Interview Hindi

Manoj Bajpayee and Tabu reveal secret to their 20 years of friendship

The lead pair of the thriller Missing speak about what brought them together and created their bond.

Suparna Thombare

Manoj Bajpayee and Tabu will be seen together on the big screen after 18 years. Their film, Missing, where they play husband and wife, is set to hit the theatres on 6 April. But their off-screen relationship began when they first worked together in back-to-back films, Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!! and Ghaath, both released in 2000.

The artistes, then just 20-something, were already known for their acting brilliance and hit it off quite quickly on the sets of Ghaath in 1999.

The two stellar artistes have remained close friends since and their coming together on screen after all these years in Manoj Bajpayee’s first home production is proof of their long-standing friendship in the fickle entertainment business.

Their comfort and chemistry is palpable when you sit down to interact with them. They pull each other's leg and heap praise on each other in the same breath.

In an interview with, the two shared details about their bond and the mutual respect they share. Excerpts:

What changes do you see in each other over the years?

Bajpayee: The change I have seen in Tabban [as he fondly calls Tabu], when we did Ghaath and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!! and when we used to meet the media also, those days Tabban used to be very reserved. She also was very guarded when it came to people in general and the media. Today, I see a sea change in her personality. Now, she does express, talks to people and the new people that come, she welcomes them after a certain period of time. If it had been the Tabban of those days, so much media would not have been able to sit with her.

Tabu: Same goes for him. He used to be very shy. I used to have a lot of fun and came up with ideas to tease and trouble him. He used to get red [blush] and wouldn’t be able to say anything. I used to flirt with him on purpose. He used to be dying inside (laughs).

One day, I entered his van when we were shooting at Filmalaya. And he was so scared that he almost jumped out of the van! I used to tease him because I knew he would die of embarrassment. Now, he has opened up. He has no choice around me actually. Now, he has made peace with the fact that this girl is always going to be like this and he has resigned to fate. 

Tabu and Manoj Bajpayee in Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!! (2000)

How do you see each other's growth as artistes?

Tabu: Every day I see growth in him. Sometimes I forget when someone is so close to you. The combination of having such a fantastic co-star and someone with whom you are also comfortable... the whole combination becomes very enriching. Sometimes, I actually wouldn’t even remember that we are shooting because Manojji does not carry the baggage of being an actor and all that. What is happening in a scene and how to do it well is all he is thinking. He is so involved with everything that when you see him, you also get into that zone.

And then you are so comfortable that you can discuss anything. He can say anything to me. I know that he will never feel bad if I say anything to him. This is a big advantage for me, and I also exploit it sometimes. Even if he feels bad he won’t express it. 

Bajpayee: The beauty about friendship is that you accept the person as he or she is. We all have advantages and disadvantages to us. We accept those. You meet thousands of people, but that relationship doesn’t get formed with everyone. It happens with only few people. And Tabban is very special. You have to give priority to your friend by putting that person first.

How did this pet name Tabban come about?

Tabu: He has always been calling me that.

Manoj: Even I can’t remember how. I think in Urdu and Hindi stories there is sometimes this Kabban miya. From that Tabu became Tabban.

Manoj Bajpayee and Tabu with Makrand Deshpande (centre) in Ghaath (2000)

How did you two reserved artistes manage to sustain your friendship?

Tabu: I think the biggest asset in my life is my relationships. They are my biggest achievement and something I protect always. I think without those I would be incomplete. I am happy with that, whether I work or not.  Whether we work with each other [or not]. Whether the career survives or not, the existence of these relationships means a lot to me and hold a special place in my life.

I don’t think I am able to express this importance to my friends, those people who love me unconditionally, like Manojji. I hope I can express more. After a certain time you realize that unconditional kind of relationships are next to impossible to make. You don’t find those. So when you have found those, you should maintain them with all the love and protect them.

Did Bajpayee manage to convince Tabu to get into production?

Tabu: I am very smart. I ran away. And Neerajji [filmmaker Neeraj Pandey] put all of it on Manojji and left for his own shooting (laughs). 

What genre of films do you both enjoy the most?

Tabu: Manojji knows me more than me! I enjoy the atmosphere on a comedy film, but I love watching dramas a lot more.

Bajpayee: I will tell you. She does films like Golmaal [Golmaal Again (2017)] and all these films only because at that point in time she wants to go on a picnic because she wants to unwind. So for that reason, she signs these kind of films. And she enjoys it thoroughly.

I have seen all her pictures where she has very happily agreed to go on promotional tours. When she does a drama film, she troubles people, asking how many journalists are going to come. Aur Golmaal ke time pe aapne dekha hoga kapde badal badal ke promote kar rahi thi [And you must have seen her at the time of Golmaal Again, where she was happily changing outfits for every promotional event].

Tabu: I wanted to change my outfit even today. I even said so, but my publicist said it is not required. I had brought 4-5 changes of clothes today.

You two have always been known as serious artistes — compliment or burden?

Bajpayee: She doesn’t take it as a burden, as she goes and does Golmaal also. And this is the beauty. That you are doing what you want to do. At the same time, mentally you should always be ready not to take yourself too seriously and go ahead and be a part of Golmaal or Baaghi [Baaghi 2 (2018), in which Manoj Bajpayee plays a crucial role] and enjoy it thoroughly... without judging it and trying to belong to it, own it! That is the main part. At the end of the day, we are actors so wherever we get an opportunity to enjoy ourselves, we’ll do it all the way.

Everyone knows about Tabban, that she takes her privacy very seriously. But she doesn’t take her actor [self] very seriously. I think that it is the strength of any good actor that he doesn’t take all the accolades too seriously and doesn’t take criticism to heart.