Duvvada Jagannadham star Pooja Hegde opens up about her glamorous transformation in the film
In 2014, when Pooja Hegde made her foray in Telugu cinema, she played the coy girl-next-door in both her outings — Oka Laila Kosam and Mukunda. And just when it looked like she was here to stay, the actress landed a lead role in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Mohenjodaro opposite Hrithik Roshan. The film took two years of her time and by her own admission, she had to let go of several films in Telugu, including one to be directed by Harish Shankar. Admittedly, the director was keen to work with Pooja Hegde for Subramanyam For Sale; however, she had to turn down the offer because she was busy shooting for Mohenjodaro.
Shortly after her Hindi film released, Harish Shankar approached her once again and this time, she snapped up the opportunity. “When I decided to act in Telugu films again, Harish Shankar approached me for Duvvada Jagannadham. In my previous Telugu films, I had a traditional look and I was keen on breaking that mould. So, when I told him that I wanted to play a modern character and also get to dance a lot in the songs, Harish told me that I could do all that and more in Duvvada Jagannadham. And of course, I was keen to work with Allu Arjun for quite a long time,” Pooja confesses, while explaining how she landed the role.
Ever since DJ released, Pooja Hegde has been in the limelight. After all, her transformation from being a girl-next-door to an ultra-modern, chic avatar is hard to forget. Social media is filled with memes of her drop dead gorgeous looks, including a particular bikini sequence which couldn’t escape censorship, from the film. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that she looks like a completely different person now, compared to her last outing in Tollywood. Tell her all this and she bursts into laughter saying, “Of course! Are you the same person that you used to be two years ago? No, right? I read this incident that happened to Oprah Winfrey once. When someone told her that she has become a whole new person, she clarified saying ‘I’m more secure in being myself now’. I can totally relate to that. The more I interact with people, the more I work, along with plenty of travelling and reading, the more I’ve changed as a person. I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin.”
Having said that, she acknowledges that this change in her persona — this Pooja Hegde Version 2.0 — has been gradual. “I can’t pinpoint to one incident and say that it changed my whole life. But then, acting in Duvvada Jagannadham has helped me to evolve a lot as a person. I played a character who’s very outgoing and modern, you know. I’m not that sort of person in real life. I’m kind of shy and reserved, but I’m trying to change that about myself. It took a lot of effort to not over analyse anything and just play my part of someone who is kind of seductive and a temptress. I’m more modern in my thoughts than what I might come across. I can’t break down the process of how this transformation happened. A director can guide you, but in the end, you have to internalise everything that this character stands for and break free from your inhibitions. You just decide to do all that and do it,” Pooja says, putting things in perspective.
Her glamorous avatar in DJ hasn’t gone unnoticed. The actress recently signed another Telugu film, starring Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas in Sriwass’ direction. And then, there are rumours that she’s in talks for a film with Mahesh Babu, although she’s quite reluctant to clarify such speculations. For now, she’s enjoying every moment of her return to Telugu cinema and she confesses that she’s been wanting to do this for a while now.
“I’ve worked with some wonderful people in Telugu before I made my debut in Bollywood. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always felt a connection with Telugu cinema. The experience of working with Allu Arjun and Harish Shankar was fabulous. Harish is the funniest director I’ve worked with and there’s never a dull moment when he’s around,” she says. And Allu Arjun? “He’s a very generous actor and never hesitated to offer me some tips. For instance, he told me to continue dancing even after the shot is over, because those few extra minutes come in handy while editing the song. It makes a lot of sense, but then, no one tells you these little things. Such things make you a better actor.”
It’s evident that she has bonded with the team a lot during the process and in her own words, she says that it’s important for her to strike that equation with the team. “You end up spending six months of your time with your film unit, so you better become good friends with them,” she laughs, adding, “It happened in stages for me. I was perhaps on level 2 when I started off and then got to level 5 in the second schedule. The idea is to start at level 10, in terms of how comfortable I’m with the team, the next time I work with them. That’s the goal [laughs].”
Of late, when she isn’t shooting, the actress has been dedicating a lot of her time learning guitar from her brother. She has sung on couple of occasions, but she’s yet to master the art. For now, she’s trying the perfect the only song, 'Papa Kehte Hain', which her brother taught her. “He insisted that I learn one song at a time (laughs). I had so many bruises on my fingertips in the process and I don’t even know how he learnt all that by himself. I certainly have newfound respect for musicians now. They are magicians,” she says.
She was perhaps at the right place at the right time, or maybe it’s all destiny. But she has a different take on whatever is happening in her life and career right now. “I believe in destiny and I think I’m here by design. I was a tomboy — short hair, wore braces and was skinny as a teenager. I can’t remember if I wore heels. No one thought I was going to be actress. I didn’t aspire to be an actress. I always dreamt of the lifestyle that I wanted to have. I never knew what would I do, but knew what I wanted from that phase of life. I think I wanted that so much that thanks to my profession now, I’m living the life that I had already dreamt of. I’m blessed to be here,” she says.