No stranger to controversies, popular Tamil actor Khushbu has found each party she joins not reciprocating to her work. But her recent shift to the saffron party from Congress may cast a shadow over her secular credentials
Actress-politician Khushbu Sundar joined the ruling BJP on Monday, terminating her six-year-old membership with the country’s main Opposition Congress. The 50-year-old, who has been into movies for four decades, hailed the saffron party and its leadership, saying the people of India were “absolutely right in believing” in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The nation needed “somebody like him” to take the country in the “right direction”, she told the media at the BJP’s headquarters in Delhi.
Congress, Khushbu said, is being dictated by a “few elements seated at the higher level”, detached from “ground reality or public recognition”. This, when “people like me, who wanted to work for the party sincerely, are being pushed and suppressed”, she added in a letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Khushbu didn’t forget to mention that no “monetary gains, name or fame” wooed her into joining the Congress. For, in 2014, the party was at its “lowest”, having bitten dust in the Lok Sabha elections that year. What remained tacit was that Kushbhu was not given a ticket in the subsequent (2019) parliamentary polls. Also, press reports claim BJP has assured the Chennai resident a seat in the 2021 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
Tryst with cinema
Khushbu, born Nakhat Khan in Mumbai, debuted in a Hindi movie as a 10-year-old. Even so, her career in cinema flourished best in the Tamil industry and a chunk of the 200-plus films she has done is from the south. Having acted in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam movies as well, she is also a producer and television presenter.
In 2000, Khusbhu married filmmaker-actor Sundar C, two years elder to her and a native of Salem, 400 km southwest of the state capital. Four years later, the couple founded a film production and distribution company named Avni Cinemax. Soon (in 2004 itself), Khusbhu debuted as the producer of the movie Giri, directed by Sundar. The multi-starrer did well at the box office, prompting Avni to go for more projects.
The next year, fans built a temple for her in Trichy city. In 2010, Khusbhu branched out into politics, while continuing her association with cinema.
Plunge into politics
DMK was the party the actress first joined. That was in May 2010, at Chennai and in the presence of the Dravidian party’s patriarch M Karunanidhi. Khushbu, who had acted as the wife of E V Ramaswamy Naicker in a 2007 biopic on the late revolutionary social reformer, said she espoused rationalism too. DMK’s ideologies based on “women empowerment” wooed her into the fold, the actress claimed, adding she was “progressive”.
Four years later, Khushbu left DMK, saddened by the party not reciprocating to her “dedication and hard work”. Five months later, in November 2014, she joined Congress after meeting party chief Sonia at her Delhi residence.
In May 2017, as the party’s spokesperson, she criticised the Centre’s ban on the sale of unproductive animals for slaughter at the livestock markets and wondered if the BJP cadre would cease to use leather footwear.
In recent months, Khushbu had been showing signs of a change of political attitude, yet kept many guessing.
In early August, she welcomed the Modi regime’s New Education Policy. That stood contrary to the Congress stand on NEP 2020. For this, she’d “apologize” to Rahul Gandhi “but I rather speak the fact than be a head-nodding robot or a puppet”.
More recently, though, she flayed BJP for leaving India’s “unemployment at its worst”. “…but I am glad some of those desperate souls are employed by them to troll for Rs 2/- per abuse,” she tweeted on October 4.
Khushbu, who has by now shifted her political loyalties multiple times, is no alien to controversies.
In 2005, she provoked purists by saying women into pre-marital sex should protect themself from pregnancy. Soon, 22 legal cases were filed, all of which the Supreme Court dismissed in 2010.
In early 2006, Khushbu moved the court against Maxim magazine for featuring a full-page composite photograph with her head pasted onto the body of a model wearing a two-piece bikini.
In 2007, right-wing Hindu Makkal Katchi filed several cases against Khushbu for her “disrespecting” Hindu gods by sitting cross-legged in front of idols of goddesses at a puja in Chennai that November. Five years later, Khusbu’s wearing a saree bearing images of Hindu gods Ram, Krishna and Hanuman provoked the Katchi.
In early 2017, Khushbu extended loud support to Jallikattu despite the Supreme Court banning the bull-taming sport.
In August that year, Khushbu accused Mitu Bhowmick Lange, as director of Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, of discriminating against non-Hindi cinema and its stars.
In April 2019, she slapped a man for misbehaving with her at a Congress rally in Bengaluru.
In June 2020, a voice message by Khushbu that went viral said the media was “waiting to rip” celebs apart, as they had no news other than Covid-19.