Actor Pooja talks about her comeback in Tamil with Vidiyum Munn and why she prefers roles of substance
Four years after her searing performance as Amsavalli in Bala’s Naan Kadavul, Bangalore girl Pooja Umashankar is back with Balaji K. Kumar’s thriller Vidiyum Munn. The film, which released last week, has been getting rave reviews for its treatment and performance.
Pooja plays Rekha, a sex worker, who sets out to save a child from entering the same industry. The actor admits there’s been a huge gap between both films, but says that she had to be choosy after Naan Kadavul. “It was the pinnacle for me; I could not have signed up for any film that came my way,” she says. What drew her to Vidiyum Munn was the sheer strength of the story. “I just wanted to make Bala sir proud, Balaji proud…,” she says.
In fact, when she heard the story, Pooja decided she had to be a part of it, even if it meant acting in a miniscule role or just serving tea on the sets. “This film will strike a chord with everyone. It brings to the forefront an issue that is not oft discussed in cinema,” she adds.
Pooja almost missed being a part of this film, because someone had wrongly told Balaji that she was married and off films. “I’m so glad he took the trouble to locate me!”Youth power
Pooja says it was fun to work with a ‘young’ team. “Most of the technicians are newcomers. It’s their first film. They have given it their all,” she says. As for Balaji, he comes with the experience of working in Hollywood. “His sensibilities are different,” she says. “For the very first time, I had a bound script in hand. It had the dialogues, movement, notes for sounds, the colour of the sari…In fact, there are even notes about the number of times a character sighs, and the duration of the sighs,” she laughs.
All these, she says, honed her as an actor. “If you had a 15-line dialogue, the camera would pan only on you. You had to come prepared. It’s nice to rise to a challenge.”
The film, she says, has made her reconsider her career choices. “I want to do films that offer scope for performance.” That’s quite a departure from the Pooja who did all kinds of films in her initial years. “I took myself seriously as an actor only after Thagapansamy. Pattiyal, Oram Po and Naan Kadavul followed. I realised I loved doing films that drew me away from my comfort zone.”
Despite the fact that she is recognised as an actor, Pooja has never really been counted among the stars. Does that rankle? “Not really. But, I guess I will fit in better now. There are new stories, directors who love to innovate…”
In the four years she was away from Tamil films, Pooja was busy doing Sinhala movies; she’s a star in Sri Lanka, where she was born. In 2012, she starred in the superhit Kusa Pabha, a historical drama based on the Jataka tales. “Art knows no boundaries, right?” says Pooja, who took to Sri Lankan films following her grandfather’s advice. “It helps that I know the language.” Today, it is the same grandfather who draws her back to Sri Lanka. “He is 97. I want to spend as much time as I can with him.”
Pooja spends time in Chennai, Colombo and Bangalore, equally comfortable in all places. “I still travel by bus in Bangalore. I know my bus routes, timings,” she says. “It’s nice to be real.”