By Team Bollyy
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Tabu (Tabassum Fatima Hashmi) (2)

......Ali Peter John

Those days Dev Anand the one man brigade who went looking for fresh talent was looking for a new pretty female face. A source told the parents of two girls who belonged to a lower middle class family in Hyderabad about Dev’s requirement. They had two daughters, Farah Naaz and a little girl called Baby Tabassum. They did not give a second thought to the idea. To add to the temptation Dev asked the whole family to ‘come over’ to Mumbai. He would pay their travelling fare and even arrange temporary accommodation for the family. Three days later the family reached Bombay and landed at Dev’s pent house office and Dev was very happy with Farah and told her mother that he had decided to cast her as the heroine of his next film. The family was naturally very thrilled. In the meanwhile, Dev’s friend, Yash Chopra was also looking for a new female face to cast in his new film, ‘Faasle’. He had heard about this new discovery of Dev and requested Dev to let him have Farah as the girl he needed for his film was just like what Farah looked like. Dev, the large hearted man did not hesitate and gave Yash the permission to cast Farah. But, Dev had not forgotten the little girl who was accompanying Farah when the family first met him and instantly an idea for a film flashed across his mind. He went away to his favourite room at the Fredricks Hotel in Mahabaleshwar and began working on a script with the speed only he could. At the end of three days Dev was ready with a rough draft of the script he wanted to make into a film. And what was surprising was that he had written the script revolving round the character of the ten- year old Baby Tabassum. He first decided to cut short her name to Tabu which Tabu and the family liked very much. He then took the family into confidence and told them that he was making a very bold film in which Tabu would have to do some bold, daring and even revealing scenes. They had no objection, they had no way out, they could not say no to Dev who was doing so much to help them. The film Dev was planning was to be called ‘Hum Naujawan’ and was about three young ruffians from families placed in high places who rape the ten year old girl and how Dev as the investigator into the heinous crime tracks down the criminals. The film was shot in strict secrecy and was completed within a month. However, it was one of Dev’s strings of flops and Dev went his way and Tabu continued studying, taking private tuitions at home. A few years later, Tabu was eighteen and Boney Kapoor who had already seen Farah many times had his first look at Tabu and decided to cast her as the heroine of his younger brother Sanjay Kapoor with whom he was planning a very ambitious film called ‘Prem’. It was first to be directed by Shekhar Kapur who left it half way and handed over the film to his chief assistant, Satish Kaushik. The film had all the rich production values and was shot on various locations including Colombo, the Capital of Sri Lanka. But the ambitions of the producer and the director delayed the film endlessly. It was supposed to be completed in six months but it shockingly took more than four years to complete. It did a lot of harm to Boney as the producer and his brother as the hero, but the one who suffered the most because of the delay was Tabu and she could not do anything about it because she had signed a contract with Boney that she would not sign any new film till ‘Prem’ was completed and released. It was the most depressing time of Tabu’s life and at one time she even thought of giving up her ambition to be an actress.

Tabu (Tabassum Fatima Hashmi) (5)

The film was finally released and to everyone’s shock it flopped on the very first day, but Tabu even though she had put on lots of weight was found very attractive and even sexy. She however found work as a leading lady of some very bad and indifferent films which harmed her more than doing her any good and her depression only grew further. It was only after a film called ‘Haqeeqat’ with Ajay Devgn as her hero was released that she saw some hope. She played a young and attractive widow bound by customs and traditions and Ajay plays the young man who draws her out of her shell and they ultimately fall in love and even get married in spite of all the opposition from the society and the people followed. It was the first time that Tabu received some rave reviews for her realistic performance. But it was Gulzar’s ‘Maachis’ based on the holocaust in Punjab that really gave her recognition as a good actress. She was the only known name in the film and all the other characters were artists from theatre or those who had never faced the camera before. That year there was a lot of competition for the national award for the best actress, but Tabu won the award hands down.

Tabu (Tabassum Fatima Hashmi) (4)

