Did Bollywood actor Tabu shoot her career in the foot by playing mum to stars such as Shahid Kapoor in Haider and Katrina Kaif in Fitoor? Not really, shared her aunt and actor Shabana Azmi, who feels Tabu’s career is impervious to dips and curves.
In a gender-biased film industry such as Bollywood, leading men may continue playing lover boys until they die, but a leading lady seemingly loses her charm once she gets married or hits 40, whichever happens first.
In the past few years, there has been a gradual shift in Tabu’s positioning from the main lead to a character actor. In the Salman Khan starrer Jai Ho, she played his sister. Leading ladies in Bollywood don’t do that unless it’s a film such as Josh where Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan played twins, but were anything but sibling-like in their conduct.
Tabu, a National Award winning talent, also played mother to Shahid and Katrina in Haider and Fitoor respectively. In Drishyam, her only other release during the last two years, she was cast opposite Rajat Kapoor and not the film’s leading man Ajay Devgn.
However, Azmi feels these choices will have no bearing on her career. “Hits and flops will make no difference to Tabu’s career. She is a class apart and will always be the first choice for strong roles of characters her age. She is beautiful in a unique way. She doesn’t look like a manufactured product and she is a versatile actor. Azmi added, “People think of Tabu as a dramatic actor, but she also has a keen comic timing and a terrific mimic like her mother.”
Another Indian director who has worked with Tabu and cares deeply for her career said, “She has made brave choices as an actor, but these choices have one after another shut the door on her career as a leading lady”.
Writer-director Apurva Asrani shared he was dazzled by Tabu’s rare appearances on screen. “I was so relieved to see Tabu in Haider. She was given one opportunity after ages, and she simply stole the show. It is rare to find writers and directors who create strong female characters,” Asrani said. “Our industry is known for being sexist since decades. Heroines’ careers used to end when they were 30 and the men played heroes till 55 at least.”
However, he feels there are some filmmakers who have created powerful female characters in their films. “We had Bimal Roy, who created powerful female roles in the past. We have Vishal Bhardwaj, who has given Tabu some of her meatiest roles. We have Shoojit Sircar who gave Deepika Padukone Piku and Ram Madhvani who gave Sonam Kapoor Neerja.”
Asrani is hopeful that more writers and directors will write parts that do justice to a phenomenal talent like Tabu. Echoing his sentiments, film critic Raja Sen said, “That the magnificent Tabu finds such rare occasions to dazzle on screen is one of Indian cinema’s most profound tragedies. Her legacy is assured. As the beholders, the loss is entirely ours.”