Producer Bhushan Kumar and singer Tulsi Kumar’s younger sister, Khushalii Kumar, started her career as a fashion designer. After the stint during which she also created designs for international sensations like Shakira, Justin Bieber, Melanie B and Leann Rimes, in 2015, she forayed into the entertainment industry with a music video titled Mainu Ishq Da Lagya Rog. And with the recently released thriller, Dhokha: Round D Corner, she added another feather to her hat as made her acting debut with it. The Kookie Gulati directorial traces a whirlwind day in the life of an urban couple and it sees her playing Sanchi Sinha around whom the film pivots.
In a candid and exclusive interaction with News18, Khushalii opens up on braving obstacles before landing her first film, dealing with the death of her father, late music mogul Gulshan Kumar, and Dahi Cheeni being put on hold.
Talking about how he also came to Mumbai with the dream of becoming an actor, she says, “Back then, papa didn’t have a lot of money. He came to Mumbai from Delhi with a bag full of dreams like many others. But he was disappointed. He realised that it’s difficult to set the ball rolling in this industry. He stayed in a gurudwara. He met a lot of people and asked them for work but nothing materialised and he went back to Delhi.”
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Khushalii reveals that her father’s failure as an actor gave rise to his dream of starting T-Series, which went on to bolster the careers of many talented artistes. “That’s when he decided to start a company to give actors, musicians and technicians a platform to showcase their talent. That’s how he began a music recording company and everyone knows how he flourished. Papa was the one who always supported my dreams,” she continues.
In 1997, however, he succumbed to bullets after being shot outside a temple in Mumbai. And that changed everything for the Kumars. Khushalii recalls, “After his death, the situation was such that mumma got very scared. She took me and my sister to Delhi. Even though he was barely out of college, bhaiya was taking care of the company. At that time, we had over 5000 people working for T-Series. It was one huge family and papa was a father figure to everyone.”
Khushalii goes on to confide that her journey of being an actor was far from being a cakewalk despite belonging to one of the most influential families in showbiz. “Mumma was a single woman with three kids. Naturally, she didn’t want to put anyone of us before the camera. In fact, bhaiya started coming to the forefront and began to seen publicly only in the last six to seven years; he wasn’t ‘out there’ before that. Mumma told us, ‘No matter what you do, do it behind the camera’. So, convincing her was a process,” she reminisces.
Not the one to give up on her passion too easily, she continued to coax her mother into letting her leave for Mumbai and trying her luck at the movies. “I remember showing her scenes from 3 Idiots (2009) where Maddy (R Madhavan) sir is seen convincing his father to allow him to fulfill his passion. I used to be a fashion designer and was being appreciated for my work. I used to put all my thoughts into my work. My garments had motifs of birds and wings to depict freedom,” says the actor, who has also been a part of music videos like Pehle Pyaar Ka Pehla Gham, Mere Papa and Ek Yaad Purani.
She adds, “My daily routine included going to work, coming back home and crying before mumma. I also showed her the articles that featured papa and told her over and over again that acting was his dream too. Finally, she gave in.”
Landing a debut film hasn’t been easy either. In her initial years in Mumbai, Khushalii had to undergo multiple auditions and often faced rejections. But she kept going until Dhokha happened. “Soon after I got the script of the film, the pandemic hit us. I was very nervous and under a lot of stress at that time because I didn’t know when the film would start. Like all of us, I too went through a lot of ups and downs in the past couple of years. It’s said that har toofaan ke baad ek subah hoti hai, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m thankful to my talented co-stars (Madhavan, Aparshakti Khurana and Darshan Kumar) for agreeing to work with a newcomer like me. They had a lot of trust and faith in me,” she says.
In 2019, however, it was announced that the 33-year-old would be making her acting debut with Madhavan in T-Series’ Dahi Cheeni. The slice-of-life film was supposed to feature her as a lawyer. But it was put on hold for reasons unknown.
Quiz Khushalii if the episode bothered her and she states, “I think everything happens for a good reason. Dhokha was what was planned by god for me. I’m happy and thrilled to have made my debut with this film. Maddy sir was supposed to be a part of Dahi Cheeni too. As for Dhokha, it’s a bonus because I got to work with Apar and Darshan along with Maddy sir. I never let anything that doesn’t happen to me bother me. I knew that something good would fall in place, which eventually happened.”