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Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir are beyond shelf life: Tabu

tabu‘For me HAIDER is not a film. It’s an entire emotional experience, a journey. It’s a beautifully shot film with unusual locations. There is so much conflict and depth of emotions in this film’ is what Bollywood’s most revered actress Tabu has to say, when you probe her on the just-released film HAIDER, helmed by Vishal Bhardwaj. In an exclusive encounter with Tabu, she talks about romancing father and son Pankaj & Shahid in MAQBOOL and HAIDER respectively, her experience shooting in the chilling Kashmir and fond memories of the place, what awards mean to her, her pairing with Irrfan and much more: Read On…

What made you team-up with Vishal after almost a decade long gap?
I was just excited to be working with him again. When Vishal narrated me about HAIDER, I knew it was a role that any actress would die for. I knew he will come up with something strong that I would enjoy. I trust Vishal’s sensibility and that’s why I did MAQBOOL. Since MAQBOOL experience was good, I knew HAIDER will also be path-breaking.

Talk about your bonding with Vishal and how he has changed over the years?
Vishal and I bonded since MAACHIS days. The best part is we share the same feeling for Gulzarsaab. The association started then and it kept growing. Vishal is like my family. I can never feel a professional relationship with him. It’s always going to be like home with him. He will do justice and will never let me down. I have that immense faith in him. It’s an unsaid bond…

He’s matured a lot. We all have become older but somewhere we are all the same from the heart. We didn’t have music sessions for HAIDER unlike MAQBOOL, where we used to have mehfils, ghazals because of the extreme cold climate in Kashmir. I am very happy that he has become a big name, producing his own films. His sensibilities, stories and relationships are so interesting. The best thing about him is that he just doesn’t say anything to me. He lets me be free. He is okay if I take the scene to any other level.

We’ve never seen you repeating directors except for Vishal, Priyadarshan and Gulzar. Any specific reason?
I think all my directors have come to me but I never did it. It was I who always refused it. Madhur came to me with AAN, PAGE 3 but I didn’t want to do it, Mahesh Manjrekar again came to me with PITAH but for some reason I couldn’t do it. In fact, he had even offered me VAASTAV before ASTITVA. So it’s not that I don’t repeat. My timing doesn’t match.

Where actresses shy away from doing mature/character roles, you never had any qualms in playing Salman’s sister or sister-in-law in JAI HO and HUM SAATH SAATH HAI respectively or for that matter being Shahid’s mother in HAIDER. Didn’t you feel that you might just lose the chance of playing mainstream actress?
I understand that but the thing is I cannot say no to a good role. The fact that I am a mother or Bhabhi on-screen is a secondary thing. What comes first is how strong my character is. For me that is very important. People may write whatever they want but why should I get upset. I was happy doing that. I don’t know what I missed and I what didn’t. I just know what I have done is satisfactory enough.

After being paired up with Pankaj in MAQBOOL, was it a bit awkward romancing his son Shahid in HAIDER? In what way the two are different?
Well I am not romancing Shahid. When you will watch the film, you will understand the equation. Since the film is inspired from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ so it has that Oedipus complex. The scenes between Shahid and me are one of the highlights of the film. It was intense an experience. Actually, the relationship is very interesting between Shahid and me in this film. It was great to portray the mother and son kind of relationship and it was really potent. I don’t know what people will experience when they see it all. Again it’s Vishal’s forte in coming up such writing. Kudos to him!

It’s just a coincidence of sorts that I teamed up with Pankajji in Vishal’s film and now I am working with his son. The credit for this only goes to Vishal. I really enjoyed working with Shahid. They are totally different people.

Shahid’s performance in HAIDER is being raved about, what do you have to say about him?
Shahid is a very good actor, very involved and sincere especially the kind of role he has done. I think Shahid will win lot of accolades for it. He will be liked and appreciated all the way. He’s given all to it. He’s got a brilliant role and done fantastic work.

About newbie Shraddha Kapoor?
She is a sweetheart girl. We didn’t have many scenes together. We just had one scene together.

