The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, April 15, 2001

She wows with her acting prowess
By M.L. Dhawan

TABBUSUM HASHMI was born in the family of educationists in Hyderabad. She was barely 10 years old when she faced the camera for the first time as Dev Anand’s daughter in Hum Naujawan in 1986. As she grew up, Shekhar Kapoor persuaded her to act in his film Dushmani. Later on Dushmani became Prem. Unfortunately, Prem dragged on. Tabu’s first release was Pehla Pehla Pyar. This film did not do much to boost her career. However, Tabu took every one by surprise as the Ruk Ruk girl in Vijaypath.

Performance-oriented films distinguish Tabu It is still a mystery what Gulzar saw in Tabu when he signed her for Maachis. As Veeran, Tabu put her everything into the role, as if her life and career depended upon it. As an emotional Chernobyl, she let every radioactive emotion reach out and scaled the viewers. She won the National Award for her performance and was recognised as an actress of substance and verve.

Kala Pani and Viraasat further established her versatility as an actress who possesses the knack of illuminating her character’s inner-most feelings. With her effortless, effervescent naturalism, Tabu virtually outclassed the movies she acted in. She could communicate more with her delicately raised eyebrows than most actresses do with a raised voice. Tabu felt that being labelled as a serious actress had its drawback.


The filmmakers had second thoughts about approaching her for typically frivolous roles in films. Refusing to be branded just a serious actress, Tabu started striking a balance between arty as well as the mainstream films. Though she liked doing serious roles, she did not want to lose out on the fun of doing ‘flutter-your-eyelashes’ kind of roles to survive and live as all that intensity and getting into the character saps one mentally and physically. "I do not think it is impossible to do that provided you have talent’’, she had said.

Consequently, she started working with commercial filmmakers like Sooraj Barjatya, David Dhawan and N. Chandra etc. Sooraj’s Hum Saath Saath Hain was an out and out a formula film and Tabu loved being a part of the fairytale world. Tabu has shown an amazing range as an actress in Shikari (with Govinda) and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar (With Manoj Bajpai).

She has never been afraid to experiment and never bothered about the repercussions of playing a certain role. For Govinda Nihalani’s Takshak, she plays the role of a classical dancer, Suman, who is a strong-willed woman and always stands up for what she believes in is right. As the angst-ridden poet and dancer, she comes into Ishaan’s life and gradually transforms him. Her sensitive performance in Southern films like Prema Desam, Kaadhal Desar and Nine Pelladatha contributed to their immense success at the box office. She stunned everyone by accepting the role of a lecturer who becomes the mistress of a politician in Iruvar. She lent depth and dignity to the all-too brief role.

A heroine by virtue of her physicality can at the most look a bit different. She has just to change from a ‘saree’ to ‘salwaar-kameez or a bikini’, but Tabu has tried her best to look and act different in her films. She prefers roles and films in which she is not obliged to follow the beaten track. She interiorises her performance by acting from within as naturally as waves lapping a shore. Tabu scaled new heights in histrionics in Mahesh Manjrekar’s Astitva. Aditi, the character she plays in the film, is an ordinary middle class woman who has no major problems other than those faced by any middle class housewife in her life. But small incidents influence her thinking and change her life and redefine her identity. In the process, she acquires an identity of her own, beyond that of just being a daughter, mother and wife.

Tabu’s anguish-laden voice, never more than a sob away from abject despair, her unblemished beauty—all caught the audience’s imagination. Has any actress ever looked so heart-breakingly beautiful with tears in her eyes as Tabu looks in Astitva when she is scolded by her son for adultery? Tabu is playing the path-breaking role of a bar dancer in her forthcoming film Chandni Bar. She says that she has never played a character with so many shades. Over the past few years, Tabu has carved out a niche for herself as an actress who can perform well in any film, be it commercial or off-beat. In the crowd of film actresses today, Tabu stands apart as a performer with a difference.

Tabu is a talented actress with an expressive face—a face whose beauty and versatility will never fade with time. What makes her so special is that while her face is as innocent as a child’s, her curves are womanly.

Performance-oriented films are what distinguish Tabu among her contemporaries. With films like Maachis, Kala Pani, Viraasat, Astitva etc Tabu has already made her presence felt as an actress who symbolises quality and is miles ahead of the majority. Most heroines are either trapped in the rut wilfully or are incapable of finding a way out due to sheer mediocrity. Tabu has held her ground even in tumultuous times of sex, sleaze and titillation.

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