Tabassum Hashmi was born under the Scorpion sunsign on 4th November 1970 in Hyderabad, India. Her parents are Jamal Hashmi and Rizwana who are divorced. Her mother was a school teacher while her grandparents were professors themselves who after retiring ran a school. Tabu’s older sister is an actress Farah Naaz and her aunt is actress and social activist Shabana Azmi.
Tabu is best-known for acting in artistic, low-budget films that go on to garner more critical appreciation than substantial box office figures. Her appearances in commercially successful films were few, and her parts in these films were small, such as Border (1997), Saajan Chale Sasural (1996), Biwi No.1 and Hum Saath-Saath Hain: We Stand United (1999). Her most notable performances include Maachis (1996), Virasat (1997), Hu Tu Tu (1999), Astitva (2000), Chandni Bar (2001), Maqbool (2003) and Cheeni Kum (2007), 'Toh Baat Pakki'(2O1O).
In 2007, Tabu starred in her first Hollywood film, The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair. The film was a big hit overseas. She also starred in Cheeni Kum in which she played a 34 year-old woman who falls in love with a 64 year-old played by Amitabh Bachchan. Critics were generally positive towards the film; Taran Adarsh said, "Tabu stands on her feet despite a formidable co-star's domineering presence. She's excellent." Though the film did not do as well domestically, it performed well overseas, especially in UK and USA.