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Known for her beauty and willingness to stretch beyond the trappings of lighter Bollywood fare, acclaimed Indian actress Tabu has managed to carve out a niche making serious movies that highlight her dramatic skills. Although she has starred in some popular features such as the anti-war epic "Border" (1997) and the comedy "Biwi No. 1" (1999), her best-known work has been in smaller, more dramatically substantial productions. In 1996, Tabu played one of the leads in the political thriller "Maachis," a film set during the 1984 Punjab riots and the makings of a terrorist. A year later, Tabu co-starred in the family drama "Virasat" (1997), for which she was nominated for the Hindi Filmfare Award for best actress. Her role in another drama, "Hu Tu Tu" (1999), did finally land her the Filmfare Award, and in 2000 for her role in "Astitva," she walked away with the critics' award for best actress. She later starred opposite actors Irrfan Kahn and Pankaj Kapoor in an Indian version of "Macbeth" (2003). The majority of her work has been in her homeland, but Tabu ventured into Hollywood filmmaking with Mira Nair's "The Namesake" (2006) and Ang Lee's stylish "Life of Pi" (2012).
Born in Hyderabad, India, Tabu was surrounded by books and encouraged by her parents to pursue a strong academic career growing up. Her mother and many close relatives were teachers and professors. However, there were relatives -- specifically her aunt Shabana Azmi, a famous Indian actress -- involved with the film business as well. Tabu relocated from provincial Hyderabad to big city Mumbai while still a teenager to pursue her education at St. Xavier's College. Tabu loved her time at the school, but she cut it short after two years, diving into the Mumbai's bustling acting world. Tabu had appeared in movies before, in small parts, but after leaving school she quickly made stronger inroads into the business. Though not as popular as many of her contemporaries, because of the films she chose to be involved with, Tabu did make a name for herself as a dependable actress with a strong affinity for heavier dramatic material. Despite her fame, she tried to keep her private life away from the cameras out of the gossip magazines and web sites. But in 1998, Tabu and four other well-known actors were involved with the illegal poaching of a protected blackbuck in Jodhpur, and the incident made headlines all over the world.
Although she broke into making movies in 1985, Tabu's career really took off in the next decade. Most of her early roles were bit parts, but in "Vijaypath" (1994), she hit it big. Her success in the film came by accident however, since she only landed the role after the death of the original leading actress. The film was a major hit, winning Tabu a Best Debut Award from Filmfare for her performance. But the subsequent years were not great for her. Work was steady, but the majority of the films she appeared in were box office flops. With 1997's "Border," however, her career found its footing once again, and over the next few years started to recover from the slump, with Tabu appearing in notable popular movies such as "Hera Pheri" (2000), "Chandni Bar" (2001) and "Fanaa" (2006). Her success in India helped Tabu venture into bigger Hollywood productions, including acclaimed director Mira Nair's "The Namesake" and Ang Lee's Academy Award-winning adaptation of "Life of Pi."
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