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Fri, Apr 20, 2012
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Kids are Kushboo's priority
by Ankita Pandey Vallikappen

SINGAPORE - Tamil actress Kushboo Sundar belongs to that era of Indian cinema when costumes were garish, plots a never-ending hyperbole and the vamp in skimpy outfits a norm. It was the era that gave birth to Silk Smitha.

While Kushboo didn't match Silk's notoriety, her seductive acts and provocative clothes in some of her early films created enough controversy to make her a household name in south Indian cinema.

She acted in over 100 films in five different languages. Her unapologetic and gutsy performances ensured her longevity.

Today's Kushboo is a contradiction of that southern siren. She is married with two daughters.

Runs a production house with her director husband Sundar C. and hasn't acted in films for quite some time.

She says her preferred medium is television as it gives her the flexibility of being a middle-class housewife and mother who "scrubs her own toilet".

The 41-year-old actress came to Singapore recently to promote her serial Paartha Gnyabagam Illaiyo which runs on Kalaingar Asia on Singtel Mio TV.

She told tabla!: "Films will take too much of my time, which I don't have. I can't afford to work more than five days a week. My kids are a priority at the moment."

Her sensuality of the 1980s and 1990s may have been toned down but Kushboo still remains controversial.

She openly supports women's right to have pre-marital sex, remarks which led to 22 court cases being filed against her in 2005.

Plays a negative character in Paartha Gnyabagam Illaiyo, who attempts to kill her husband in the very first episode.

And has jumped headlong into Tamil Nadu politics, joining the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

"I am what I am. I speak my mind. I do what I think is right," she says.

But she denies that she was ever an uninhibited entertainer: "Yes, I wore deep-cut blouses, micro mini skirts, open-back dresses that were as low as the hips. But I knew my limits. And I was shy. I was praised for carrying the outfits well. Of course, mistakes were made... when you trusted the director but the outcome was ridiculous."

The cinema of those decades may now be ridiculed for its absurdity, sleaze and portrayal of women in just two shades - the coy, virginal heroine and the vampish other - but Kushboo says actresses today have it much harder than she and her ilk ever did:

"There are feminist films now. But only a few. Today's actresses may still be doing three songs in a film and six scenes, but they have to look their best, get their make-up and clothes right, and leave a mark to bag their next project. There's so much media glare and scrutiny."

Kushboo looks almost relieved when she says that. She seems to enjoy the comfort of television, a less cruel medium.

Her real struggles are political these days, even though she claims she has no power ambitions.

She joined the DMK in 2010, within a month of the Supreme Court of India dismissing all cases against her for the pre-marital sex remarks.

The court's decision had catapulted her to international limelight.

"My political career is unplanned. I got into politics to serve with utmost integrity and honesty.

Being an actress makes it easier because you are heard. Politics isn't something in which you can chart out a career progression. You do your bit, that's important," she says.

Clad in a white (a preferred colour of India's political leaders) kurta and churidar, Kushboo looks the politician. Look harder and you will see tattoos on her forearm and the back of her hand.

"Names of my daughters and my husband. And I have a peacock tattooed on my back, which you can't see," she says.

Maybe we will, when she wears the backless dress again.

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