Pooja Hegde on trying her hand at comedy in Housefull 4, and upcoming films with Allu Arjun, Prabhas, Akhil Akkineni
Pooja Hegde talks about being a rare Telugu heroine who has worked with Mahesh Babu, Jr NTR, and Prabhas in a short span of time.
There is hardly a big budget Telugu film these days where Pooja Hegde’s name is not considered to play the lead actress, going by the buzz in the film industry.
In the past couple of years, the actress’ career has zoomed to a whole new level when she signed three big films in quick succession, which had Mahesh Babu, Prabhas, and Jr NTR play the lead roles respectively.
Today, she is the busiest actress in the industry and already, there are three more films in the pipeline, including Allu Arjun-Trivikram Srinivas’ Ala Vaikuntapuramlo, Akhil Akkineni-Bommarillu Bhaskar’s project, and Prabhas-Radhakrishna’s Jaan. Her resume could make any newcomer envious, while at the same time, make others wonder how she has managed to add a string of high profile projects to her credit.
“There’s no secret behind this,” Pooja chuckles, adding, “Everything boils down to professionalism and the cordial relations that I’ve with my directors and producers. I would also like to believe that directors like my screen presence, and are willing to offer me something interesting each time because they see potential in me.”
Her most recent film, Gaddalakonda Ganesh, in which she made a special appearance, opened to big numbers at the box office. Pooja is ecstatic with the response for the film. Calling the film a welcome change, Pooja explains, “I haven’t played a village belle in my previous films, and this film gave me a chance to do something new. The look too was so new to me. It was fun to dress up in simple half-saris, and oil and braid my hair, and I didn’t have much make-up on either. After Mukunda, people kept asking me if I would do a glamorous role, and then after Duvvada Jagannadham, it was more about will I ever stop doing glamorous roles (laughs). Gaddalakonda Ganesh was a welcome change for me.”
Although she played a brief role, Pooja says she loved the way Harish Shankar had envisioned her character, Sridevi, to justify her presence in a film led by Varun Tej and Atharva Murali. “Sridevi starts out as a naive woman, and her characterisation becomes so strong after she falls in love with the protagonist. Having worked with Harish and Varun Tej in the past, the vibe on the set was great. And then, having to recreate an iconic song, 'Elluvachi Godaramma', which originally had Sridevi and Shoban Babu, was the most memorable part for me,” Pooja recalls, adding, “The retro part in the film, where the entire family sits down to watch Mahabharat and Chitralahari was something I could relate to. My father used to make me and my brother do that when we were kids. We had to, in fact, get ready to watch the show on TV because it was such a spiritual thing for my dad. It was an integral part of his childhood, and he wanted us to follow his footsteps, I guess.”
The song, 'Elluvachi Godaramma', became a huge hit. When Pooja saw the film in a cinema hall in Hyderabad, she admits to becoming quite emotional after seeing people dance when the song was played on screen. “To recreate a song that had Sridevi, a legend herself, in the original version, can get quite scary. There’s absolutely no room for error, and it’s a big task to live up to the hype. I’m thrilled that people liked the song and my role in the film,” she says.
Given the high profile films that she has been a part of, so far, one wonders if she is still under pressure to prove herself with each film. However, the actress offers a different perspective altogether. “It’s been five years since I started out in Telugu cinema, but I still feel like a newcomer. During the first few films in my career, I was still figuring out the vibe of a film set because prior to my debut, it was not a normal thing for me because none of my family members are part of this industry. And then, Mohenjo Daro took a couple of years to finish. There have been long gaps in my career, and it’s only from 2017 that I’ve been working consistently. I’m learning something new everyday. The way I understand the characters and channelise the emotions which the director wants from me is improving with each film. Films like Aravinda Sametha, Maharshi, and Gaddalakinda Ganesh were something that I had a lot of fun doing. I’m like a child who’s absorbing everything on a film set. I believe I still have a long way to go,” Pooja says.
From being just another beauty pageant winner testing the waters in Telugu film industry in 2014 to becoming the most sought after actress, Pooja has come a long way. By her own admission, she is enjoying every moment of the process. “I’m a workaholic, and I’m grateful that I get to face the camera almost everyday. It gives me immense happiness. The characters that I’m playing are quite different from one another, and I’m getting good scripts too. The thing is I need to believe in the characters I’m doing. I’ve turned down big films because the roles offered to me weren’t exciting enough. As an actor, the roles you play have to be exciting to be able to shoot everyday, and if you don’t enjoy the process, then it’s not worth the effort. I haven’t done an out-and-out comedy film like Housefull 4 in the past, and that film gave me a chance to explore the comedy genre. Making people laugh is really hard, and Housefull 4 was too good an opportunity to let go. Since I’m still in the beginning stages of my career, I want to dabble with all genres and understand where I stand,” the actress says.
The Telugu film industry has been crucial to Pooja’s rising career. She admits that it has become her home now. “Whenever I talk to my friends in Mumbai, I tell them, ‘We are making very good films in Telugu’. It’s then I realised how much my life has changed over the years. I have found a sense of belonging here, and the love that people have for cinema is endearing. I might have sleepless nights because of my work but then it’s all worth it when I see people liking my work. But then, my best is yet to come. I’m still learning,” Pooja says.
Is she scared that her fate could change on any given Friday? “Not at all. I didn’t even think about what would happen to my career if one film doesn’t do well. My family raised me in a very different way. I was taught to respect the work I’m doing and be committed to it. That’s the kind of work ethic that I bring to my acting career too. The reason why I’m able to do all this is simple: I just don’t give up,” Pooja signs off.
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