It is hard to imagine Maqbool or Astitva without Tabu, but the actor says many producers advised her against doing independent films as she already had a thriving career in commercial cinema. The actor says she decided to ignore the advice as such films gave her a chance to emotionally express herself as an artiste. “I enjoyed doing films such as Vijaypath but I did not want to let go meaty roles as well, as later it became my identity as an actor. But I was asked not do it as producers felt that I already had a thriving commercial career. The perception was that when you don’t get success in commercial films, you move towards independent cinema but that was not the case with me,” the actor told PTI in an exclusive interview. Tabu has an enviable body of work in the Indian cinema, making her one of the finest actors of her generation but she singles out Mahesh Manjrekar’s Astitva, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool and Nishikant Kamat’s Drishyam among her favourites. The 46-year-old actor says Manjrekar first came to her with a role in the gangster flick Vaastav but she declined it as she thought the role was not meaty enough. “I wanted to do something nice and different. Within a few months he (Manjrekar) came with Astitva and was hopeful that I would not say no to it.” Tabu believes not many actors get such a chance to play a character like Aditi Pandit, a woman who decides to walk out on her husband after he questions her on her brief affair while dismissing his own extra-marital transgressions. “It was one of the best experience for me as an actor. It gave me a platform to express myself emotionally so well.” The film dealt with a complex issue and Tabu feels the film beautifully encompasses how it is not right to make “blanket statements” on sexual desires of men and women. Tabu says she was advised not to play morally ambiguous characters such as Pandit’s. “I don’t know if we can be judgemental about what is right and wrong… I have never felt it was wrong to do such a role. I was trying to understand the emotions of this character.” The actor says there are dfferent layers in every relationship, and feels the topic of sexuality and desires is relevant even today. Interestingly, her character in Maqbool, the second film listed out as a favourite, also has sexual undertones. In the film, based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, Tabu played lady Macbeth’s part, who uses her charm to get her lover, a notorious underworld don, killed by Maqbool (Irrfan Khan). Tabu says she was bowled over by the script of Maqbool, and although she did not identify with her role of Nimmi, she took it as the “beginning of a new phase” for her as an actor. “She was crazy, gutsy and a vulnerable woman and we unapologetically showed her lust. I don’t know whether we can label her as strong, weak or negative. I don’t know how I understood her character,” Tabu says. She credits Bhardwaj for getting the best out of her. They later collaborated for Haider, once again an adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous plays,”Hamlet”. She was brilliant as Ghazala. Drishyam is one of her most recent releases but the film is close to her heart because it gave her a chance to play both a mother and a tough cop, Meera Deshmukh. Calling it as one of the most difficult characters she has played in recent times, Tabu says, “I had a tough time balancing both the shades. The beauty lies in the writing of this film. My characters have been so complex. I don’t know if they really existed in real life. I am sure there were some impressions that we would see here and there,” she concludes.