Tabu’s filmography is not for the faint hearted. When her contemporaries in the ’90s were busy singing songs around a tree, she was busy taking on hard-hitting projects like Maachis and Astitva. Tabu never believed in following a set path, with each film she raised the bar for herself. As an actor, she can effortlessly switch between being a protagonist and an antagonist with the same ease. Her choice of films are always filled with questions for the society – showing them the not-so pretty picture that is often painted on the celluloid.
On her 51st Birthday, let’s look back at some of her finest performances that cemented her position as the most versatile actor in the industry.
1. Chandni Bar
Madhu Bhandarkar’s Chandni Bar painted Tabu in a whole new light. In this film, she played the character of Mumtaz, who migrates to Mumbai with her uncle after losing her parents in a communal riot. Upon his insistence, she takes up the job of a dancer at a bar and enters a hell hole she never manages to escape. From being raped by the same relative to being married to a gangster who then dies and leaves her and her children to fend for themselves – the movie didn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of life and Tabu’s unfiltered portrayal of a scorned women left everyone rightfully uncomfortable.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth – in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, Tabu was the pivotal character that sets the whole plot into chaos. Based on the underworld crime scene of Mumbai – Tabu played the mistress of a mafia lord Jahangir Khan (Pankaj Kapoor) and a lover to his most loyal disciple Maqbool (Irfan Khan). In a treacherous scheme, she convinces him to betray his boss and what unravels is a drama for the ages. Once again, even in a room full of powerful performers, Tabu managed to steal the show.
3. Cheeni Kum
A refreshing break from her otherwise intense performances – R Balki’s Cheeni Kum, gave Tabu the chance to tap into a different genre. As a 34-year-old software engineer Nina who falls for a 64-year-old chef Buddha Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan), who is 6 years older than her own father – results in an interesting situation that dabbles into a lot of uncertainties and insecurities. Tabu navigates through the part with a quiet maturity, the way only she can – making this movie a light-hearted watch, despite the sensitive plot.
In yet another impassioned collaboration with Vishal Bhardwaj, Tabu took on the task to play the grey character of Ghazala in his Hamlet influenced Haider in 2014. Haider (Shahid Kapoor) returns to Kashmir to seek closure on his father’s untimely disappearance – only to find out his mother Ghazala’s love affair with his own uncle and the part they played in his father’s death. It’s easy to be the good guy or the bad guy, but to keep the audience on the fence about your role is what Tabu’s magic in Haider is all about.
In Sriram Raghavan’s murder thriller Andhadhun, Tabu is the ultimate puppeteer who runs the show. A bored wife of an estranged actor who kills her husband with her lover and frames a falsely blind pianist (Ayushmann Khurrana) for the same. A wildly intriguing plot justified by impressive performances – especially by the lady of the hour, because who else could play a murderer but still have the crowd rooting for her in the end.
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