Actor Tabu talks about working with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee on Life Of Pi, the landmark films in her career and more
It’s a pleasure to see Tabu after a long gap. Looking cheery in a red top, black pants, a gold locket with calligraphy from Turkey around her neck, gold and pearl danglers in her ears, she looks pretty as a picture.
It feels as though we have seen the actress after a long time; and she drawls, “Just three years. My last film was Toh Baat Pakki.” She says she’s never felt the need to be in the public eye or meeting the media. “I know when the time is right, when I am convinced about a role I have done, I will take it to the audience,” she reasons.
And Tabu’s latest film has her beaming. After all, not every Hindi film heroine can boast of working with an Oscar-winning director like Ang Lee. Tabu plays the character of Pi’s mother in the cinematic adaptation of Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Life of Pi. So what attracted her to do the film — Ang Lee? Because, by the look of it, the role doesn’t seem substantial enough. The actress of landmark films such as Chandni Bar and The Namesake says she always knew “Ang won’t give me anything that’s not worth my while. Yes, the attraction was Ang. And the story is largely Pi’s. He loses his father and mother early on in the film, but then she has a strong influence on his life. Pi explores religion in this film, his relationship with God, the existence of the supreme power. His mother is someone who’s defied everyone and married the man she loved. Her family has disowned her. Her inner dharma is strong, her influence on her son, Pi, is subtle; but she has an impact on his life.”
Self-admittedly a fan of Lee’s films such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, Tabu says she loved the fact that the director made films on different issues and had a sensitive take on them each time. “They were always good-looking, important films. I knew Life of Pi would be one such film, well mounted, sensible, challenging, beautiful, lovingly made and that was enough for me to take it up.” She describes the director as someone who pushes the actors till they give the perfect expression.
Her takeaway from Life of Pi? “Ang! I found a friend in him. He’s made me a part of his family. A lot of things, actually, will stay with me — I shot in Taiwan for the first time, 3D too is a first for me, and the whole experience of being part of relevant cinema. I always knew the experience would be special. I met a lot of people from different backgrounds, different cultures, with new ideas, new thoughts. Meeting such people is always a rich and rewarding experience. I try to learn and imbibe as much as I can and if it suits me then I bring this learning back home with me.”
Lee has described her and Irrfan Khan as the ‘treasures of world cinema’. Does it bother Tabu that back home there aren’t many worthwhile roles written for her? She smiles, pauses and then says, “I can’t really complain because I have done some of the best roles Hindi cinema had to offer at any given point of time. So if I say I am unhappy, then it means I am being ungrateful.”
She lists Vijaypath (“my first film, which gave me stardom”), Maachis, Chandni Bar, Biwi No 1 (“people still talk about it), Hu TuTu (“personally very demanding”), Astitva, Maqbool, Cheeni Kum and The Namesake as landmarks in her career.
“Now, the hunger is to have an overall experience when you take up a film. It’s not just about the role, it’s the people you want to work with, and the overall package,” she smiles.
Bollywood News Service