You will be once again seen with Irrfan in HAIDER and audience too quite like your pairing with him. Do you believe Irrfan and you make a Shahrukh-Kajol pair of intellectual cinema?
(Laughs) Arey bhai kahan humko intellectual banadiya. I am not intellectual at all. Don’t categorize us. But I think we have a very good pair on-screen. I am not comparing it with any other pair.

It’s always great fun to work with Irrfan. I love to chat with him. We laugh a lot. We share something really special on-screen.

Besides, another highlight of the film seems to be Kashmir. We see Kashmir in a never-seen before avatar? Share us the experience of shooting in the age-old beautiful valley.
Yes that’s true, the way Kashmir has been picturised in HAIDER is way different to what we have been seeing all these years. Kashmir is a strong character in the film. We shot in -12 degree chilling cold during autumn and throughout winter, since Vishal wanted first half of the film in autumn and second half in winter. I was dreading the fact that I will have to shoot in autumn and winter. I can’t wear jackets and shoot. It was very difficult but slowly we got used to it. We had best shoot ever with best of the people around with absolutely no issues. Kashmiris were so much co-operative. I want to thank Vishal for giving me the most wonderful experiences of my life.

Kashmir hasn’t changed over the years yet there is something magical about it that grips you. It still has retained its lovely, cozy old charm! I feel a special connection with the place. I have my relatives in Srinagar. My grandmother used to stay there only…HAIDER was so good that it has become cherished memory. I felt so comfortable, relaxed and peaceful under the beautiful arms of valley.

Have you been to Kashmir earlier?
I have been to Kashmir when I was young. Hmm, probably I was in 10th grade. I went to my sister Farah’s shooting PALAY KHAN and HUMARA KHAANDAN in 86 and 87, which were being shot there.
While you have always surprised us with your performances, do you get awed with your own films?
I have seen my films like CHANDNI BAR, MAQBOOL, etc. I feel tensed when I watch my films because we watch it as actors and not as audience. It happened with me during VIRASAT. When I visited theatres to watch it, I had wonderful experience. I could see why people liked it so much.

Having worked with great filmmakers and possessing right sensibilities, do we see you turning a producer or director in near future ?
I don’t have the temperament of a filmmaker. I feel it’s a very responsible job. And I am a kind of person who loves to run away from responsibilities. I don’t like to take things on my head because I am not that sort of a person. I need my time and space. I can’t work in pressure. Being a filmmaker means you have to think for others only and I can’t just do that. It becomes stressful. For some people it may be an aspiration, while if I’ll do, it will be just for the heck of it.

While the Khans and Kapoors are still ruling the roost, actresses have shelf life. Do you feel the insecurity of ‘what next’?
Yes Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir are beyond shelf life. They are bigger than the shelf. No I never felt insecurity or the thought of what next is to be done crossed my mind. I never think a lot. If I would have bothered about it, I wouldn’t have survived. On the contrary, I always think how I will grow as a person. If you grow as person and use that aspect in professional life, than you are really rising high, which is what I believe.

Many actresses of your times have been trying hard to make a comeback or regain the glory, whereas you never faced a comeback point. Comment.
…Because I never went anywhere. People in the past tagged me for comeback. But the comeback is when you return after 25-30 years or after a real long sabbatical. Logon ko bhi lagta hai yeh jaati hi nahi (giggles).

Do you agree awards and accolades were your saving grace that helped you from not disappearing? Having won numerous awards, what importance it holds for you?
I never thought about it that way. Nobody works keeping awards in mind. I never did anything that will gain me something or benefit me. I don’t know what saved me because we never know what works. I think it’s the combination of many things and awards are one of the parts. A few formulas might just work but again that’s just in your mind. How much you will calculate. I never worked in the direction of results. In fact, if I plan I fail miserably, that’s in my DNA. I am not a risk-taker. Whatever I did in life, I treated as my personal experience.

What upsets you a lot?
I can’t stand dishonesty. Many People have disappointed me because they have not been honest with me

You gave preference to female-oriented subjects in the era when mainstream was in demand. And now many an actresses are turning to play women centric films. Do you feel you were the pioneer to bring about that change?
We all are doing our part. Some people get noticed, while some others don’t. May be I have been part of those films which were happening at that point of time and I got noticed

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