MUCH before actor Simi Garewal and filmmaker Karan Johar brought celebrities and a slice of their lives into our living rooms, there was Tabassum Govil, widely and fondly known by her first name.
Draped in a sari with a flower tucked in her hair, the ever-smiling actor presented her lively and endearing interactions with film personalities on Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan programme on Doordarshan from 1972 to 1993. Apart from spreading much joy among viewers craving celebrity chats and trivia, this show was the inspiration behind Johar’s famous chat show ‘Koffee With Karan’, something the filmmaker always acknowledged.
Tabassum died at a hospital on Friday evening. She was 78.
On Saturday, her son Hoshang Govil told The Sunday Express, “She passed away last night, around 8.40 pm, of cardiac arrest. She was absolutely healthy. We shot for our show 10 days ago, and we are about to shoot again next week. It happened all of a sudden.”
As news of her demise spread on Saturday, there were nostalgia-filled posts shared online by many who have followed Tabassum over the decades and been a fan of her warm persona, gentle humour, and non-gossipy interactions.
Although known as a show host, Tabassum, born as Kiran Bala Sachdev in 1944, was a popular child actor of the 1950s. As a child artiste, she acted in movies such as Jogan (1950), Deedar (1951) and Baiju Bawra (1952). Later on, she featured in films such as Talash (1969), Heer Raanjha (1970), Johny Mera Naam (1970), and Tere Mere Sapne (1971).
In 1985, she directed and wrote a movie titled Tum Par Hum Qurban. She shared a warm and friendly rapport with many of her co-stars and people from the industry. They often appeared on her show as guests.
In a recent conversation with Twinkle Khanna on Tweak India, Johar had said that he had always harboured the desire to be like Tabassum when he grew up. He said: “We were once at Dilip-saab’s [Dilip Kumar] house and Tabassum was there and…I wanted to meet her. So, once my father [asked], ‘What do you want to become?’ I said I wanted to become Tabassum — and I have become Tabassum now — because I wanted to do a chat show. She is truly iconic.”
In recent years, the actor-turned-chat show host had been running a YouTube channel, ‘Tabassum Talkies’.
Calling her a “legend”, Khanna wrote on social media: “As a child, I used to watch Phool Khile Hain Gulshan Gulshan with Tabassum-ji as its spectacular host. I don’t remember her guests. Just her…all these blurry recollections wrapped around me like cashmere layers on a winter morning.”
Unlike Johar’s conversations, Tabassum’s shows rarely indulged in making conjectures or talking about the private life of the celebrities. She nudged Jeevan to talk about his mannerisms that contributed to his popularity and Tanuja to open up about playing mother to Jeetendra in Jeene Ki Raah (1969).
She, at times, deviated from bubbly chats to talk about the fickle nature of fame in the industry, or the tragedies suffered by celebrities. For instance, she once talked about Bharat Bhusan losing his assets and bank balance. What hurt the Baiju Bawra protagonist the most was the fact that he had to sell his precious book collection at a throwaway price. Talking about how death can creep up suddenly, she mentioned actor Divya Bharati’s passing away and how it’s shrouded in mystery.
Tabassum was married to Vijay Govil, brother of actor Arun Govil. A prayer meeting will be held at 5.30 pm Monday at Arya Samaj, Santacruz West, to celebrate her life and legacy.
Tabassum embodied grace, empathy and genuine admiration for her guests. They don’t make chat show hosts like her anymore.