Tabassum Fatima Hashmi (born 4 November 1971), better known by her stage name Tabu, is an Indian actress who primarily works in Hindi films, alongside Telugu and Tamil language films. Regarded as one of the most accomplished actresses in India, Tabu has often played troubled, complicated women in a range of characters, from fictional to literary, in both mainstream and independent cinema, as well as some American productions. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including two National Film Awards for Best Actress and six Filmfare Awards, including a record four awards for Best Actress (Critics). In 2011, the Government of India awarded her the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour of the country.
Tabu’s first credited role came as a teenager in Dev Anand’s Hum Naujawan (1985), but her first role as a lead was in the Telugu film Coolie No. 1 (1991). In 1994, she received the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut for the Hindi action drama Vijaypath.
Tabu’s literary characters were in films such as Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000), an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, as well as a role based on Lady Macbeth in Maqbool (2004), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Tabu’s first international project came in 2006 with Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake. For her starring role in Cheeni Kum (2007) she received a record fourth Filmfare Critics Award, and she took on fewer film projects over the next few years.
She played a prostitute in the Telugu film Pandurangadu (2008) and appeared briefly in Ang Lee’s adventure film Life of Pi (2012). In 2014, she starred alongside Salman Khan in Jai Ho and garnered critical acclaim for playing the Gertrude character in Haider, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
She won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for the latter. Tabu went on to star in the horror comedies Golmaal Again (2017) and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022), and continued to receive praise for playing a police-officer in Drishyam (2015) and a murderess in Andhadhun (2018). The latter ranks among the highest-grossing Indian films. She is reluctant to discuss her personal life in the media.
Tabassum Fatima Hashmi was born to Jamal Ali Hashmi and Rizwana in a Hyderabadi Muslim family. She did her schooling at St. Ann’s High School, Vijayanagar Colony, Hyderabad. Tabu moved to Mumbai in 1983 and studied at St. Xavier’s College for 2 years.
She is the niece of Shabana Azmi, Tanvi Azmi and Baba Azmi and the younger sister of actress Farah Naaz
Tabu had an uncredited appearance in Bazaar (1982), and later in Hum Naujawan (1985) at the age of 14; she played Dev Anand’s daughter in the film. Her first role as an actress was in the Telugu film Coolie No.1 (1991) co-starring with Venkatesh. In December 1987, producer Boney Kapoor launched 2 major films; Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja and Prem. In Prem, Tabu was signed opposite Sanjay Kapoor, Boney’s younger brother. The film took 8 years in the making and it turned out to be the biggest flop in Boney Kapoor’s production career. Tabu’s career took off well after this film, in spite of the long delay.
Tabu’s first release in Hindi as a leading lady was Pehla Pehla Pyar (1994), which went unnoticed. She rose to prominence with her role in Vijaypath (1994) opposite Ajay Devgan, for which she received Best Female Debut at Filmfare. This was followed by several unsuccessful films; however, in this period she appeared in a box-office success Haqeeqat (1995).
In 1996, Tabu had 8 releases. 2 films Saajan Chale Sasural and Jeet were successful at the box-office, ranking in the top 5 films of that year. Her other significant film, Maachis, was critically acclaimed. Her role as a Punjabi woman caught in the rise of Sikh insurgency was highly acclaimed; she went on to win her first National Film Award for Best Actress for her performance.
The same year saw her major blockbuster films down south. She starred in the Telugu blockbuster Ninne Pelladata, opposite Nagarjuna, a film which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu.
Anupama Chopra wrote that she was “breathtakingly sensuous” in the part. The critically acclaimed Malayalam period epic film Kalapani directed by Priyadarshan brought her laurels for her acting from all across South India. She also debuted in Kollywood through the highly successful Tamil film Kadhal Desam, directed by Kathir.
Tabu’s first release of 1997 was Border a war drama about the real-life events surrounding the Battle of Longewala during the Indo-Pak War of 1971. She played the role of Sunny Deol’s wife. Her role was small, but the film went on to be the second-biggest hit of 1997 after Dil To Pagal Hai. That year, she also starred in the critically acclaimed film Virasat.
The film was a success at the box office and Tabu won the Filmfare Best Actress (Critics) for her performance in the film. The same year saw her feature in Mani Ratnam’s Tamil political drama Iruvar which had an ensemble cast including Mohanlal, Aishwarya Rai, Prakash Raj and Gautami. She also appeared in Chachi 420 (1998).
In 1999, she starred in 2 successful multi-starrers; Biwi No.1 and Hum Saath-Saath Hain: We Stand United, which went to become the highest-grossing and the second highest-grossing films of the year respectively. She received positive reviews for Hu Tu Tu, which won her another Filmfare Best Actress (Critics).
In 1998, Tabu was charged with poaching two blackbucks on the outskirts of Kankani village in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan during the filming of Hum Saath Saath Hain along with co-stars Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre and Neelam Kothari. A lower court charged her with the others under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the IPC.
She had filed a revision petition before a sessions court which discharged her of Section 51 (causing harm to wildlife) of Wildlife Act and both of 147 (punishment for rioting) and 149 (unlawful assembly of persons) of the Indian Penal Code. The Rajasthan State Government then filed a revision petition before the Rajasthan High Court at Jodhpur which again added Section 149 against her, which had been dropped earlier.
In December 2012, the Jodhpur court summoned her along with all the accused for commencement of the trial with the revised charges on 4 February 2013. Although Tabu was acquitted in the blackbuck poaching case on 5 April 2018, the Rajasthan High Court issued her with a notice, challenging her acquittal on 11 March 2019.