She wears many hats and each of them with equal panache and flair. A mother, a wife, a daughter and a powerful woman of substance – on screen and in politics, Khushbu Sundar is a woman of today doing her bit for a better tomorrow. Born as Nakhat Khan she got her stage name Khushbu from her parents when she started her career as a child actress. Living in Chennai for 36 years now, the actor and politician has been a popular name in the cine circles and is now creating ripples working closely with the central government on certain important issues that need to be addressed.

The magnetic star who charmed her fans with her beauty and acting prowess, acted in over a 100 films and became the most sought-after actors of Kollywood. It was no wonder then that she gave many hits during her illustrious acting career and worked alongside every super star of the South Indian film industry including Prabhu Ganesan, son of Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan, Daggubati Venkatesh and so many others. Khushbu first acted in Hindi films after her stint as child actor, and it was Venkatesh who recommended her to producer Rama Naidu for the film ‘Kaliyuga Pandavulu’ and there was no looking back. During the time when she was at the number one on the list of stars, there were not only dishes named after her at restaurants, there were umpteen styles of dresses and sarees sold in her name, letters in blood written to her and temples built to worship her. She was clearly an icon who stood on her own and made everyone take notice. She joined politics and then took some time off to take care of her children. In 2021, she made a comeback with Rajinikanth in Annaatthe. She has been around for 37 years in the industry, and it is her love for work and passion that keep her relevant even today. We find out more…

It’s the month of Mother’s Day. Tell us about your relationship with your two daughters Avantika and Anandita and how special is it being a mom?
I’m very proud of being a mom to my two lovely daughters. I’m more of a friend, but I become a mother when I have to. There are times when I put my foot down and tell them that certain things are to be done. I have to take strong decisions and tell them it has to be done this way. I’m more of a frined to my girls and we enjoy that part, where we can speak to each other about anything under the sun. My girls are not teenagers any more. My elder one will be 23 this September and my younger one is 20 plus, so it matters a lot that they’re with me and we have a very open relationship, where we discuss everything. The best part is that we are all very close to each other. Elder one has just finished a baking course from Cordon bleu in London. She just got back from London, so she’s still planning to start something on her own. She’s also dabbling with thoughts of getting into direction and production. The younger one is working with Mani Ratnam and learning direction and production both.

What would be your message for other moms on Mother’s Day?
We should allow our girls to grow up on their own, rather than pushing your ideas on them. We should trust our children. I’m the kind of a mother, who believes that if the girls go wrong, they have to learn from their mistakes.

Your most cherished moments together with your daughters?
Every moment has been special with them from the time they were born. From the first time they called out ma, the first day of school for both of them, the post natal when the kids are taking for their injections, the first time the child cries after the shots and everything. Even if you’re sitting outside the room and there are ten more kids, the minute your child cries you know she’s your baby and it hits you in your heart. You know that this is my baby. All those childhood memories are very special. It’s very important that are close knit and by that I mean even small fights and arguments. I remember all those special moments we share with each other.

Would you like to recall some of your favourite holidays together?
Every holiday is special, but the best was when we went sailing in Europe. Their father was with us but he had a shoot, so he came back and my girls and I were to continue further in Europe to Switzerland and Amsterdam, but we were missing their dad so much that we cancelled our trip and flew down to Pollachi to surprise him.

What are some of the fun hobbies or moments that you share together?
We watch a lot of films together, we shop together, we share makeup and clothes. If my clothes are missing I know if would be in their wardrobe and if their clothes are missing they know that they would be in my wardrobe. We also steal each other’s makeup. These little things matter a lot and we are always very close knit.

Do they cook at home sometimes, since your daughter has also done a culinary course?
My elder one cooks like a dream, but even my younger one knows how to make basics like noodles and pasta. My elder one cooks biryani very well, naan and even continental dishes. She’s studied baking so she bakes like a dream. We love her cakes and chewy almond cookies. Also, the kind of tea she makes I don’t think anybody can make that kind of tea. I keep getting to hear at home – please learn from her how to make good tea.

What is your opinion on women in the field of entertainment and cinema? You’ve been in the industry for so many years. What changes have you seen?
Not much has changed; probably just the working style has changed. Also, the comfort levels have changed, we didn’t have the caravans or vanity vans then, nor the kind of facilities we have now, we used to work under pressure as we knew we had a can and minimum number of cinema reels for the shoot. Each reel held up to around 2,000 feet of film, clocking roughly 15-20 minutes of runtime. So we had to finish a scene in a single shot because they didn’t have so many cans. Now there’s no such pressure, because you know there’s a nice cosy area to change, if your make up isn’t right it can be redone, we didn’t have all that. We worked in the worst conditions, but I think that was also our learning period. And that’s why the reason why we are able to sustain for a longer time is because we come from that generation where we had patience and gave our best under any circumstances.

What the stars introduced on screen went viral and that became a fashion statement. Whereas, now the latest makeup, hairstyle, fashion or technology is available on anyone’s finger tips as they have to keep themselves updated. These girls have to make sure that they can’t afford to go wrong. One more reason is that all these girls come from a secure, educated background and they come into cinema because they’re passionate towards cinema.

