Khushalii Kumar continues to explore different areas of creativity, from being a designer to appearing in numerous music videos produced by his legacy house brand T-series to now making his film debut. Dhokha: Round D Corner is seeing their big Bollywood dreams come true. With talented co-stars like Aparshakti Khurana and R Madhavan on board, she is really excited about the movie and can’t wait for it to come out. In an exclusive interview with Filmfare, she shares her ambitions and dreams as well as the bond she shares with her siblings Bhushan Kumar and Tulsi Kumar.
Dhokha: Round D Corner is an intriguing name; why is it written “D” instead of “the”?
We’ll have to wait for the movie to come out. to get the answer.
Kookie Gulati has done films like The Big Bull – how was the experience of being directed by him?
He’s so well-sorted and perfectly clear on exactly what he wants, and he’s also written a beautiful script. My brother made it clear to me that they had a script that they were looking for a new face for. So you meet the director because it’s an all-performance movie and he needs some convincing on whether or not you fit the character. And that’s how he saw my work. I had also made a short film earlier. He saw that and then auditioned me. And the best is when I saw the teaser, learned that he was using my voice for narration because he felt it had a mysterious quality to it.
What prompted you to make your debut with such an unusual story?
For me, the story and the characters have to be exciting. And as an actor, I felt there was so much I could do with this character, which piqued my curiosity. And I realized that it was not easy for me to understand Saanchi and how she behaved. It was extremely difficult, but I think I prefer to do difficult things.
It’s not a typical romantic comedy, but we say it’s a dark drama?
It’s not dark at all. It’s a suspenseful thriller. It’s more exciting for me to experience something that isn’t me. I mean, that’s what I like to do. I’m more interested in others. As you know about this character, there is so much to learn about her. And do a romantic comedy or something like that for my debut, I mean, I would love to do that too. I won’t say it’s something
I don’t want to do. But that’s what stung my interest the most.
Tell us a bit about your character in the film, the challenges you faced, and what were the easiest parts for you.
All my challenges were initial, that is, before I reached the plateau. I sat down with the director several times, always trying to figure out Saanchi, my character. And then, of course, you act alongside talents like R. Madhavan, Aparshakti and Darshan, who have so much experience. For me, staying there and saying my lines was a big deal. Pairing them up and standing in the same frame was a huge challenge. But the moment I became Saanchi, everything became a part of me. I remember the first day I was touring with Maddy. And he’s fantastic because he knows how to relax his co-actors. And the first day I met him on set, it was like I was Saanchi and he was my husband, Yatharth, and then everything was fine.
We found this photo of you and Madhavan from the movie Dahi Cheeni, which was supposed to be your debut…?
Jeena Mushkil was a short film in which I had acted. It was only screened at film festivals, and I got the critics’ best actress award for that. as well. So Maddy saw my work, and he liked it. And there was this scenario, Dahi Cheeni, but somehow this project did not come to fruition the way he was supposed to. In the middle of it all came the story of Kookie sir, which Maddy sir really, really loved. So all the change happened.
You have already made music videos; How is it different for you to act in a film?
It’s quite different. Because it’s more of a performance-driven, character-driven process. Saanchi is dressed in a sari throughout the film. So I started my readings and my preparations in sari. Music videos are an entertaining ride. You are on a high because you are always having fun and dancing. Movies take you on an emotional roller coaster. Intense scenes can be emotionally draining
You are a multi-talented girl. You are also a fashion designer, what does this experience look like?
I’ve always wanted to be an actor since I was a kid. So I also worked on a religious film with my father. Dad was the only one who supported me, but after his tragic death we moved to Delhi. My mom was terrified of me or any of us appearing on camera. Because she was afraid of fame and popularity, she persuaded me to pursue a career in design at the time. This is how my career as a fashion designer began. And I used to skip NIFT and go to acting class at the same time. What my mother found out later. I would always call fashion my hobby. And now I feel like it was more of a best friend, with each of my clothes having a story to tell. I started showing them in Paris and New York. And a creative assistant pointed out that each of your outfits tells a story. It is a work of art with a lot of thought. So you know, when you get recognized in a place like that, and even when Shakira wore my dress, it was something that kept me alive and my dream alive. So all of that encouraged me; it gave me a way to stay motivated and move forward; that, yes, I will do what I want one day. And I would say fashion has been my best friend and has kept me alive.
