Interviewer : Daya Kingston | Camera : P. Ganesh Babu | Text : Daya Kingston
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For those who have seen Khushboo at the peak of her career, she was the effervescent bubbly heroine who created quite a craze with fans going to the extent of building a temple for her. While most heroines would be content to retire to home and hearth after that, she went on to blossom into a phenomenon on the small screen. Hosting talk shows, acting in serials, she has managed the changeover effortlessly. A woman of strong convictions, she has been embroiled in many controversies, the strongest being the cases against her for allegedly promoting premarital sex. However, recently when the Supreme Court quashed all the cases against her, there was jubilation in the Khushboo camp but what made it more significant is that it was not just a victory for Khushboo but for all those who believe in the freedom of speech. We catch up with the daring diva for a rendezvous on controversies, cinema and more.
Tell us something about your role in Ilaignan?

My role is brilliant, a role in a story set in the 1940’s. It’s a role that I have been waiting for, for a long time because you don’t get too many roles at my age that will satisfy the actor in me. I am not going to look into the angle as in what I do but it’s a very performance oriented script and I could visualize myself when Suresh Krishnnaji was explaining everything. I have to thank our Honorable Chief Minister because he is the one who first told me that there is a role in a fantastic script and apt for me.

Tell us about your co-stars

We have not started shooting yet. Pa.Vijay and I did a photo shoot but I am not too sure about the other cast. I will know only when we start.
Have you worked with Pa. Vijay before?

Yes, he has written lyrics for my serial Kalki. I know him well but with this film we will have more time to interact. Pa Vijay is a very intelligent and soft-spoken guy. All people on the creative side have some kind of unique streak of excellence in them which I think Pa. Vijay has. I am really looking forward to working with him.

Pa Vijay is a very intelligent and

soft-spoken guy

There has been quite a long gap since your previous film. Any particular reason?

I cut down on films drastically once I got married. Actually, in the last 10 years of my career, I have done hardly 4 or 5 films. Firstly, I need lot of time for my family and so I can’t travel too much outdoors. I don’t work after 6 if I shoot locally and don’t work on Sundays. Since I have these restrictions, TV is fine because most of the time it is my own production, so by the time I reach the location with makeup its 9.30 or 10. The timings are very flexible.

we went beyond the director-

actor relationship

We hear you will be working with Amitabh shortly. How did you get this opportunity?

Mad Dad is directed by Revathy Varma who had directed June R. We have worked together earlier and remained in touch but we went beyond the director-actor relationship. She had shared lot of feelings with me and vice versa. We have a good comfort level. So when this film came up, she said, I am sending you a script, just go through it. When she spoke to me, I read it and I found it really good. I said I will do it but what about the other stars, and she said Mr Bachchan would be playing the lead. The script is finalized and we are waiting for Mr.Bacchan’s dates and will start before the end of the year hopefully.

Can you tell us more about your role?

I play Mr. Bachchan’s wife; it’s a very cute and lovable role. I don’t want to say too much as I will then have to explain my character and storyline.

How is it working with Revathy?

Like I said, Revathy and I never maintained just an artiste director relationship. We are friends and have a comfort level. She had some personal upheavals in life and we had discussed that and I have been supportive to her. Its more than a cordial relationship, we share a wonderful relationship.

Is this the first time you will be sharing screen space with Amitabh?

I have done three films with him as a child artiste.

Can you tell us something about the experience?

For me Amitabh Bachchan is the icon. If you ask me who my favorite star is, it’s Bachchan. I have been a typical Mumbai girl who grew up seeing Bachchan all over. I have done films with Amitji when I was very young. I remember going to Kashmir and Amitji taking us for a jeep ride and buying us puris, dahi and kachumbers. I have very wonderful memories. I still remember there was only one hotel that had a pool in Kashmir. Sometimes Shweta and Abhishek would drop in on the sets but we have lost touch completely. Even when I was very young, I used to tell Mr. Bachchan I wanted to act with him. But he would look at me and show me his palm and say, if I give you a tight slap across your face you will be alright. You’re just as old as my Shweta so don’t even think about that. But times have changed now and I am really excited.

Tell us about your work in television?

Jackpot is the longest running show for me, we have been doing the show for 8 years and it has created history in Indian television as it’s a game show that has run non-stop. We have shot over 400 episodes for the same channel, same producers and the same sponsors. It’s really amazing and still going strong. It’s really close to my heart. I did Maanada Mayilaada for three seasons continuously and that is a wonderful experience.