I have done a lot of cinema! I have danced, romanced, wore glamorous costumes, ran around trees…today, audience’s mindset is changing. They are seeing character and remembering them. Platforms are changing. Every film that I act in, I will definitely add something on my own to the character. But, first I need to understand and get under the skin of the character. I don’t want to be the 11th person chosen for the character. Length is not important, but presentation and characterisation are important. I know it’s alright to wear a pink petticoat under a red saree, we used to get this yellow powder which we would mix with makeup and use it for colour correction, especially in the temple scenes. And, when we didn’t get yellow powder, we even used turmeric. Today you have cameras and filters. We would change our dress in a small bathroom. If we had a problem with blouse fitting, we knew how to quickly fix it. It was so much different then. We used to perform over the top. Today, it’s more mellowed down. We have to move with the times.

You’ve been a powerful woman not just on screen, but also in politics. What is your take on women in politics?
Whichever field you’re in you have to make sure that you maintain your dignity. The most important virtue for me is my dignity and at no point in life will I ever compromise on that. But, yes politics is a little difficult for women, but that way if you see no other field is easy for women either. Any woman who has determination can make it, and also perseverance is very important. It’s not like a 2 minute noodles, where you get something overnight. You have to work really hard.

What is your schedule and how many hours do you give to acting and to your work in the political arena?
I don’t have a fixed time frame. When I’m shooting I generally don’t work after 6 in the evening. When I’m at home in Chennai, I like to be at home and having dinner together with my family is extremely important to me. So I generally don’t do any shoots after 6 pm. Political meetings are all only in the evenings. I never take up shoots after 6 and I spend time either with family or attending to some political work from home in the evenings. Politics doesn’t have any time. When you have your Prime Minister who’s working 20 hours a day, we can also put in a little extra hours to work too.

What is your current role in the party?
Election is something I have to be a part of, but I’m not sure of contesting yet, as the party has to decide if I’m the right candidate. The party seniors will decide that. I can’t decide that I want to contest from this area and do a particular kind of work. You just have to leave it to the party senior leaders. Last time when I contested, I was given a seat, but you never know. The party will decide who will contest and from where. We are in alliance with the AIADMK so they have to decide which seats we will get. I will come to know only next year when we’re closer to the elections.

What is your approach towards politics and what have been some of the highlights of your political work so far?
I’m a national executive committee member and I do a lot of work which is given to me at the national level. People in Tamil Nadu may feel that I’m not around much and may not see me working here in my state, but my work is silent and is mostly out of Delhi or different states. We need to take our country forward and we are all doing our bit. Today India is in the fifth position and is one of the largest economies in the world. We have even surpassed UK and are looking at being USD 3.7 trillion economy in the future, so we need to push ourselves. India is at the top for all the right reasons. Women are moving forward in every sector. Everything is connected and no one can take anything for granted, or take anyone’s money. There was a time when everything was under the table, there was black money, now there’s no hiding, you have to pay through the bank. So the poor whose money was taken away can’t be cheated anymore. They get what is rightfully theirs.

The biggest thing that our PM has done for maintaining the dignity of women, was to build the toilets. Imagine a woman had to wake up at 3 in the morning and go to the fields because there was no toilet in her house. Today there are toilets and that is the most important thing. It’s heartening to see that now when women are getting married ask not about anything else but if they will get a toilet at home. If they don’t have it they’re saying build a toilet and then get married. Their dignity is the first and foremost thing for them. Also, the new education policy is improving. We have given the citizens a larger platform to get educated. Every month we have more than one university coming up somewhere or the other in our country. Gone are the days when educational institutions were being opened only to make money, now you have to get admission on the basis of your merit.

I work with women and child as I’m also part of the Swacch Bharat Abhyan, which works with children below zero to eight years, who are malnourished. We identify those children and make sure that the government policies work towards identifying these malnourished children and help them. We keep a complete data about these children.

What are the current projects you’re working on?
I have Rama Banam, an action drama romantic movie directed by Sriwass and produced by People Media Factory. The Telugu film is close to my heart as it conveys the importance of nurturing family relationships. I’m going slow as there is lots to do and I just don’t want to get lost in the crowd, because for me it’s extremely important that if I’m doing a project it has to be something that it has to be something close to my heart. Rama Banam took a little while to be made as Covid happened and then Jagapathi Babu and Gopi hurt himself and some of the artists were down with Covid and then I was unwell in between. But it was a wonderful experience with Sriwass and producers People Media Factory, Gopi, Jagapathi Babu, Dimple and the entire star cast. We never felt like we were shooting, it was more like a picnic for us. I saw a lot of elements of P Vasu’s works in Sriwass as I have done a lot of films with him. He had a lot of ideas which were in his mind. He is very clear in his mind what he wants to do and I found a similar trait in Sriwass. It was amazing to work with him. I always wanted to do a Telugu film, but I’m very choosy. The role must be good and sensible. I shot for 18 days for Vaarisu with Vijay. It’s a good role, but most of it had to be edited. But I am alright with it. Even if I am there in two scenes, they need to be crucial scenes in the film. I love the character I play in Rama Banam and that is why I agreed to do the film. I love the way the character Bhuvaneshwari evolves. She is courageous and keeps the family together and cares about eating good food and keeping the family healthy. I am a very family-oriented person in real life too and building a healthy family and keeping it together is important for me. I can take any amount of trouble that comes my way, but if my family is troubled in any way then I become a tigress. Just like my character that is revealed in the trailer of the film, I propagate good food and feel that it’s high time we understood the value of traditional way of cooking. With so many Indian students here and abroad resorting to fast food which is easier, we forget how incredible it tastes if we cook in terracotta pots.

