In life, Khushbu Sundar, noted Indian actress, politician and television presenter has straddled her roles with aplomb.
Recipient of several prestigious awards including the Tamil Nadu State Film Award, she has re-invented herself over the years.
Jyotsna Mohan had a chat with the actor-turned-politician for Gulf News. Here are the excerpts:
You started working when you were very young as a child artist. How do you look back at your journey?
I enjoyed myself, there is not a moment of regret. The only thing is that I didn’t complete my education and even till today my principal says Nakhat you were a good student, you could have completed your schooling. So, the only regret that I have is that I had to drop out in the 9th standard.
I grew up in the film industry and I learnt from the industry otherwise I wouldn’t have survived till now. I don’t look back and say I started so early, I have learnt everything from cinema and owe it to cinema
You speak about doing age-appropriate roles now. Do you think the last two years where we have seen an explosion of OTT platforms during the pandemic have been beneficial for women actors who are finally allowed to act their age?
Absolutely. This is the best time for women to showcase their talent and I am not just talking about people like us who have been there and done that. There is so much talent around and they would probably never have had the opportunity to showcase without these OTT platforms.
What Sushmita did or Raveena, I think all these shows are amazing. The only thing though is that some people tend to take an advantage and go overboard as there is no certification or censor board and if you are watching with family, it gets a little uncomfortable but otherwise, I have watched some fantastic series.
I would love to do a series but give me a role like what Shefali did in Delhi Crimes or Sushmita in Arya - you give me those roles and I am ready to take up otherwise it becomes difficult.
How have you juggled work and being the mother of two girls, one who is no longer a teenager?
I made a very conscious decision after I got married because I had my babies in quick succession to stay away from films. I had to give up some big films, but I didn’t regret it for a moment. It was important to me to drop them to school, sit through their homework, their fights and putting them to bed.
Even now I take a long time to decide if I want to do a film. In 22 years of my married life, I have hardly done 10 films. I continued doing television but that wasn’t a problem since it was my own company and allowed me flexibility. I follow a very simple rule - where there is a will, there is a way.
Was there an extra effort to make sure that your children remain grounded?
At home we made extra effort to give them a very simple life. You will not find a single trophy or any award in my house. We don’t have story discussions and my husband, and I don’t discuss work at home. We are celebrities outside, but at home we are just normal parents.
The children could ride on their father’s back, wake up a sleeping father. For them to see me cooking, driving them around was normal so they didn’t even have an idea of who I was when they were young. Only now it sinks in that their mother is an actress and dad is a star in his own right.
We are in the midst, of elections half of the voters are women and yet there remains unequal representation of women in politics. With the experience of having been involved with 3 parties what do you think needs to change?
The mindset of the women themselves. The problem is that we give in to the family pressures. I have worked with many women and most of them don’t have the support of the family. They are either told they are neglecting their child and family, or the husband isn’t happy- the men also often want to be in the woman’s shoes.
If the woman is getting the ticket, they want to stand instead. They want to take a power and we are still living in the patriarchal system where they can’t accept a woman taking a step ahead or the fact that the woman is known but not the husband.
I am not your husband, you are my wife - unless that changes, most women will not find a place in politics. Many of those who have made it didn’t have pressures, very few like us have the support of our family. We are the lucky ones.
You have had your fair share of controversies. How did you handle the attention being in the public space?
I just be myself. I cannot tolerate nonsense. I know what I speak, I know what I say, and I know what I am doing. If someone tries to outsmart me then I put them in their place and I do that immediately.
If I don’t know something, I am very honest and say I am not aware of it because it is very important to be honest with yourself instead of making a fool of oneself.
Secondly, you come across men who think it is their birthright to bring down women and that was the reason I left the other two parties. I cannot and will never ever let my dignity and integrity to be challenged. Then I move away.
It is very easy to abuse women especially on social media today - look at the recent incidents of some being ‘auctioned’ on apps. Many of these victims have disappeared after the incident. How can they and their families be convinced to still fight the good fight?
I have seen many women who are trolled irrespective of which party they belong to, which area they come from or what they say. I always say you have an option to mute, don’t give trolls the pleasure of blocking them. I do react if it involves my family, then I become the wounded tigress.
So, I would tell these women to continue the wonderful work they are doing and using the platforms. Till they are not spreading hate or attacking someone they should continue doing what they are doing.
Going back in time, you had a temple dedicated to you and your fans say another one is coming up. How do you react to such news?
When the temple was built, I was at the peak of my career. I was working 5 shifts, but I lived in a residential area that was always crowded with buses full of people coming to catch a glimpse. It becomes a huge responsibility when people dedicate a temple in your name.
I would say please don’t spend money, love me as you do, and please continue doing good work in my name and that is enough for me.