Remembering Tabassum Of ‘Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan’

Bollywood child star who passsed away recently. Photo: Twitter @tabassumgovil

Try to remember Tabassum and you remember a face with a smile, a pleasant voice, a personalized style and clear enunciation. Tabassum seemed to be a person who could talk non-stop. Because she had so much to talk about.

Perhaps it was this endearing personality trait, of a chatterbox girl next-door, or a sister in the house which came in the way of becoming a full fledged tear-shedding heroine. She remained the adorable, loving and lovable sister or friend in Hindi cinema.

Child actor Baby Tabassum won everyone’s heart. She could be galloping away on a horse singing ‘bachpan ke din bhula ba dena’, her hair flying, and looking so natural as if she had been riding a horse (perhaps wooden and stationary) and singing all her life! Her Shirley Temple like precocious chirpiness endeared her to all. She became the reigning child star of Hindi films, playing all her roles with an inborn ease which she maintained all her life.

A great quality of Tabassum was her tremendous capacity to develop and maintain close personal relationships with just about everyone she worked with even at that young an age. The people around her became really close to her and she developed personal relationships. Some actors became her uncles, and some became her aunts, some became bhaiyya and some became  bhaijaan, some others became her close girl friends.

It is this quality that she drew on when films did not offer her enough opportunities. All the personal conversations and information she shared with her film-friends laid the groundwork for her new career path, that of a television host, hers being the first one of its kind. Her guests were so many different people from so many different backgrounds and so many different qualities. No wonder, her show was called ‘Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan’. Having love and respect for all actors and film persons she knew from all the walks of films, the guests became the flowers of different gardens answering her smiling questions honestly.

Tabassum’s ‘Phool Khile Hain’ would be remembered for interviews with women actors who opened up, getting the chance to present their real selves. Her interview with actor Aruna Irani was especially noticeable. Both Tabassum and Aruna Irani became trendsetters in that episode.  Both talked openly about the close relationship Irani had developed with one of her male co-stars. Tabassum’s gentle push had Irani graciously admit to it, and Irani candidly answered Tabassum’s question why she had got involved with a man who was married and had children. The beautiful and mature Irani, then out of the short-term relationship, truthfully answered that it happens sometimes when two people work so closely together even if you know that the person has another life. There was a genuine acceptance of one’s temporary folly, no fake denials or blames. Only Tabassum could deliver such revelations by asking without disrespect and with concern and understanding. Only Tabassum could bring out such a mature interview then without offending her guest or being judgmental.

The same episode was also special to a lot of women who realized that getting older should not be considered bad. Irani admitted on that episode that women in their 40s would start looking beautiful as they would be at peace within, having found inner beauty after having dealt with all the crap life gave them until then. Now was the time when women came into their own, Irani had said.

It was also on Tabassum’s show that Nirupa Roy admitted that at home, her life was that of a normal woman. ‘Hamare gharon mein bhi daal jalti hai,’ she had said. And Moushumi Chatterjee had admitted that at home, she was like any ordinary girl who oiled her hair and wore no make-up. Tabassum brought viewers close to the glamorous women they admired dispelling a lot of myth. The show also talked of what really was the wonder that was films.

Tabassum utilized to the full her contacts and relationships with people and ‘Phool Khile Hain’ became a very popular show. People waited for it all week. But times changed soon. In the new world of so-called film journalism full of gossip and untruths, it became difficult to figure out what was true and what staged. Interviewers became unkind and actors became unreal. The times were saved only by another graceful and insightful person who came along with sensitive and dignified interviews about personal lives, Simi Garewal and her show ‘Rendezvous with Simi’.

Tabassum kept up with times. Although busy in her personal life, having been married and having raised a son, she kept in touch with newer media trends. She branched out into a new thematic program ‘Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon’ which aired on TV Asia in the U.S. As usual, her show became extremely popular among lovers of Hindi film music, as it explored songs and stories of song writers, actors, filmmakers, music composers.

In later years, Tabassum also tried filmmaking to kick-start her son’s film career, but the film did not see much success. Later, she and her son developed yet another technological variation of her shows, ‘Tabassum Talkies’ on YouTube. The video show was made of shorts about unknown aspects in the lives of film personalities. Even in the short length, she told the stories about film people in her typical style.

Tabassum is not alive today. News agencies have reported that she passed away quickly after two cardiac arrests. That she did not suffer long can be the only comfort for her family. She was an active person till her last. Her son has been quoted saying that they were about to shoot for yet another episode of ‘Tabassum Talkies’. But Tabassum’s memories need not be tainted with news about her death. That the bubbly, chirpy, entertaining Tabassum lived is the real news!



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