I am doing Poova Thalaya, a talk show for Kalaignar TV. I am also going to start a new show for Vijay TV Azhagiya Tamil Magan which will be a very fun-loving show. It will give me scope to be myself, full of laughter and banter. I am starting a news serial for Jaya TV and as of now my hands are full. I am also doing Ponnar Shankar with Prashanth and Jairam as my pair. That film shoot is like a picnic spot for us, we look forward to it and it stars Jairam, Prashanth, Nasser, Sneha, Prakashraj, Riyaz and a lot of other artistes. We all are like people traveling for a picnic, gossiping, pulling each other’s legs. It’s a nice atmosphere because of late there is the growth of the caravan culture where after each shot people go back in or sit in a corner with a book. We are not doing that, instead we are sitting together and laughing out loud. It’s real fun.

As an actress you have a script but on TV it calls for a lot more spontaneity. Did you find it difficult to manage the switchover?

I am an extrovert and expressive person and like to express my emotions whatever they may be. I work on spontaneity. All my performances have always been spontaneous. I have never gone and done homework and then come and worked on them. I was a spontaneous actor. All my shows are spontaneous and the spunk drives me.

Some reality shows bring down the morale of contestants. Since you are doing reality shows too, don’t you feel the criticism pulls down contestants and is negative?

The reason for the success of Maanada Mayilaada is that none of the judges ever brought down the confidence and morale of contestants. We have pointed out flaws and mistakes but always encouraged them in a way saying that, you are wrong but you can be better, you can improve. Where we have pointed out they were wrong, they have in many cases come back with the same performances and taken away the Best Performance Award. It’s always important how the judges on any reality shows relate to participants.

Tell us about your production house?

We are silent workers. We have a movie which is on the floors. We have not publicized yet but it’s almost complete, just the songs to be done. It’s called Nagaram directed by Sundar C who is also acting as the hero besides featuring Vadivelu and Anuya.

Are you waiting for your husband’s films to release?

I really don’t know. I am a very laid-back wife. I don’t interfere with his work, I don’t know what production he is doing, what the script is, who plays the lead and other actors. Absolutely clueless! Guru Sishyan and Vaada are to release but I don’t know which will release first.

I am a very laid-back wife

How did your family react when this controversy on your comments on pre-marital sex broke out? Did it affect your kids in any way?

They are very young, one is 4 ½ and the older one 9. So 5 years back, they were too young to even react to it. My husband and I never discuss these things and problems before the kids. That way it has been very smooth for our children.

How did you feel when you got to know about the Supreme Court judgment?

I was really glad. I was really excited because my lawyer called me when I was in London. It was early morning around 6 and I was fast asleep. She woke me up and she said, we have made it, we have won the battle. I was very excited and the first thing I did was to call Sundar and tell him that we have won the cases. More than me, I think he was more excited, I could feel the excitement in him. He was overjoyed and was shouting. People who know him understand that he is an introvert and not a person who can easily show his emotions. But this was one moment, where he was calling up people his friends and others telling them that she has won it.

I am too busy to react

How do you handle the controversies that keep cropping up? Like the one where you were allegedly wore footwear near a deity. How do you react?

I don’t even react; I am too busy to react. First of all, it was not a temple, it was a set. The model of the deity was 10 to 15 feet behind me and this gives a 3-D effect when you are on the stage especially, I was not the only one, even the person who built the set was walking around with chappals on. We saw him going around in chappals and doing the set work. People just wanted to create an unwanted issue.

In Rettai Suzhi, they have a character called Khushboo who gets into trouble when she talks. How do you react to that?

I have not seen the film so until I see the film, I won’t be able to react to it. I have known Thamira for long and know that he won’t do anything to bring any kind of pain to me. The actors in the film are both directors who have the highest regards in the film industry from me also. And I have worked with both the directors Bharathiraja sir and Balachander Sir and both are very fond of me. So I am sure they would not allow anything that shows me even remotely in bad light.

What has been the reaction of the average woman to these controversies?

Well, even the women who came as demonstrators were clueless about what they had against me when questioned. They said they were asked to raise slogans and were promised biriyani and Rs.100 for that, and that’s all they knew! When I went to surrender myself most of the women who had gathered said they came to see me and not to protest, Women have been very supportive. The moment my flight landed, the staff congratulated me, and other people also did. I have been receiving numerous mails and messages from even absolute strangers telling me it is their victory; they have won the battle and applauding me for standing by what I said.

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