November 6, 2002 
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'I never thought I would last'
Creating life out of something written on paper, says Tabu, fascinates the 'life out of her'

It has been difficult to pin Tabu down for some time. From shooting in Kerala to the pyramids of Egypt, Tabu has been busy, busy, busy. And living out of suitcases for the last six months.

Watching Tabu in front of the camera is sheer pleasure. The elusive actress is shooting for an emotional scene for Raman Kumar's Sarhad Paar, when Rohini Iyer meets her.

Tears flow down Tabu's cheek as she flashes hero Sunjay Dutt an angst-ridden look. Director Raman Kumar is watching her spellbound, just like the rest of the unit. At that moment, no one can take their eyes off the teary-eyed Tabu.

"Brilliant," the filmmaker says, after the take is okayed. A blushing Tabu squirms in her chair. It is an image that will stay with me.

Actors thrive on compliments but Tabu shys away at the first sign of praise. "It is the way I have been bought up. I am always uncomfortable with praise. I don't know how to react. I have to thank my family for instilling the right values in me. They have always told me never praise yourself. When other people do, don't take everything too seriously."

No wonder she still has her head firm on those beautiful shoulders. Two National Awards have not diminished her hunger for more. "I have so much more to do, such a long way to go." More with Tabu:

While other actresses shy away from the unconventional, you are doing M F Husain's Meenaxi and the Bengali film Abar Aranye.

(smiles) I do whatever appeals to me. I have always made my own choices. I have immense respect for Husainsaab and it is an honour to be working with him. Abar Aranye is my first Bengali film. It is directed by Gautam Ghose and inspired by Satyajit Ray's film Aranyer Din Ratri. It is a challenging role.

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You have become quite a newsmaker of sorts. Looking back, did you ever think you would go such a long way?

Tabu (smiles) I don't think I have gone 'such a long way'. I never thought I was doing any great work. I never thought I would last. In the beginning, I was terrible. I never used to speak to people. I used to start crying. I was extra sensitive. I would run away home and feel miserable. I didn't know how to behave then. I was touchy.

People interpreted it as arrogance.

What gave you the strength to go on?

I don't know. It is not as if my family was asking me to do anything. They were okay with whatever I wanted. Though they had other dreams for me. They wanted me to go abroad and study, get married, the works.

But cinema really grew on me. Acting fascinated me and slowly consumed me. Even today, it is the only thing that fascinates me.

People ask me stuff like, "How long will you continue?", "Will you quit after you get married?", "How many years do you see yourself here?"

I don't know how to answer such questions.

How can I stop acting? I don't think thereis a fullstop. Maybe the only time I will stop will be when acting stops fascinating me. I will have to find something that fascinates me more. I haven't found anything else so far.

What does acting truly mean to you?

Creating a life out of something written on paper. When I get to do that, it excites the life out of me. Mumtaz in Chandni Bar was a complete creation of my imagination. On paper, she was a bland character. You empathise with her. She is not doing anything. Everything is happening around her. She takes everything that life gives her.

Tabu in Chandni Bar It was exciting for me to give her personality. It was exciting to interpret her my way.

After Chandni Bar, how did you convince yourself to do a Maa Tujhe Salaam?

Look, I don't choose the roles I play on the basis of how intelligent they are. At that rate, I would never be able to do different roles. Take Viraasat. The girl I played in Viraasat was completely dumb.

It is difficult to find roles that you can relate to completely. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing any work. If I thought like that I wouldn't be able to dance in a den like I did in Maa Tujhe Salaam in spite of being an intelligence officer.

It is hard to get coherent about these things.

You have done two David Dhawan films. How was it shooting for those typical 'leave your brain behind' films?

I enjoyed Biwi No1 and Saajan Chale Sasural. David is one director I look forward to working with. He treats you like a child. He pampers his actors. He will wake you up; he will make tea for you. He will drag you to the shoot. He will pep you up. He is a great person to work with.

What is your criteria for accepting a role?

If I feel the role is not going to demand anything out of me, I don't do it. Either it has to be a terrific role or the director has to be someone I am dying to work with. Or the costar has to be someone I really look up to.

Of course, when all these criteria don't match, it has to be an astronomical amount. There has to be some motivation. Otherwise what is the point? I won't be able to bring myself to get up in the morning and drag myself to the studios!


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