CHENNAI: Women decked up in Kanjivaram silks were eagerly waiting to meet the dreamgirl of their generation. Grooving to the beats of the 80s hit, Bol baby bol, Kushboo Sundar, instantly brought her onscreen charm to real life.
At the event, Living life the Kush way, organised by the Duchess Club at the Savera Hotel, the actress and politician took us down the memory lane of Mumbai’s suburban Andheri where she grew up and the cinema sets of Chennai where she established herself.
Kushboo grew up as the youngest of three si. Cinema came into her life accidentally through actress Hema Malini, in whose house she and her brothers played. She accepted the offer in return for one cup of vanilla ice-cream. When filmmaker Ravi Chopra suggested that her real name Nakkhat will be hard for people to follow, she sternly said ‘My name Nakkhat, is such a beautiful Persian name meaning fragrance. I don’t want to change that.’ And this fragrance went on to spread through songs like Teri hai zameen tera aasman from the film The Burning Train in 1980. Thus, Kushboo was born.
“The ups and downs are what made me who I am today,” she shared while recalling her past. From being an excellent student at the Swami Muktanand High School, Andheri, she became a dropout in class 9. After moving to the south, she learned seven languages. After her father abandoned the family in 1986, she became the primary provider.
She invested her time in everything that she was passionate about. Soon enough, she gathered a large fan base. When a temple was built for her in Tiruchy by her fans, she didn’t react to the news. “When the temple was built, I was busy doing back-to-back films. Once I was free, the temple was not a piece of news anymore. It just went like that,” she recalled. But, her remarks about pre-marital sex and AIDS caused a lot of anguish among her fans.
“When I came to know that Namakkal was a place with the maximum number of HIV patients during that time, I couldn’t keep quiet. The diagnosed women were shunned from society. The fact that the truck drivers coming to that region exploited the women, lured them into pre-marital sex, and teenage pregnancies didn’t matter to a patriarchal society, was disturbing. They told ambala appadi thaan pannuvanga (men are like that),” shared Kushboo about the article she wrote for India Today. Following that, almost forty cases were charged against her alleging that she tried to assault the morality of Tamil women. She victoriously emerged from all the legal hurdles, fighting with grit.
In 2010, she ventured into politics. Inspired by Kalaignar Karunanidhi, she joined DMK. From DMK to Congress and finally, to BJP, she calls her political journey a learning curve. Answering a query on her aspirations to become the CM of Tamil Nadu, Kushboo emphasised, “Thank you so much but No. I project myself more on a national level. I am happy working for the party. What role I should play should be decided by the party seniors.”