With Crew, Tabu yet Again Affirms Her Three-decade Reign of Versatility

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By Toufiq Rashid

Published : Apr 2, 2024, 9:54 AM IST

Updated : Apr 2, 2024, 5:35 PM IST

With Crew, Tabu yet Again Affirms Her Three-decade Reign of Versatility

With the majority of leading ladies in Bollywood cloning each other's style and performances, Tabu stands out with her impeccable acting prowess for over three decades in Bollywood. The success of a women-led Crew is another ode to Tabu's versatility and relevance in an industry where many of her peers have transitioned to supporting roles, writes senior journalist Toufiq Rashid.

New Delhi: It was 2003, Maqbool had just released and it was the buzz. As young reporters, we requested our editor-in-chief, who used to host a popular television talk show, to call Tabu. One of the seniors in the newspaper agreed, and seconded the request to make it happen 'for humanity's sake'.

Maqbool was Vishal Bharadwaj's intrigue of Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth transposed in the Mumbai underworld with an ensemble cast. Tabu played Nimmi, the ambitious young mistress of an aging gangster, who falls in love with his henchman and hatches a plot to kill him. Nimmi was everything, a victim, a seductress, plotting murders and coups. With kohl-heavy eyes, Tabu convinced us she was all of it and more.

Tabu's act was close on the heels of another brilliant performance Chandni Bar of 2001- a portrayal of the lives of Mumbai's bar dancers and gritty underworld. But Nimmi was No Mumtaz. Chandni bar was highlighted by Tabu's name and was very unconventional, with no great music, and no presence of a male star.

That has been the beauty of Tabu's performance ever since she commenced her journey as a leading lady with Telugu film Coolie No.1 (1991). She continued to evolve as a performer and that's what makes her relevant even today when her contemporaries and earlier male leads gradually lost in oblivion.

She has been able to switch from one character to another with ease, mimicking one life story after another with flair unmatched. Her expressions make the audience believe in the authenticity of each one of them. In her career spanning three decades, Tabu has to her credit two National Awards, a Padma Shri, and a filmography that includes gems of both mainstream and independent cinema as well as acclaimed Hollywood projects such as The Namesake and Life of Pi.

Even after decades of being in the film industry, she continues grow as a performer. While she is the bloodthirsty revengeful mother and cop in Drishyam one minute she is a lovable ghost of Bhool Bhulaiya 2 the next.

The latest in Tabu's filmography is Crew co-starring Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Kriti Sanon as air hostesses. According to reports, the film amassed Rs 9.25 crore net on its premiere day and has experienced a surge in earnings ever since.

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Tabu, as always, has hit the bull's eye in the film helmed by Rajesh A Krishnan. She is receiving praise for her portrayal of Geeta- Sassy and bold, yet so comfortable in her age-appropriate role. She shoulders the script with great support from the other two. Crew is the story of three air hostesses caught in a web of circumstances where they have to choose between their needs and the right or wrong of fulfilling those.

The two-time National Award winner proves her versatility yet again and is a strong reason for the movie's success along with Kareena and Kriti. In this mid-budget women-led movie, the three heist a plot to steal a humongous amount of gold which falls in their lap. Tabu is being praised for her comic timings and her perfect embodiment of a middle-class Indian woman-whether it's the snide remarks she and Kareena share about their age or the herculean task of explaining security instructions to her husband.

Tabu is a great example of the evolving industry and how she adapted to change. With her earlier choice of movies and now Crew she has proved that successful films don’t have a sure shot formula and don’t always be larger than life. The commercial and critical success of the Crew along with that of 12th Fail once again shows flexing muscles, six packs, exotic locales and the presence of male superstars is not the only win-win formula. Relatable characters closer to life can also draw in the big moolah at the box office.

Born Tabu Fatima, the 52-year-old did have a film lineage (Shabana Azmi as an aunt and her elder sister Farah) but worked hard to pave her path. First noticed in Vijaypath, in 1994, as the girl next door in a glamorous role and a hit song, it was only when she chose the unconventional role of Veera in Machis did the world stood up to acknowledge the acting powerhouse she was.

She was one of the first actors to choose roles where she would not just be ancillary to her heroes. In fact, in many films, heroes were there to take the arc of her characters forward. Gulzar’s Maachis (1996) won Tabu a National Award for Best Actress, which she bagged again in 2001 for Chandni Bar.

Her filmography boasts of nuanced characters like the village belle in Virasat, Ghazala Meer in Haider, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet where she played mother to Shahid Kapoor's character. A young woman in love with a man older than her father in Cheeni Kum or the ever unpredictable Simi of Andhadun, Tabu won critics and audience alike with her acting chops in these films and many more.

With these she did have her fair share of commercial success in laughter riots like Biwi No 1, Hum Saath Saath Hai, Hera Pheri, and Golmal Again, Tabu has also been part of some of the finest in Tamil cinema, including Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar and Rajiv Menon’s Kandukondain Kandukondain.

It was very early in her career when she proved she could do anything- mainstream and new-age cinema. With her choice of films she has always proved beyond doubt that if allowed to play complex characters, actors like her can portray life deftly.

She has led films in her name and she has shared chemistry with her heroes like Irfaan Khan and Ajay Devgn. Her choices have always been considered suicidal but they have worked for her-like playing mother in her early career years, doing a movie like Machis immediately after the success of Vijaypath, or portraying the character as menacing as Nimmi when female leads would not be seen either owing up their sexuality and negativity without qualms.

In the film industry, she can easily be the first and only face when people think of a character that requires depth. She at times seems to be the perfect embodiment of the characters she portrays and we can imagine no one else in her place.

After all, who can replace Tabu as a Nimmi, a Mumtaz, a Simi, a Meera, or now a Geeta?

Read More

  1. Crew Creates History: Tabu, Kareena, Kriti Starrer Becomes Biggest Opener Female-Led Hindi Film Ever
  2. My thinking is a bit different: Tabu opens up on being single at 52
  3. Ajay Devgn and Tabu satrrer Auron Mein Kahan Dum Tha gets release date
Last Updated :Apr 2, 2024, 5:35 PM IST
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