Tabu is currently working with Mira Nair on A Suitable Boy.
Tabu is currently working with Mira Nair on A Suitable Boy.

Tabu: ‘Can’t label a role as good or bad, a character’s journey is important’

Tabu is glad that female actors are getting the fee they demand nowadays, but there is scope for improvement.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Shreya Mukherjee, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 07, 2019 05:29 PM IST

A good character in an interesting narrative is always exciting, but when you get this combination in an international project, it’s like an icing on the cake. And actors who get such opportunities often go to town sharing their excitement. Tabu is an exception. Even when she did award-winning films such as The Namesake (2006) and Life of Pi (2012), the actor had opened up about the projects only when she was spoken to.

She says, “I think I’ve been like this. I can’t find any reason why I’m like this. Mujhe itna shayad apne baare mein baat karna achha nahin lagta. I mean I do talk about my films when required, but can’t make it a 24 hour job. I do talk about my projects when I’m promoting them, or also when people are interested to know about the film or want hear what I’m saying.”


According to Tabu, being a part of an interesting project is good enough and that there’s no need to go gaga over it. She follows a similar approach towards her Indian projects too.

“I was required to speak about The Namesake or Life of Pi. Those films are much bigger than my voice and everyone know what kind of films they are, what they conveyed and where they took me both professionally and personally. Given an option, I would never stop talking about these films. I feel indebted to be a part of such projects,” says the actor.


For her, The Namesake was a life-changing experience. “My life can be divided like before Namesake after Namesake, before Maqbool after Maqbool, before Haider after Haider… These are the landmarks in my career. Also, Life of Pi won four Oscars. That says it all,” she adds.

Tabu is quite excited to work with Mira Nair again in the screen adaptation of Vikram Seth classic A Suitable Boy, after The Namesake. “The experience of working with directors like Mira is something you can’t put in words. I feel lucky that it’s happening again… But I can’t talk about A Suitable Boy right now or I might get killed,” she jokes.


But what took her six years to sign another Hollywood film, even when offers were pouring in, by her admission? “I wasn’t keen on doing something for the heck of it. Not everyday are you offered such beautiful stories and strong parts written for Indians or Asians internationally. I got the opportunity in both the films. So I was waiting for the right project,” she says.

For Tabu, choosing characters is an organic process. “I think every actor wants a good character in an interesting film. I’m no different. The significance of the character to the script is important. This has been the process since I started understanding films better. I don’t label a character as good or bad. For me, the journey of the character is very important. The character can be one-dimensional, run-of-the-mill, layered or simple… It needs to move me. And when it does, I am game,” she ends.

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After three back-to-back box-office blockbusters, Tabu feels this is the most gratifying phase in her career. The actor, who has delivered only hits in the recent past, such as Andhadhun, De De Pyaar De, says “The growth that I have seen in movies, and myself and that I’ve been able to apply to films is something that I am really happy about. To get the opportunities to grow with your work, and have your growth reflect in your work is an amazing thing.” Being in a fulfilling stage in her career, she is more open to push the creative envelope even further. Excerpts.

After playing intense roles in the past few years, were comedy films such as Golmaal Again and De De Pyaar De a refreshing change?

Golmaal came back with its franchise, even De De Pyaar De, I did what was required out of me as an actor. Having said that aisi type ki filmein beech main nahi ban rahi thi. My presence in the serious films or darker roles worked very well. But people have not forgotten Biwi No 1, Chachi 420 or Hera Pheri. When people want to cast they want to give you roles which you are good at. It’s just that I was at a time when these films were being made and so everything worked out in tandem. But, I feel my approach in that sense for every film has been the same. Every film has a different requirement of course. So, you try to fit into that and do complete justice to what is required as for your performance.

Now do you want to charge double after the success of your last few films?

(Laughs) I think I really should charge double! I am sure the makers who come to me will have that respect for what I deserve and will give me my due.

Are actresses getting the fee that they demand?

I think so. A lot of demands are being met. I am sure the makers are smart enough to understand that if an actress is bringing them that kind of revenue and is pulling the crowd, they will definitely give her accordingly. Actors are also intelligent; they know their position and demand accordingly. Of course, it’s a business so everyone will try to get the best deal. But, it is still better now. Negotiations are less hassle free and it’s become more clinical.

Are you at all jittery on the first day of shoot?

There’s a lot of excitement. There is no apprehension. Because you have done it for long, so you know the pattern. But, when you go on set, it takes a day or two to settle, unless you know the people or worked with them earlier. When you are working with a new set of people, it takes a day then you are in the groove.

For you, how important are breaks between movies?

Long enough breaks toh nahi, thoda sa just to regroup, because the process of a film tires you. I like some time off because I like to give time to prep for the film. By prep I mean like costumes etc. I don’t like last minute things such as fitting theek nahi hai, aur woh saari cheezien, because it distracts you from the shooting process. I like things in order. There will some last minute things, but as much as we can keep practical things in order then it just saves time.

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