Would you like to recall your earlier memories from those days when you were a screen sensation?
I have some beautiful memories from those days. I still remember every film shoot vividly, where we shot and how. I remember all my films including my first film in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi. I remember what happened on the first day of each of the shoots. My memories are still very clear in my head. There were so many special moments, which have turned into these special memories which will remain with us and go with us. We have made such wonderful friends in the last 37 years in the industry. We have a big group and a whatsapp group with Jackie Shroff etc. It’s our 80s group and we are 32 of us in that group. We are all from the film industry and continue to speak to each other from different parts of the country and share whatever has been happening in our lives on an everyday basis.

What do you feel about constantly being trolled despite all the good things that you do?
You don’t get trolled, people who are unknown who don’t have the guts to show their real name, or their faces and are extremely ugly and that is why they shy away from showing their real names and faces. I don’t need to worry about such people. There are times when I have to give it back to them but otherwise life is far more beautiful to get worried about these few unknown faces who are only there for the trolls.

Do you handle your social media yourself?
Yes, I handle my social media myself. I don’t have any managers.

Would you like to share any tips for those who look upto you?
Just follow what you believe in, follow your dream and dream big. Why always settle for something which is miniscule. You need to dream big, think big and fly higher. Never set a goal saying this is my limit. No there’s no limit, you can go beyond a certain limit.

Any regrets in life?
I lost many opportunities in Telugu cinema because I settled in Chennai, but I don’t regret much, except this one very good film called ‘Chanti’ with Venkatesh due to clash of dates. I never think about how I wish certain role came to me. It was only when I saw Tabu romancing my favourite actor Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Cheeni Kum’ I called and felt how she could act with him. I have always been a huge fan of Amitabhji. As a child actor I used to sit with him on one side with Shweta on the other side. Even today I have his posters of him in my room.

You have always spoken about how good south Indian cinema is and have been a major advocate of the quality of south Indian movies and now the world has finally realised its potential.
Whereever I go I talk about south cinema be it Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam or Kannada cinema. I was once in Australia for an Indian film festival, and I fought with the organisers as I didn’t want to have anything to do with the festival, since it did not represent south Indian cinema. But, today, all that has changed and I’m very happy about it.

Any holiday plans for this summer?
I’m really looking forward to a holiday with my husband and daughters, because we haven’t had a holiday in quite some time. But my husband needs to finish his work and then my daughter is also working. Every I speak about a holiday, she says Amma I’m a working girl now. I just need to wait for their dates.


1. Your favourite cuisine?
Any food which is not spicy, not deep fried or too tangy.

2. Your favourite colour?
Earthy tones.

3. Veg or non-veg? Your favourite South Indian food?
Non-veg. Neer dose.

4. Your favourite South Indian film and dream director?
Mouna Raagan
Mani Ratman

5. Your favourite actor and actress?
Amitabh Bachchan and in south it’s Kamal Haasan. I’m also fond of Abhishek Bachchan and Arvind Swamy. Of the current lot in Tamil, I like Vijay Sethupathi and Karthi. I like Urvashi and Revathi.

6. Your favourite drink?
I love tea and I’m a teetotaler.

7. Your crush?
Ravi Shastri.

8. Your dream role?
Mouna Raagam.

9. Most romantic thing your husband has done for you.
He’s not at all a romantic person. The most romantic thing ever that he did was proposing to me. He said “If you and I have a baby, who would it look like?” I was taken aback and I just asked him if he was proposing to me. He dropped down on his knees, and said, “Imagine I have a flower in my hand,” and popped the question, “Will you marry me?”

10. How romantic are you?
I’m very romantic at heart.

11. Your fitness regime?
I love outdoor walks. I walk for 45 minutes every morning and evening. I don’t like crazy gymming, but I do yoga and Surya Namaskar sometimes. I also try and do planks but walking outdoors is my favourite exercise.

12. Beaches or hills?
Beaches for fun as I love water sports, so I’ve tried parasailing, jet skiing etc.

13. Straight hair or curls?

14. Indian or Western?

15. First thing you notice about people?

16. Late night or early morning?
Early morning. After 10 at night I’m a zombie at home.

17. Favourite holiday?
I love London and Singapore.