Role in the film
A very tall and fearsome man, Tabaqui was a knowledgeable wilderness guide; being well aware of the Black Jungle's dangers. He was also a close friend of Buldeo, a local hunter and bandit.
Tabaqui is first seen after Buldeo assists in Mowgli's arrest by knocking the boy out after he eludes the British troops. Buldeo finds a jeweled dagger on Mowgli's person and is intrigued by it and knows that it comes from the mythical City of Hanuman. But Captain William Boone approaches and takes the "queen's evidence" off the reluctant hunter and while Boone and Lieutenant Wilkins marvel over the sight of the valuable, Buldeo informs the two that there's bound to be more treasure like the dagger, before leaving on horseback with Tabaqui who was waiting for him.
Several days later, as the jungle boy is being educated and re-introduced to civilization by Katherine "Kitty" Brydon and Dr. Julius Plumford, Boone and Wilkins meet up with Buldeo who is drinking at an outdoor tavern during an Indian celebration. Buldeo introduces them to his friend who is sat at the table with them and they tell Boone and Wilkins the stories of the "Lost City of Hanuman" and how all who traveled there to claim treasure perished along the way and Tabaqui further backs up Buldeo's point by adding that entering the Black Jungle would be risking your life, unless one knew the way. They decide to persuade Mowgli into helping them.
Mowgli refuses and Kitty later calls off her engagement to Boone after his treatment of Mowgli. The following day, Boone, Lt. Wilkins, Buldeo, Sergeant Harley, and Tabaqui round up some bandits and track down Mowgli. They attempt to capture Mowgli so he can lead them to the treasure but fail as Baloo intervenes only to be shot and wounded by Boone and Wilkins.
Boone's team as with the bandits then kidnap Kitty, knowing that Mowgli will do anything for her. In the process, her father; Colonel Brydon is shot in the leg and inadvertently captured as well. Mowgli catches up with the group and is told by Boone that if he doesn't lead them to the lost city, "unpleasantries may occur." To illustrate, Tabaqui threatens to cut Kitty's throat unless Mowgli obliges. Mowgli agrees to take them there. Along the way, Tabaqui remains at the front of the group, acting as an escort to the group should any danger come by.
That night, after Mowgli silences a group of howling wolves to stop Wilkins complaining, Shere Khan's growl is heard. Tabaqui warns Boone that Shere Khan is nearby and is returning to the area. Boone initially hopes to hunt the tiger, but Buldeo sternly advises him not to.
The next morning, the group wake up to Harley shouting and alerting them of Mowgli's escape, but the soldier falls into quicksand and begins to sink. Wilkins poorly tries to rescue Harley, but by the time the rest of the group catches up, it's too late. Boone, however, is unaffected by Harley's death - stating that they shouldn't waste time over "every little thing." Boone's lack of remorse shocks Wilkins, Buldeo, and Tabaqui but they oblige nonetheless. As the journey continues, Wilkins begins to stress and complain more and more much to Tabaqui's annoyance.
Later on, Tabaqui, apparently of his own accord, splits off from the group and finds Mowgli who is atop some cliffs, surveying the group's journey. Despite his middle age and unhealthy complexion, Tabaqui proves to be a formidably strong and capable opponent; ferociously attacking the jungle boy. He tries to throw Mowgli off the edge, while the group watches from below, and when that plan fails, he beats Mowgli to the ground and brutally tries to finish him off with a boulder. But Mowgli kicks Tabaqui in the groin and he begins to lose balance under the weight of the boulder. Screaming hideously, Tabaqui falls from the cliff edge before being dashed and instantly killed on the rocks below.
- In the original Jungle Book novel, Tabaqui was a Golden jackal who feeds on scraps from either Shere Khan or the wolves of the Seeonee Pack. In some adaptions, he is a hyena.
- Tabaqui's death is quite ironic, because the boulder (which he had intended to kill Mowgli with) contributed to his defeat.
- Tabaqui shares some similarities with the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood. They are both physically-imposing characters who are heartless, scheming and very clever and both put their lives at risk during attempts to kill the hero (Tabaqui lifting the heavy rock while standing near the edge of a cliff and the Sheriff fighting Robin in Prince John's burning bedroom).