Tabu returns, and how !

Rewarded: Tabu.

Rewarded: Tabu.   | Photo Credit: Photo: Rajeev Bhatt


Tabu’s two-year hiatus has paid off with ‘Cheeni Kum’ opposite Amitabh Bachchan.

He told me he wrote Nina’s role keeping me in mind. And then there was Bachchan opposite me...

Tabu’s career graph is a reminder that patience has its sweet rewards. The time lag between her films may seem like a yawning gap to her fans, but she pays them back with interest, dishing out one memorable role after another.

From the suppressed wife Aditi in ‘Astitva’ to the bar dancer of ‘Chandni Bar,’ from the mysterious Nimmi in ‘Maqbool’ to the confident mom and wife Ashima in ‘The Namesake,’ she has breathed life into them all.

Barely had we forgotten Ashima, and Tabu is back, this time as Nina Verma in ‘Cheeni Kum,’ releasing today.

Directed by Balakrishna (making his debut with the film), an ad filmmaker, the project seems to have all the right names going for it.

Produced by Mira Nair, it features Amitabh Bachchan in the male lead, bringing Tabu and the Big B together after nearly a decade. Their last pairing was in ‘Kohram’ in 1999. “I hardly remember anything of it now. But we have been in various shows together. So that way we knew each other. The best part about working with him is that he never tries to intimidate his juniors. There were many places where I got stuck and banked on him for help… So it was very comfortable to work with him… He is an icon. You just can’t avoid him if you are in the film industry,” she asserts.

‘Cheeni Kum’ is set in London. Bachchan plays the 64-year-old Buddhadev Gupta, an arrogant chef and owner of a restaurant, while Tabu plays a 34-year-old “who could never fall in love” as she puts it. She bumps into him at his restaurant. The film revolves round “how and why they fall in love”. It is also a social satire.


With this film Tabu’s wish of working in a comedy has been fulfilled. And so has her yearning to work opposite Bachchan. Says an extremely delighted Tabu, “Thank God. I waited for the right film to fall into my lap rather than counting on just anything I was offered. I was in the U.S. on a two-year sabbatical. I took this hiatus to run away from the meaningless roles offered to me. But two years felt [like] too much to sit and think. So one night I decided that I would take up the first good film I was offered. And next day Balakrishna called up. He said something I can never forget. He told me that he wrote Nina’s role keeping me in mind. And that he had no confidence in any other actor for it. So the role is tailor-made for me. And then there was [Amitabh] Bachchan opposite me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more after such a long gap.”

Portraying a 34-year-old strong-willed woman living in London wasn’t strange for her. “There is nothing I couldn’t believe that Nina was doing. The character is very real and quite contemporary.” And that encouraged her to give her own inputs too. “I told Balki (Balakrishna) what I would like to be as a professional, in the film. I also insisted that I wanted to speak what I truly feel about young men. That matched exactly with my portrayal.” It has been incorporated in a scene in which she says that young men are like boys. You can’t speak to them on topics beyond their cars or gizmos. They tend to grow up very late. And hence she could never fall in love with them.

She reasons that the title, ‘Cheeni Kum,’ fits the Buddhadev Gupta character,. “Cheeni here refers to love, roughly. There is a lack of romance in Bachchan’s character. He is not people-savvy and that’s why it fits him.”

Sometimes one feels Tabu chooses the wrong films. Barring ‘Biwi No. 1,’ she has barely done any comedies. Then came ‘Bhaggmati,’ India’s first animation feature film.

It crashed at the box office. Earlier, she did a cameo or two in Yashraj Films, such as ‘Fanaa’ and Shaad Ali’s ‘Sathiya.’

Laughs Tabu, “The film industry takes me too seriously. They give me serious roles. You know even my friends, ask me now, ‘Why do you always make us cry’? It surprises me because the proportion of my ‘lighter’ films is greater than my serious ones Now filmmakers must realise that I can laugh too.”

As for ‘Bhaggmati’ she says, “It was made with great conviction. A lot of hard work went into it. I don’t know what went wrong but that was one film that taught me so much about philosophy, about the Prince of Egypt which I would never have got time to read about. It enriched me academically. Working with animated figures was an amazing experience. I don’t regret having done that film.”

As for cameos she says, “I am not afraid of doing cameos. I do only those which I think won’t harm my career. As far as doing a full-length big banner film is concerned, let them offer me something….”

Tabu is all praise for realistic films such as ‘Metro’ and believes the success of such films would help change the audiences’ and filmmakers’ attitude. “I congratulated Anurag (Basu) for such an entertaining and yet realistic film. Thank God the film world is going beyond stereotypes. They should realise that everything is not about teenagers anymore. There is place for every subject. Every film cannot have a hero who can beat [up] 100 rowdies in one go. What makes me feel good is that for a realistic film they still have good actors.” In line with doing a variety of films, Tabu is once again going to be seen in a different role. This time as a schoolteacher in ‘Game On.’

“It’s all about football, coach, school kids, me and Madhavan, who is cast opposite me,” she says with a chuckle.

A UTV project, the film is directed by Nupur Asthana (making her debut with this feature film). Part of it would be shot in Delhi by this June end.

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