Pooja Gandhi, the Punjabi girl who made it big in Kannada cinema, tells SHILPA SEBASTIAN R. she loves the culture of Karnataka
Chasing stars is not easy. Moreover, one goes armed to put up with attitude and snobbery. It was a welcome surprise when, Pooja Gandhi actually returns our call. “I am busy for the next three days and will call you once I am back and we can talk,” she assures you.
We do meet, and quite on time. She is at an event cheering children from the Freedom Foundation. Children are singing and dancing, and it is packed. Amidst the crowd you see a hand going up and beckoning you.
Instantly, you recognise the face. The petite star is pretty in a beige and brown salwar kameez, Pooja plays the perfect host. “Please give me five minutes and I will be with you,” she says, going back to finish off her formalities at the function.
We observe her every action and notice that she is friendly, chirpy and full of energy. She laughs, jokes and cuts the cake, claps and sings with the children, totally unselfconscious of having so many eyes staring at her.
Finally, the star of the Kannada film industry, the actor who shot to fame with “Mungaaru Maley” is free to give her interview. She talks fast and excitedly and you feel you are watching one happy child who is just so content with life. “You know I like to keep my personal and professional life separate,” she says and requests us not to give any details of the event. Pooja is a Punjabi girl, born in Meerut, brought up in Delhi, and now acts in Kannada film. Must have been an adventurous journey.
Luck by chance
“Films happened by chance,” she starts. “I'm not even a graduate. I did my first year B.Com and then stopped mid way. I was never a good student but excelled in cultural activities. My uncle had once suggested that I get into films. My father opposed it but my mother was supportive. I got into it as a hobby,” recalls the actor, who first auditioned for Zee telefilms and also got her portfolio done.
Her first tryst with acting was “Awaz” a remake of “Lost” in Hindi and a serial “Zameen se Aasmaan” with Aruna Irani. “My struggle started here. I started to dream big. I wanted to be seen on the big screen but had put a lot of conditions on myself and was willing to do only sensible films. After four months I got to audition for a Bengali film and months after this I had no work.”
Pooja immediately adds: “I am a happy person. There was no depression or any such thing. Months after this, the Tamil film ‘Koki' happened. It was a semi hit and for 10 months I was sitting quiet. That was a really difficult period. I saw a lot of rejection. Someone even told me that girls like me don't make it in films. And that did it. It was now a challenge. I believe in the power of thought.”
“Yograj Bhatt noticed me in my Tamil film and I was cast in ‘Mungaaru Maley', and I knew that if I come this far, I can go further.”
Then she goes on to explain the experience she had during the making of this film. “Yograj sir is such a special person. He is a man of few words. And I never expected the film to be such a big hit. It's a life-changing experience. The jog falls, the lush greenery, the south Indian food – everything.”
As if reading your mind again she says: “Yes, initially I had a slight problem with the food. You know the sambar is sweet! So I would eat only rasam and rice. But now, I am so into the food here that I eat raagi mudde at home! Because of me, my whole family has shifted base from Mumbai to Bangalore. I am comfortable with the culture here. I have got so much from this place and people. It's my home now. I think it's very easy to be friends with people here,” she says excitedly.