Happy birthday Tabu: Remembering her poignant 'Maqbool' performance
It's rare to find talents whose craft and range can transcend ages and genres. Tabu is one such actor. You can cast her in a 20-minute role in a comedy film and she'll still be the biggest takeaway. She has proved her forte in dramas, thrillers, as well as horror-comedies. On her 51st birthday, we discuss one of her most acclaimed performances in Maqbool.
First, here's what went down in the film
Co-written and directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, Maqbool was the filmmaker-composer's first adaptation of William Shakespeare's Tragedies (he later made Omkara and Haider). Inspired by Macbeth, Maqbool was a crime drama with a soul of its own with the legendary Irrfan Khan playing the titular role. The effortless Pankaj Kapur played Jahangir Khan and Tabu was his mistress Nimmi who plots his murder with Maqbool.
Tabu was first choice for the role
Bhardwaj initially thought of Akshay Kumar for Maqbool's role and Naseeruddin Shah as Abbaji. While both didn't happen, there was one character for which he scored his first choice. And, that was Tabu. The actor had reportedly heard the story and promptly said yes.
Tabu takes hold of multiple layers of Nimmi with ease
By making Nimmi—Lady Macbeth's character—Jahangir's mistress who's in love with Maqbool, Bhardwaj increases the complexity of Nimmi's character. Nimmi isn't as overtly powerful as Lady Macbeth, given her inferior status as a mistress. In spite of this, it makes her manipulation of Maqbool to kill Abbaji all the more spectacular. Experiencing Tabu embodying multiple layers of emotions—love, ambition, inferiority complex, guilt—is an absolute treat.
This scene, especially, took the pie
Readers of the original Tragedy would know, Lady Macbeth went down a spiral of madness after King Duncan's death. And, this is one aspect Bhardwaj kept intact in his 2004 crime film. Tabu takes the premise and brings it to an unimaginable level of excellence. The scene where Nimmi hallucinates blood on her can easily serve as a masterclass in acting.
Go watch it today on Disney+
Another similarity between Nimmi and Lady Macbeth is their tragic ending. We see Nimmi go from menacing and seductive to heartbreakingly lost and unhinged, and despite her scheming nature, we empathize with her downfall. While this performance blew us over, on her birthday, we would wish to see Tabu in more such fleshed-out, author-backed roles. You can watch Maqbool on Disney+ Hotstar.