You’ve designed for international superstars like Justin Bieber and Shakira, how did you get access to them?
I started doing it by doing my first show in Paris, then in New York. And there, you get to know all these buyers, and you sell in almost a hundred stores around the world through these shows. Stylists from Hollywood stars visit these fashion shows. Shakira and Justin Bieber’s personal stylists, as well as their key publicists visited the show. So they all come over there, visit you, and then they click the pictures and send them to their famous friends. Shakira loved my dress that I had sent to Paris. I just couldn’t believe it. I remember that I didn’t sleep all night. I still get goosebumps thinking about it because I was so excited and thrilled.
Do you also participate in the management of your family business?
My mother, you see, is the one who takes care of everything from Delhi. Many people are unaware of this. My mother is responsible for our main office in Delhi. My mom takes care of all the finance, backend and management of the big T-Series family. I’ve always been drawn to things that involve creativity. If you’re wondering if I was involved in the day-to-day operations of the T-Series, the answer is no. Yes, I am still available as emotional support for my brother and mother, but I am not involved in their business decisions.
Share some memories of your father.
Every moment spent with my father is priceless. I remember going to filmings of his bhajans and always sitting with the crowd in front. Dad came to see me for the first time as Cinderella in a school play, and I still treasure him. Another great memory was regularly going to Vaishnodevi and Haridwar with him. He accomplished so much in such a short time. Whether it was acting, doing charity or building such a massive empire when it came to tapes and CDs and their manufacturing. There was a big T-Series family with over 5000 employees at the time. He took care of everyone and everything all the time. There were people in Mumbai who put the birds in cages and sold them on the street. So if he came across them, he would buy all the birds and open the cages, releasing them. And then, if he found the sellers the next day as well, he would buy back from them and release the birds. “I have a factory in Noida; come and work there,” he told them. “These birds are made to fly and enjoy their freedom. They should not be locked up. This is just one example, but there were many more. As a result, every moment I spent with my dad was extremely special and memorable.
What is your relationship with your sister, Tulsi Kumar? Do you both have similar musical tastes?
We have similar tastes in fashion, but in music, tastes of hamara itna nahi milta hai, we are unique. Although I like to listen to it. All of my playlists include Tulsi songs. I share a great bond with her and with my mother. We’re both close to each other and our mother.
What was it like growing up in the shadow of tragedy?
After dad died, everything changed overnight. Tulsi, Mom and I have moved to Delhi. Despite the fact that he had not even completed his university studies, my elder brother Bhushan had to stay in Mumbai and take care of his business. He was in his freshman year of college, and there was so much work and pressure that the initial period of sibling bonding, fun, and masti faded away. In the past, I remember we always played games together. Then dad died and he was put under pressure. He only got home around 12:30-1:30 a.m. and then he left at such an early hour. As a result, distance began to set in. We made sure to take a family vacation, and we continue to do so even now. And now we all have our affairs going on and we don’t have much time to spend together. Tulsi has his recordings, I have my acting, Bhai still has a list of releases lined up. But the link will always remain, no matter what.
He is well known for his collection of exotic cars. Do you have a fetish for nothing?
For clothes, I would say. I have an interest in fashion and style. It doesn’t have to be premium brands; in fact, I like to go to flea markets abroad and buy things there. So, to me, it’s anything that looks interesting and catches my eye.
Do you feel pressure or expectations because you are an inherited child?
I don’t because, as you can see, I like to follow my dad’s example in everything. Of course, you have an important legacy to bear, but I think you can never do anything under pressure. Dad was never pressured, so it’s just like, stay happy, stay positive, love people. Whatever you are, whatever you win, always give it to the less fortunate. So do that and keep spreading love, happiness and smiles. This is, I believe, my true heritage, and I will always adhere to it.