Interview Movies

Khushbu Sundar on ‘Annaatthe’: Rajinikanth sir still remains like a kid on his first day to school

Khushbu Sundar  

I ask Khushbu if she would have traded off the temple her fans built for her with better roles in films. She laughs at the question, but answers almost instantly. “No,” she says, “I would have definitely preferred the temple. If not for the temple, you wouldn’t be sitting here and asking me questions.”

One might have to agree with her. Khushbu the star, is bigger than Khushbu the actress. She was the go-to heroine of the ‘90s. During that decade, she sometimes acted in over 10 films in a single year. That was probably enough to become a household name, an adjective for idli, and of course, the temple. Understandably, she values adoration more than awards.

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Stardom is what she sought too. She had a taste of it very early. She was 10 when she debuted in BR Chopra’s The Burning Train (1981). The film had Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Parveen Babi, Jeetendra, Neetu Kapoor, Vinod Mehra, Navin Nischol and Danny Denzogpa. Going forward, she appeared in Bollywood till the late ‘80s, until she shifted predominantly to Tamil films. She grew up with the stars; it was natural that she wanted to become one as well.

After sparkling through the ‘90s, the number of films reduced in the 2000s. Khushbu forayed into television, plunged into politics and had to take care of her children. She hardly appeared on the big screen after 2010. Today, even on smaller screens, we mostly see her as a politician.

This year though, there will be a change. She will be in the Rajinikanth-starrer Annaathe (she does not want to call it a ‘comeback’ though). Khushbu will also be one of the judges in Colors Tamil’s reality show, Dance vs Dance Season 2.

In an interview, the actor-politician talks about her four-decade-old film career, reuniting with Rajinikanth in Annaatthe, the significance of dance in Tamil movies and more.


Congratulations on completing four decades in films!

Thank you. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, and I think that’s why I loved every bit of it. If not for the ups and downs, I might have easily gotten disinterested.

In this journey, you have been a child artist, a female lead, show host, reality TV judge, producer, politician... which of these roles were your favourite?

Being a mother. That has been my most favorite role. I didn’t know anything except films and television. So this is what my life has been. Now, of course, I have become a politician. I had to cut down on films and TV because politics requires a lot of time and attention. And I look forward to being better at it.

You’re a judge on a dance reality show now. In the 80s and 90s, almost every Tamil movie had a dance number. It’s not the case now. Do you think dance could slowly fade out of mainstream cinema?

Dance in cinema is never going to fade away; it’s part and parcel of cinema. We have had people like Vyjayanthimala ji and Puppy ma (Padmini). The generation just before me had excellent dancers like Jaya Prada, Jayasudha, Sridevi, Sripriya akka. I was a huge fan of Ambika’s dancing.

After my generation, there have been a lot of good dancers too. You need to know how to dance; you can’t have two left feet and say ‘I want to be a great actress.’ Yes, maybe in an OTT film, you might not need to dance. But to at least emote on screen, you need to have a sense of rhythm. But unless you know what music is about, what dancing is about, you cannot even take two steps into acting.

Favourite dance numbers
  • Rum Bum Bum (Michael Madana Kama Rajan), Per vachalum Vaikama Ponalum (Michael Madana Kama Rajan), Illavattam Kai Thattum (My Dear Marthandan), Satham Varamal (My Dear Marthandan), Metro Channel (Indhu), Kotta Paakkum Kozhundhu Veththalaiyum (Nattamai), Otha Rooba (Naattu Purapaatu)

But do you see dance choreographers retaining their significance in Tamil cinema in this era?

Definitely. It’s not just about the dance steps; choreographers know how to take the story forward. They understand the situation of the song, the emotion it tries to convey. A song essentially says a story in four minutes. My husband (Sundar C), for instance, cannot do without someone like Brindha. The same goes for someone like Mr Mani Ratnam. As long as you have cinema, there will be choreographers around.

Khushbu with Brindha Gopal

Khushbu with Brindha Gopal  

Compared to your time, there are more roles written for women in Tamil cinema. Is now a better time for actresses?

Yes. We have seen OTT platforms, especially during the pandemic, offering a vast space to make different kinds of films. The competition is really tough. Now, people can watch films from other languages. Malayalam cinema, for instance, is at a different level. We need to keep up with them and give better roles for women. A lot of things have changed from my time. You have the OTTs and multiplexes. You have a different kind of audience who are ready to accept different kinds of cinema. But big films still remain hero-oriented films. The heroine-oriented films aren’t making a huge impact at the box-office...

You are going to act with Rajinikanth after a long time in Annaatthe

I am not supposed to be talking anything about Annaathe. But it’s going to be a fun film. People will get to see the Rajinikanth they always wanted to see. It will be like the Rajinikanth from Annamalai, Arunachalam, Muthu, and Padayappa. That Rajinikanth was missing for a very long time. Meena and I have cute roles to play in it. There are multiple theories on social media on what it would be. But it will be a nice surprise. (smiles)

Also Read | ‘Annaatthe’ teaser: Rajinikanth is angry, out to avenge his village

Annaatthe has a star-studded ensemble cast too. How was the shooting experience?

It was wonderful. It felt like the old times, because everybody was on the sets! Nobody was going back to the caravans.

Meena and I were holding back a little to talk to Rajini sir, because we were working with him after a long time. I was not sure how he would react. People change, you know? So we thought we should give that space to him. But then, he came and sat with us, and grinned, ‘Why are you girls leaving me out?!’

Meena, Rajinikanth and Khushbu during the shoot of ‘Annaatthe’

Meena, Rajinikanth and Khushbu during the shoot of ‘Annaatthe’  

It was so sweet of him. Nothing about him has changed in 28 years. This man still remains like a kid on his first day to school, always eager to learn. I remember a day when he was five minutes late to the shoot, and he profusely apologised to the entire unit. We were like, ‘It’s okay, sir. It’s just five minutes.’ But he thinks he should never keep anyone waiting for him. I think that humility has always set him apart.

Dance vs Dance Season 2 will be on Colors Tamil from October 17

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 6:29:08 PM |

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