” 12 years ago, you were romanced by a hero older than your father, while in this film, your ex-husband falls in love with someone your daughter’s age. So would you do a film with a young boy in love with you?
A: Why not? But the script must be interesting.
Q: Why are you not spotted in the “Bharat” trailer?
A: I only have a cameo in it.
Q: So why does Salman Khan take you in his home productions, as in “Jai Ho!” as well, only in cameos?
A: At least he takes me! (Laughs loudly)
Q: And what is your take on awards?
A: Which ones? (Winks mischievously) The stage awards or the STAGED awards? I have nothing to say. I guess it feels great for the winners, and they all know whether they deserve it or not!
Q: In one such event many years ago, you said you did not want to thank anyone!
A (Laughs): I really meant it. I was bored of all the ‘Thank You’ speeches, and I asked, “Can I not think anybody?”
Q: By default, you are the ONLY actress who has worked with both David Dhawan as director and his elder brother Anil Dhawan, in “AndhaDhun.” How would you compare the two?
A (Wide-eyed): Yeah, that is right! I did not realize that! Oh, they are completely different as people. Anil was just right for the role of Pramod Sinha, my husband. He is so chilled-out; he does not take himself seriously at all. He would regale us with stories from the 1970s, including lesser-known anecdotes about stars.