Just interacting with Salman makes it easier and very comfortable: Tabu
Tabu doesn’t subscribe to adjectives that describe her as reclusive or exclusive. She finds the media’s attempt to constantly analyse her immature. After 20 years in the film industry and noteworthy performances in 80 films across the globe, she fails to understand why the questions she is asked (including a couple in this interview), are similar every time.
From playing Salman’s bhabhi in Hum Saath-Saath Hain to his behen in Jai Ho, how has the transition been?
I’ve done 80-odd movies. The transition happens effortlessly. From terrorist to prostitute, bar dancer to doctor, it is not difficult. As for Salman, I have worked a lot with him. This is my fourth film with him. Let me see, yes, I’ve done Jeet, Hum Saath-Saath Hain, Biwi No 1 and Jai Ho. It doesn’t feel like I’m playing a role or any such thing because I have known him for so long. Just interacting with him makes it easier and very comfortable.
In the South film Stalin (from which Jai Ho is inspired) the sister’s role played by Khushboo is very important, correct?
You are right. The sister’s role is important. I must say that they (the Khans) would never come to me with a role that is inconsequential because they know that I will not do something that is insignificant. They know me and respect that. When I saw the original, I knew I could say yes to this.
I do such few films because more than being selective about roles and movies, I think I am selective about the kind of people I want to work with. My comfort is tested more with the people who have come to me rather than the role. I know people will only come to me with good roles. That is how it has been since my childhood. It has never been that I have had to refuse bad roles. However, if something has not felt right with the people making the film, I will not do it. I do not feel the need to say yes to everyone who brings a film to me. I have understood that I cannot separate the work from the people who are involved in it. Actually, that has probably been my deciding factor. If I’m comfortable, the work has that quality. The project has to be nice, the role has to be nice and if the people are not nice, I will not do it. There are a lot of subliminal factors that make me say yes and no. I really cannot put my finger on it.
After working with the best film units, under makers like Ang Lee, is it hard to fit into mainstream Bollywood?
That has never come into focus. From such a young age, I’m programmed to work and deal with so many different kinds of people. I have met, interacted with and been exposed to such a huge section of people. Besides something like Life Of Pi that came to me at a much later stage in my life and career, I have been exposed to some great minds in India. You know, people are people. And, they are always showing you where you stand at that given point of time. For me, I am so absorbed in my work that when I am working, I have no time to compare one set-up with another. There is always something that you will take away from each project. There definitely has to be something that you have said yes to in the first place. In some projects, it’s the freedom to express yourself more; in some, it’s a bigger sense of camaraderie and somewhere, it’s the money that is great. All of us make our choices depending on what we get.
So, you are saying Hollywood is no different from Bollywood.
I always maintain that the film industry and film people across the globe are more or less the same. The thread of cinema that binds you together is similar.
Have Salman and you stayed in touch over the years?
The main reason to say yes to this film is that I hadn’t worked with him for almost 15 years. The gap was so long, I felt it was a good way to reconnect with my set of friends, who were at one stage an integral part of my life. Typically speaking, we inhabit different worlds. Though we are in the same industry, we never meet. I was excited to work with Sohail and Salman. I was happy to revisit the relationship that I have with them, which is really like a family. That is the only reason for me to do this film.
Your social behaviour too is erratic. You are seen for four months in a row and then you disappear. Why?
Parties usually happen in a season. You will have five Diwali parties in a row. There will be an overkill of people. And then, for a long time, the party season is gone. You are busy working. Also then, you make a choice of where you want to go. For me, I only go where I wish to go.
Yes, you do the disappearing act quite often.
I’m like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (laughs). And I’m wondering why the media hasn’t got tired of asking me questions on why I’m the way I am. Either the press has not been able to understand the way I am; or they have been able to understand me, but not accept it.
So, are you saying that the mystery element is what an actor is all about?
Not only actors, it is also true of others. Your personality should not be explained beyond a limit. You cannot analyse your personality. It is like trying to understand the essential characteristics of a person. If I have been in a certain way till this age and people have asked me a certain question repeatedly, then they are doing it out of habit. Or they are deliberately playing dumb. I do not feel the need to try and find answers to all the questions I am being asked. I do not like analysing. There cannot be anymore dissection other than the fact that I am in a certain way. You have to understand it and accept it. It is like asking me how come you are 5 feet, 8 inches tall! I have been like that for 25 years, so why ask me this repeatedly?