Ajay is special to me:Tabu
In the world of cinema, where people climb on rooftops to proclaim their stardom or scream about how they are a cut above the rest, Tabu is calm and quiet.
Her repertoire of work is so rich and varied, it precedes her. You almost feel inadequate asking her inane questions about a career that is marked with incredible performances and recognition in India and abroad. Drishyam releases this month-end. And this thriller, in which she plays a super cop, is also a homecoming for this National Award-winning actress because she has teamed up with her teenage friend, Ajay Devgn, after a gap of 18 years. “The experience of working with VD (her name for Ajay) is incredible,” she says. Excerpts of our late-night tete-a-tete:
Why do you call Ajay VD?
Ajay is my cousin Sameer Arya’s close buddy. We grew up together and to me, he will always be Vishal Devgn or VD.
You have teamed up with him after a very long time, right?
Yes, it’s been 18 years. He was someone I was working with day and night at the start of my career. We did Vijaypath, Haqeeqat, Thakshak and perhaps some other film. We are friends. We grew up together. And then all of a sudden, there was a long gap. However, I think it was worth it to wait that long and then come back and do a film like Drishyam with him. Comfort is an understatement to describe what I feel with VD. When I am around him, I have to sometimes remind myself that we are on a film set and that we are here on work. With VD, it is easy to forget that you are working. He doesn’t approach his work like that. And the good thing is, he doesn’t allow anyone else to take themselves too seriously on set.
So shooting Drishyam had its share of advantages…
Yes, Drishyam was worth it. It was very nice to go back to that space. Believe me, some actors take themselves so seriously that I had forgotten ki aisa bhi chilled ho ke, mazaak kar ke, kaam kar sakte hain. It’s a long time since I experienced that kind of working style. The beauty of working with VD is that I have known him so well and he knows me equally well. There is no guard, no need to pretend. It was such a nice and comfortable space to be in. I didn’t have to worry about what I said, how I sat or behaved. Both of us have known each other through thick and thin. No explanations were needed; no gaps were there to fill.
If you guys were so friendly, how come you didn’t work together at all in 18 years?
I don’t know the reason for the long gap. We met socially in that period. But we didn’t meet frequently. I guess we were doing such different work; we were in our own worlds. Frankly, even with Salman (Khan), there was such a long gap before I actually teamed up with him in Jai Ho. Earlier, Salman and I had also done five films together. But somehow, just like with Ajay, I had lost touch with Salman too, till Jai Ho happened. I guess we were all inhabiting different worlds. We had our own comfort groups in those years. Each of us had our own growth and our own film journeys.
How did Ajay react to you when you met socially?
Whenever I met Ajay at any party, there was so much warmth. That is what happens when you grow up with each other. We are always back-slapping, pinching each other’s cheeks, what do I say? So, it was good for me to come back with him in Drishyam. I know he wouldn’t come to me with anything inconsequential. He is very particular about that. When he found something worthwhile, only then did he come to me. Frankly, for him, I will even do a guest appearance. He is special because the first hit of my career, Vijaypath was opposite him. That’s the film that got me noticed for the first time. Needless to say that Ajay is an important part of my career.
Drishyam is a cat and mouse game between Ajay’s character and yours?
You got it bang on. It is absolutely a cat and mouse chase between two people. Both our characters have equally important and valid struggles in the film. That is what makes it interesting. When I saw the original film in Malayalam, I realised that despite the fact that this IG Meera Deshmukh is a tough as nails cop, you cannot find a reason not to like her. And the situation in the film is so unusual and intense. It is so full of incidences and everything comes together to bring out the characteristics of the main characters. Their survival instinct, self-preservation… each intrinsic aspect is beautifully captured. The scenario and premise is so heavy and you get to see all the shades in all these characters. That is what is nice in this film. It is not just a character-driven film nor is it just a plot-driven film. The plot and the characters are both feeding off each other.
So there were no fears on being perceived as a cold-nosed b***h?
I have been very lucky that this role came to me on its own. Somewhere I think I called out to it. It has been long since I have done a hard and aggressive character like this. So, it is very different from my recent past. It will be nice to see both Ajay Devgn and me do this, because we have always played lovers to each other. Here we are pitted against each other.
However, isn’t Drishyam more male-centric?
The beauty of Drishyam is that it is as male-centric as it is woman-centric. Frankly, when I choose to do a film, my focus has always been on how my character in the film is. I do not care if it is male-centric, woman-centric, child-centric or tiger-centric (Life Of Pi). I stay focussed on what I’m doing in a film. A good role is a good role; you can fit it into any genre of film. I have been fortunate that the characters I have got — be it in Haider or Drishyam — have been so layered, so interesting. I’m happy Vishal Bhardwaj and Nishikant Kamat are seeing me like that.
Yes, roles have been written keeping you in mind…
My directors have said that they have written roles keeping me in mind. Frankly, because I have had roles like Maqbool, Hu Tu Tu, Astitva, Jaal, Chandni Bar, Cheeni Kum, Haider and so many other films that are special. I have done a journey of self-exploration through these roles. They have been a fantastic platform for my own self. I was never interested in positioning myself in any particular way. I never sought an image for myself. All my films have given me the satisfaction. They became what they became and the appreciation I got in the films was so fantastic. You have allowed yourself to get consumed in your work, leaving no place for anything else? I never thought that any of my characters, be it Haider or Drishyam in recent times, would become what they became. That is what has made it even more gratifying. I was really enjoying the journey. These characters engaged me. I allowed myself to get consumed. I wanted to approach these roles in a certain way, and I was getting the freedom to do that. And for me that’s very important. I hate to live in restrictions — don’t do this and don’t do that. Even in my personal relationships, I cannot deal with restrictions. I want to flow, I want to be free.