In 2015 I watched three exceptional Bollywood movies. I mean the kind everyone should see: "Haider," "Drishyam," and "Talvar." A common denominator was Tabu Some of my readers might have seen her in English films. "The Namesake." with Irrfan Khan where the two shared a Best Seduction award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. She also had small supporting role in "Life of Pi "where she played the main character's mother. The grownup narrator son was played by Irrfan Khan.
Her provocative name was originally Tabassum Fatima Hashmi, born in 1971. She speaks Urdu, Hindi, Telegu and English. She could fairly be described as a stately beauty with class.
"Haider," released in 2014 was a revision of Hamlet, but set in Kashmir. Tabu was a best supporting actress playing the mother. This film won several other awards. You can read more at: http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/02/haider-bollywoods-version-of-shakespeare.html
"Drishyam," released in 2015 was a remake of a film in another Indian language. Tabu played a police chief and demonstrated that not only can she be tough, but very nuanced. In this movie she played a police chief who was trying to locate her missing son with no concern for ethics in a very complicated story, that required her not only to be tough, but also to be the mother of a less than perfect son and the wife of a decent, but weaker man. She is likely to be nominated for an award. Read more here: http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/11/driishyam-bollywood-remake-masterpiece.html
In "Talver," also released in 2015 she was really a supporting role, again with Irrfan Khan in another excellent movie that did well at TIFF. The movie was as good as the other two, but I decided I would rather do a blog post on Tabu herself. "Talvar" was based on a controversial double murder.
I had been fortunate to see some of her earlier films and looked up a few more.
In 2001 she won best actress award for "Chandni Bar" about an abused dance hall girl.
In "Cheeni Kum" released in 2008 she played a 34 year old, romanced by 64 year old Amitabh Bachchan. It was mainly comedy but also included a little tragedy. Tabu demonstrated a comic touch and won the Filmfare best actress award. It is an enjoyable movie, but not a masterpiece.
In "Fanaa" released in 2006 she plays a military police woman searching for terrorist Aamir Khan. She is very strong and effective. Another exceptional movie.
In "Astitva" released in 2000 she played a wife who had a one time lapse and was not forgiven by her adulterous husband winning another best actress award.
In 1997 from "Virasat" she won a best actress award opposite Anil Kapoor.
Tabu won other awards in movies I did not see. She was awarded a Padmi Shri from the Indian Government in recognition of her contributions to cinema.
Studying the wide range of movies Tabu appeared in, one might appreciate that to qualify for the really good ones requires enduring some that range from embarrassingly terrible to merely just ordinary. Tabu has been in a number of critically acclaimed movies that weren't commercially successful, but also commercially successful movies that weren't necessarily artistic successes. Unfortunately there were a few duds along the way. Three that I watched were "Khuda Kasam"
which was started in 1997, delayed while Tabu replaced the leading lady and after a few names changes was finally released in 2010. Even less impressive was "The In-laws" released in 1996. A third film was "Toh Baat Pakki" released 2010 after an absence of two years is ok enjoyable and she is the best part.