Pooja Hegde, who is much talked about nowadays, thanks to her big-ticket Bollywood debut with Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro, says she draws her inspiration from legendary boxer Mohammad Ali. She recalls his slave name Cassius Clay and his famous quote — ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ “I was watching some of his old interviews recently, it was so shocking,” she says. The actress adds that she is keen to read his biography and know more about the legend’s life. In a freewheeling chat, Pooja shares more about her journey in showbiz, choices she has made and more.
I am not from this industry and I have no godfather to push my career. I come from a very academically driven family. I waited for the right opportunity to come my way, as I believed that I could start with a good film. Maybe it was the power of positive thinking. I really believe in the famous line Shah Rukh Khan said in Om Shanti Om: If you really want something, you will get it. I had about a year’s time to build myself for the future I was planning. I had to be patient and it would get frustrating at times, but I did not want to take on work just for the sake of it. Luck is when opportunity meets hard work. So I worked hard. I did get a lot of offers but I was clear that I wanted to start with something big. Your first film is like an audition to the world.
I used to pull myself up when I would feel low. I would go online and watch inspiring videos, or inspiring speeches. Even in college I would listen to speeches that would motivate me. If you look around, there is inspiration everywhere. I mean Harry Potter was written in a train. I have inspiration in my own home. My dad was in the advertising industry for decades and now, he is a lawyer. He had studied law but back then he had responsibilities as his father passed away at an early age. Advertising paid more than law at that time. He always said that you either marry the girl you love or you love the girl who you marry. So advertising was the girl who he had married but not fallen in love with it. But law was always his first love. It was inspiring to see him switch careers to pursue his passion.
The road to Mohenjo Daro
Ashutosh Gowariker’s wife Sunita (Mohenjo Daro producer) spotted me in an ad and thought of finding out who I was. When I finally met her, she didn’t tell me which film it was about. She only said that they were planning a few films. When I met Ashu, he gave me five scenes to do and made me dance to the song, Hoton Pe Aisi Baat. Later I learnt that he makes all his new heroines dance to this song — be it Gracy Singh (Lagaan) or Gayatri Joshi (Swades). I think I gave the worst reaction when they offered me the film. I just said, ‘Oh thank you sir.’ Its only when I went home and told my mother about it, and she started screaming with joy about how big the offer was, that I realised; that’s when it sunk in.
Gowariker: The God of details
I am lucky to have worked with someone like Ashutosh Gowariker. He waits until he gets the best performance out of you. He explains the scenes so well, that it never happens that you don’t understand. He is also highly detailed-oriented. For instance, the song Sarsariya is set in a music store. If you take a closer look at the video, you’ll notice how old the musical instruments are. Each of them was created and recreated. You could even play them — they were not dummies. The market square that he got made for the film, you could spend a day there. There were parrots made of clay but they were not perfect and were unfinished keeping the era in mind. It’s like we were not on a set, we were in Mohenjo Daro.
Prepared for the best and the worst
I am anxious about how my performance will be received. But otherwise — genuinely as a person, — I always think in a positive way. So, I always feel like if you go into something thinking it’s not going to work, then it won’t work. I am in a positive frame of mind that the film will do well.