‘Maachis’ in a way lit up her life and what followed were some of the best roles any actress could only envy. Among the most significant films in which she shone as a very talented actress were films like ‘Hindustani’ a very ambitious and expensive film which was the brain child of the ‘guru among actors’, Kamal Haasan. She followed this great performance with better performances in Priyadarshan’s ‘Viraasat’, Gulzar’s satire on politics, ‘Hu Tu Tu’ which was a very big disappointment for both Suniel Shetty and Tabu who were expecting miracles from a film maker like Gulzar. She was again very good with Kamal in ‘Chachi 420’ directed by Kamal himself who played an elderly Brahmin South Indian woman, almost through out the film. She was again in a meaningful role in Meghna Gulzar’s ‘Filhaal’ in which she had Sushmita Sen for competition but proved that Sushmita was all beauty and she was all talent. She was delighted when she was offered ‘Cheeni Kum’ with Amitabh Bachchan as her ‘hero’. It was one dream she was waiting to see fulfilled like all the other actresses who believed they could match strides with the legendary actor. Tabu surprised every one and the one man who was most surprised was Amitabh who said, “I have always known Tabu to be one of the best actresses we have, but after working with her I think I should have second thoughts before I sign another film with her.” His opinion was shared by many others because Tabu did not show any signs of being nervous or under pressure working with the Big B. She followed with another film made both in English and in Marathi directed by Mahesh Manjrekar. It was another performance which reminded many of the great actresses of the 60s and 70s, especially actresses like Nutan and Waheeda Rehman. She then had an opportunity to work in a film made in Hollywood by Mira Nair but it did not do her the good that she expected or so it seemed too many.


Tabu now has just a few films on hand and she doesn’t even talk about them. She has changed from the bubbly young and cheerful woman to a recluse. She attends parties and functions when it is only very necessary. She rejects more films than she accepts them and says she is very happy living in her spacious apartment in Lokhandwala with the, the hundreds of books that she had in her library which she has still to read. The way she is going into the background for reasons best known to her is making many ask all kinds of questions but Tabu is maintaining a secrecy which not even her mother who lives with her is aware of. Some even ask if she is going the way some great actresses have in the past and these questions are serious questions which set the mind working and thinking about the future of a great actress whose best has still to come.



Ø Both Tabu and Farah are very close to their ‘maa’ and Tabu says ‘we almost worship her because of the trouble she has taken to bring us up to reach were we are from a sort of slum in Hyderabad’.

Ø The three women, the mother, Farah and Tabu are a very well-knit family. They were happy when Farah gave up her career and married Vindoo, the son of Dara Singh but were broken-hearted when Vindoo ditched Farah and she had to leave his house with her daughter and live alone in an apartment with her daughter.

Ø Tabu tried her best to get Farah some good work but Farah had already created some kind of an of image which went against her.

Ø After Farah got married, Tabu and her mother shifted to a small flat in Seven Bungalows where she says she was very lucky to have a friend like Priya (‘Rajni’) Tendulkar. They had a relationship which was stronger than the real relations she had back home in Hyderabad. Priya was very helpful to the mother and daughter and they almost seemed like one family. ‘I admired Priya greatly. She was a multi-talented woman, a very good actress, a very good writer who had won several awards and was a very good social worker who worked for the upliftment of women who had fallen on bad days. Everything about her was fantastic but luck was never on her side. She had a very bad marriage with the actor Karan Razdan who used to treat her very badly, almost like a servant and I often wondered how such a strong and great woman could take so much of crap from that man and as if that torture was not enough she was finally struck by cancer but continued working till she died in her sleep one afternoon. She was only 32 and if there is one person I really miss in life it is Priya, who was both a mother and a sister to me’.

Ø Her swings of moods are difficult to understand. She can change moods within seconds and either lift the atmosphere to great joy or dip it into deep depression.

Ø She is always very grateful to Dev Anand who she said is the only man who is responsible for changing the life of her family.

Ø She treats Gulzar like her father and his daughter Bosky like her sister and they have long evenings together at ‘Boskyana’, Gulzar’s bungalow.

Ø Tabu had a very close friend in the upcoming actress, Divya Bharti who had an affair with the young producer Sajid Nadiadwala. Divya died in an accident which is still considered a mystery. But strangely a few months later there were very strong rumours about Sajid not only having an affair with Tabu but also living with her but the rumours soon died down.

Ø It was these rumours that made Tabu take a very strong dislike for the gossip press who she thinks “should be treated and punished like criminals whenever they spread false stories which can destroy lives”.

Ø Tabu has another big complaint. She always wanted to go in for higher studies but circumstances did not allow her to, but she makes up with all the heavy reading that she does.

Ø She sometimes goes back to her home in Hyderabad but is gradually loosing interest because she finds that the city has changed beyond recognition and so have the people and their thinking.

Ø She has the ability to be an internationally known actress, a fact everyone who knows anything about cinema knows, but she seems to be in a strange frame of mind. She looks lost when seen in public.

Ø She has just one film on hand when she could be one of the most wanted actresses. She is slowly growing into a recluse which is being interpreted by different people in different ways. In one of her rare statements she says, “It is my life and I have a right to do what I want with it”

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