Actor Kushboo tells Chitra Swaminathan about the joy of dividing time between home and studios
As she settles into the chair for the interview, you take a closer look at the famous face. You cannot miss the disarming smile and apple cheeks you saw in “Chinna Thambi” 17 years ago. Size zero, fancy diets and figure-clinging outfits, such fads don’t seem to bother Kushboo. She’s been under the arc lights for more than two decades, yet sets her own rules and lives by them.
We are just a few minutes into the conversation, when a unit boy peeps into the room and announces, “Madam, shot ready”. Kushboo, clad in a gorgeous grey and off-white sari, can’t stop talking about her director-husband Sundar straying into acting and doing well too. “He’s stunned me. Such an introvert and camera-shy person, I still can’t believe he can dance, romance and punch men with such ease on screen,” she laughs heartily. Then stops abruptly, “Oh, can’t keep the unit waiting. I will be back soon” and rushes into the sets of her new mega serial ‘Rudra’ (for soon-to-be launched ZEE Tamil). She is the producer and the protagonist of the serial. For now, work is the focus.
Kushboo has many things going simultaneously. She is producing films and serials, acting (“I prefer serials to films as I like to be home by 6 every evening and don’t work on Sundays”), hosting ‘Jackpot’, a judge on the dance show ‘Maanada Mayilaada’, doing advertisements, attending to the children’s homework, cooking for the family, chatting with friends, checking mails, surfing the Net… Ask her about it and she puts it simply, “You constantly push your limits. Initially, you may make an effort, but later it becomes a habit. Everyone has that ability.”
So much hype about Bollywood biggies Shah Rukh, Salman and Akshay doing TV shows, but Kollywood’s once-reigning queen took the plunge much earlier. “People scorned my decision. But I knew after marriage and kids, television was the best option — the satisfaction of doing something for yourself and being around for the family too,” she explains.
Her game show ‘Jackpot’ (Jaya TV) completed a landmark 300 episodes recently. Content and format are popular all right but the chirpy and charming host is the main attraction. Many hang on to their TV sets just to look at Kushboo’s jewellery, hairstyle, saris and heavily embellished blouses. “The wardrobe is the sponsor’s choice. I had no intention of making any style statement. Off screen, I am a minimalist. I mostly stick to earthy tones and subtle accessories,” she says. As for rapport with the participants, she says, “I am basically a people’s person. I can easily strike up a conversation with anybody. I talk so much, Sundar is amazed at my energy,” she laughs.
A strong and ambitious woman, does she feel uncomfortable mouthing regressive lines in serials? “Talking about family values, tradition and culture does not make a woman less strong and confident. It doesn’t sound modern maybe. The element of exaggeration is inevitable in drama. I am sure viewers are smart enough to differentiate reel from the real,” she defends.
What about courting controversy? “Because I say it like it is. I cannot stop myself from speaking out loud when it comes to women and children’s issues. What’s most disturbing is the abysmal law and order situation. Criticism is less about your fault and more about others’ point of view.”
How does she perceive Kollywood then and now? Today it’s more organised, there’s more money and the young stars know what they want. But the bonhomie of the old times is missing. I remember how we functioned — like a big, happy family. We would wait for our co-stars during lunch. Now, once a shot is over, the actors shut themselves in their vanity vans. In our days, we would jump at the mere thought of outdoor shoots in Ooty and Kodaikanal, but now they scout for locations across the globe.
Coming back to Sundar’s acting career, she says, “I had always been telling him to give it try. When we were looking for a new face for our home production “Thalainagaram”, he asked me, ‘How about me as the hero’? I was simply thrilled. The film’s success has boosted his confidence to sign more films. Being a director has its advantages. His knowledge of the camera angles and other technicalities come in handy when he is acting. But I am sure his heroines have it tough because he is the most unromantic person. His biggest fans are our daughters. For them dad is a bigger star than mom. Can’t blame them, they were not around when I was doing films full-time. Now they see me more often clearing the table, scrubbing the bathroom and cooking,” she smiles.
But who’s complaining when you have best of both worlds?
Clothes — Sabyasachi’s saris
Co-star — Karthik, Satyaraj and Prabhu
Best compliment — My kids think I am the best cook
Holiday spots — Singapore and London
Food — Mutton biryani
Films — “Mouna Ragam”, “Nayakan”, “Michael Madana Kamarajan”