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20 years of Maqbool: Looking back at Tabu’s collaborations with Vishal Bhardwaj

Tabu played a hardened intelligence officer in Bhardwaj’s Netflix espionage drama Khufiya

Agnivo Niyogi Calcutta Published 30.01.24, 05:28 PM
Tabu (right) and Irrfan Khan (left) in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool

Tabu (right) and Irrfan Khan (left) in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool IMDB

Few collaborations in Indian cinema stand out as distinctly as that of Vishal Bhardwaj and Tabu. Their journey began two decades ago with Maqbool, the first of Bhardwaj's three Shakespearean adaptations. What followed was not just a director-actress relationship but a cinematic partnership that has left an indelible mark on the Indian film landscape.

Maqbool: Tabu as the enigmatic Lady Macbeth


After his directorial debut Makdee, Bhardwaj came up with Maqbool — an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth — featuring the late Irrfan Khan and Tabu, who stole the show with her portrayal of the scheming Nimmi. The film presents Nimmi as a mistress rather than a wife to Maqbool, providing a twist to the original tale. Nimmi, initially portrayed as a scheming woman plotting her freedom, evolves into a character laden with guilt. Tabu’s ability to convey a myriad of emotions added depth to the character in the classic tale of power, ambition and betrayal.

Haider: Exploring Hamlet with Tabu’s stellar act as a mother

Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean saga continued with Haider (2014), which is based on the tragedy of Hamlet. Tabu’s powerhouse performance in the film earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the Asian Film Awards. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1990s Kashmir, Tabu plays Ghazala, the wife of a Kashmiri doctor taken into custody by the Indian Army for helping militants. Her son Haider (Shahid Kapoor), already scarred by his father’s disappearance, gets dismayed when Ghazala chooses to marry his uncle Khurram Meer (Kay Kay Menon). The film explores themes of betrayal, political intrigue and personal vendetta, with Tabu adding a layer of complexity to her character.

Khufiya: A contemporary addition to Bhardwaj-Tabu collaboration

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Netflix spy thriller Khufiya, adapted from Amar Bhushan’s novel Escape to Nowhere, sees Tabu as a hardened intelligence officer. Tabu’s Krishna Mehra, aka KM, is tasked with uncovering a possible mole and traitor to India inside the Research and Analysis Wing headquarters. With each shot, Tabu’s character delves into the light-and-shadow world of espionage as Bhardwaj weaves a web of mystery around the main plot with his storytelling mastery.

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