I will not sacrifice my life for films: Tabu
A large portrait by the late MF Hussain, with whom Tabu worked in Meenaxi, looks down upon us when I meet her at her Lokhandwala high-rise to talk about Life Of Pi. Mid-interview, which turned into a discussion about the Life of Tabu, she even connected me to her sister, yesteryear actress Farha, on the cellphone. Over tall glasses of lemon barley, a languid Tabu unravels the mystique that she has built around her personality
Where do you hibernate in between films?
For the past three to four years, I was busy with my house in Hyderabad. Since I had to be in Hyderabad while designing my house, I signed a few Telugu films.
But it has been five years since Cheeni Kum.
Waqt toh achhi tarah se guzar jaata hai. I travel abroad a lot; travelling really opens up your mind.
Have you evolved to the degree that you don’t need to be regularly in the spotlight?
I have never hankered for the spotlight.
I never aspired to be in films. My sister Farha was the movie buff, not me. However, I landed up in this industry at a very early age. Shekhar (Kapur) uncle, who had carried me in his lap in my childhood, cajoled me to do a film (Prem). I thoroughly enjoyed it and after the film got over, chashka lag gaya.
The attention and appreciation encouraged me.
Don’t you want that attention now?
I happily accept the attention when I get it but I would not sacrifice my life for films. You will understand me better if you consider that I am not from the city. I was raised in Hyderabad. A side of me strongly seeks a more relaxed life too. My ex-secretary, Shantiji, would tell me, ‘Dekhiye Tabuji, aapka temperament hi nahin zyaada kaam karne ka.’
What is it like to lead Tabu’s life?
I wake up in the morning and do yoga followed by my workout. I don’t read as much as I used to once, but I do write. I am very active on the Internet but not on social networking sites because I find it a very disconnected way of communicating. I also try to watch all Hindi films in the theatre. I have big groups of friends in town, Lokhandwala, Bandra and Juhu.
After working in international projects, do you ever grow weary of Hindi films?
I am such an integral part of the Hindi film industry, I can’t imagine a world without them. I think in Hindi and express myself best in Hindi. When directors give me instructions in English, it takes a lot of time for me to absorb. Language and self-expression are interconnected; and I experienced this while shooting The Namesake. I would return to the apartment after the day’s work, but felt ‘aaj maine shooting nahin ki’.
Ironically it’s one of your best-received performances.
I was doing everything right but after days of introspection, it struck me that since I was voicing my emotions in English, it didn’t feel like ‘my’ feeling. And I understood my personal dynamics.
What made you say yes to Life Of Pi?
I was looking forward to being a part of director Ang Lee’s vision. I may have a very small part in this film but I was totally absorbed because the story is much bigger than any of the characters.
I play the younger Pi’s mother, and I have a simple role.
Like in The Namesake, you are playing a mother in Life of Pi too. Does this stir any maternal feelings?
I want a family of my own, a unit to whom I belong, but the thought is not triggered by my roles in films. Nothing is stopping me from marrying but nothing is pushing me either. I am very happy in my space. I am very close to my nephew, Fateh. I try to discipline him but I also tend to go easy on him because my sister is very strict with him. I have spent a lot of happy times with him during his growing years.
Directors like Madhur Bhandarkar and Balki, who made their debut films with you, did not cast you again.
Madhur and I are great friends. Madhur had approached me for Aan, Satta and Page 3 after Chandni Bar; I refused. I am speaking about this only to clear the notion that directors don’t repeat Tabu.
What is your most memorable moment from Life Of Pi?
Ang Lee spoke about the ‘God Moment’ casually before a scene. It is the unique moment when a special realisation hits you because you are very close to death. I like the sound and feel of the ‘God moment’.