Poorna Jagannathan will be playing a Pakistani woman in a significant role in HBO’s ‘Criminal Justice’
In the weeks and months that followed the release of ‘Delhi Belly’, Poorna Jagannathan was the topic of discussion on blogs and social networks. One would have thought the Indian film industry would have found a spirited actress unafraid of breaking stereotypes. Projects with good writing and strong characters haven’t come her way from both Indian and regional films, says Poorna.
In the meantime, has landed herself in a lead role in HBO’s popular drama series ‘Criminal Justice’. HBO has given a pilot order to the drama project. Steven Zaillian, the Academy Award winning writer (of ‘Schindler’s List’) will direct the series, which will be co-penned by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price.
In the series, Poorna will be acting alongside James Gandolphini and Riz Ahmed (who is a part of Mira Nair’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’). Excerpts from an interview with Poorna:
You are going to be a part of Criminal Justice. It’s an incredible cast and crew — Steven Zaillian, Richard Price, Riz Ahmed and others.
It really is the most blue blood project I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so happy but also genuinely scared for the first time in my acting career. This is really the big league.
You essay the part of a Pakistani woman, Safar Khan, whose son is accused of murder. Are there reference points in terms of other movies/series/characters for you to play the role?
It happens every time — when the writing is as strong as it is on this show, you don’t need that much of a reference point. The writing does all the heavy lifting and transforms you into the character.
How significantly will we see you in the episodes?
I can’t really talk about details like that, but I’m part of the lead cast so you’ll be seeing plenty of me.
In ‘Thanks for Sharing’ (starring mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim Robbins), you play a supporting role. How often does an Indian actor get significant roles in Hollywood films? Is the paradigm shift a slow process?
It’s slow but I know I’ll happen during my lifetime. I’ve been acting for nearly 10 years now and I have witnessed the shift first hand.
Post ‘Delhi Belly’, we thought we’d get to see you more often in Hindi films. Did you get offers that matched up to your expectations?
No. I want to be a part of projects that I’m truly proud of, where the writing is amazing and the directing stellar. Those projects just haven’t come my way yet.
From New York theatre to a Hindi film must have been a sea change. Do you watch Indian (both Hindi and regional) films and who are the directors you would like to work with? Any wish list…?
I get to see a large variety of Indian cinema. I’ve been a juror for the New York Film Festival for quiet a few years now and get to see mainstream, independent and regional films. There are a lot on my wish list: Vishal Bharadwaj, Kiran Rao, Anurag Kashyap, Anusha Rizvi and Mira Nair.
Are you open to working in regional Indian cinema?
Yes I am but I haven’t heard a peep from them.