Pooja Hegde has moved into the top echelons of the film industry and become the toast of star heroes and big banners. She doesn’t just possess exotic good looks, but has the histrionic abilities to go with them. That’s exactly what she proved as Vibha, a stand-up comedian, in the recently released Most Eligible Bachelor. She’s getting rave reviews for her performance.
A challenging role
“It was a very challenging role that has several layers. There’s a back-story for her too, which makes it even emotional. I had to do a lot of research for my part; I had to meet stand-up comedians and professionals and learnt things like when to come up with punch lines,” says Pooja.
Her clinical approach to the part worked big time, she says and is thrilled about the praise that’s coming in. “For a change, people are talking about my performance, and that’s what I actually wanted — move on from glamorous roles and get people to talk about performance. That’s the reason I took up the film,” she says.
A commercial success
Her last six films — Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava, Maharshi, Gaddalakonda Ganesh, Housefull 4, Ala Vaikuntapurramuloo, and Most Eligible Bachelor — have set the cash registers ringing at the box office, a rare achievement for an actress. We ask whether this double hat trick is a coincidence. She feels the first two films could have been happenstance, but after that, it was her hard work that did the trick.
“I strongly believe that I have been selecting the right scripts. There are also scripts that I said No to. I went with my gut feeling and never thought about hat tricks. I went with an open mind and never lived my life in fear,” she shares.
Pooja started her career with Mugamodi in 2012. Then there was a period when she didn’t sign any films, and one more hiatus came after she bagged Mukunda in 2014.
Don’t let success go to the head
“Over the last 3-4 years I have done my maximum work, so I am still taking baby steps in the industry and have a lot to prove,” the actress says, and adds that she’s grateful for the opportunities that have come her way. She has learnt that success is to be celebrated but should not go to the head, the actress shares, adding that she has learnt to be level-headed and that’s helping her deal with the highs and lows. “I also realised that if you work hard, you’ll get returns. Filmmakers want to work with me again because of my work ethics,” Pooja reveals.
Conscious decision to be pan-India actor
Working in multiple languages, juggling the sets, working with different people has been challenging for her. “I have been telling people that within one language I am playing different roles, so just imagine how crazy it’ll be working in multiple industries. But I want to be an Indian actor who works in different languages and connects to people,” she says, adding that it was a conscious decision to take on films in various languages.
While the Telugu industry gave her respect and made her who she is now, Tamil gave her a certain standing in life, she points out, adding, “I have grown up watching Hindi films, so I have emotionally invested in every industry.”
Pooja was born to Kannadiga parents in Mumbai. Surprisingly, in Mumbai people call her a ‘Telugu girl’, and she takes a pride in that. “After Baahubali, the way people look at Telugu cinema has changed, the lines between Hindi and regional cinema have blurred” she says.
A good mix
It’s great good fortune for any actress to be working with all the top south stars. But Pooja is also quick to remind us that she has also done films with newcomers. “Some films you do because of actors, some due to directors and scripts. So it feels great to have a mix of everything,” she stresses.
The Saakshyam star keeps her 15 million-odd fans constantly updated on her social media handle. But how much of the real Pooja do we see on social media, we ask.
“Whatever you see is me on social media; if I post something, it means I genuinely feel it,” she says, but shares that she doesn’t post anything on days she feels low. “That’s because social media has a lot of negativity that can bring you down. So my job is to influence and bring positivity as much as I can,” she explains.
One can easily get carried away by success and stardom, but Pooja says her parents and friends keep her rooted. “I hail from a traditional south Indian middle-class family. The values with which I have been raised play an important role in shaping my career. Success and money just enhance who you are, but doesn’t change you as a person,” she explains, revealing that her best friends are her school friends who she likes to hang out with.
“If I want to disconnect from the filmy world, I chill out with them,” she reveals. “But I enjoy sleeping on my off days,” she says, adding that sleep rejuvenates her.