Tabu birthday special: 10 offbeat roles of the versatile actress that we love!

Versatile Indian actress Tabu aka Tabassum Hashmi was born on November 4, 1971, in Kolkata. The award-winning actress, who stars in Bollywood as well as south Indian films, turns 45 today. She is the niece of Shabana Azmi, one of the most acclaimed actresses and social activists of Bollywood, and the sister of actress Farah. Tabu started out in commercial cinema and made an impression, but the leggy beauty went on to prove her mettle in offbeat roles in a number of films, winning the National Film Award twice.

We pick 10 of Tabu’s roles that we absolutely loved seeing her essay – including Haider, Virasat, Cheeni Kum, Maachis and Maqbool. Happy birthday, Tabu!

Haider: As Ghazala, the mother – the son’s ultimate muse!

Tabu in Haider

Vishal Bhardwaj’s 2014 film Haider, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, showed Tabu channeling Hamlet’s mom Gertrude as Ghazala, mother to Haider. Tabu was the soul of the movie and stole the show from the lead Shahid Kapoor who played the title role. I think the two actors portrayed Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus-Electra complex concept perfectly!

Chandni Bar: As Mumtaz, the bar dancer

Tabu in Chandni Bar

Madhur Bhandarkar’s showcase of Mumtaz, the poor girl who ends up as a bar dancer owing to circumstances and how life for her and her child shapes up after that saw Tabu effortlessly play the character. Hat’s off to her, for Chandni Bar actually got more recognition for the director because of the way Tabu played out her role.

Maqbool: As Nimmi, the don’s lonely mistress

Tabu and Irrfan Khan in Maqbool

An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Vishal Bhardwaj, Maqbool had the beautiful Tabu doing full justice to her role as the mistress of the don who secretly loves his aide Maqbool. Tabu held her own among stalwarts like Pankaj Kapur and Irrfan Khan. And why wouldn’t she, when she is a stalwart herself?

Cheeni Kum: As Nina Verma, the star chef’s much younger girlfriend


In Cheeni Kum, Amitabh Bachchan charmed us in his role as 64-year-old arrogant chef Buddhadev Gupta. But the woman 30 years younger than him (in the movie and in real life) who charmed him with her confidence and calm also won us over in this R Balki-directed film. It was Tabu, of course, so anybody would be charmed!

The Namesake: As Ashima Ganguli, the immigrant wife and mother

Tabu in The Namesake

Another movie where Tabu excelled opposite Irrfan Khan was Mira Nair’s The Namesake based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s book of the same name, based on Bengali immigrants to New York in the US. Tabu played Ashima Ganguli, wife to Irrfan’s Ashoke Ganguli, and mother to Gogol (Kal Penn).

Virasat: As Gehna, the village belle


Tabu was Gehna, the village belle who Anil Kapoor’s foreign-returned character marries to save her. Tabu shone as the simple, innocent villager who stands by her man in the devastation the village sees.

Astitva: As Aditi Pandit, the lonely housewife who strays

Tabu in Astitva

In this Mahesh Manjrekar film, Tabu played the housewife who is frustrated with her workaholic husband (Sachin Khedekar) and strays. She was so convincing in the role that even men agreed with her point-of-view in the film for once! The movie was made in Hindi and Marathi and garnered many awards.

Hu Tu Tu: As Panna, the suicide bomber

Tabu in Hu Tu Tu

A tomboyish, short-haired Tabu surprised us in this Gulzar film alongside an equally surprising act by Sunil Shetty, normally considered a non-actor. Tabu played Panna Barve the chief minister’s daughter who has had a dysfunctional childhood and is going through her own struggle in life, when she meets Aditya (Sunil Shetty), a man going through a similar struggle. Both turn suicide bombers in what they think is the right solution to the situation they are in.

Maachis: As Veeran, victim of insurgency

Tabu in Maachis

Gulzar’s moving story of the situation in the state of Punjab in India in the aftermath Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 and the anti-Sikh riots. Tabu played Veeran, the fiancée of Kripal Singh (Chandrachur Singh) who is caught in the Khalistan movement.

Life of Pi: As Piscine Patel aka Pi’s mother

Tabu in Life of Pi

This was a short role for Tabu in the Oscar Award-winning Ang Lee film, as the mother of Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel’s mother. But she was impressive in it.

There are many more roles of Tabu in Bollywood and south Indian cinema that are worth mentioning, which we have not included in our quick list. That shows what a great actress she is. Here’s wishing the multi-talented Tabu a very happy birthday!