Interviewer: Inian | Camera: Hemananth.B | Text: Jyothsna
You could not find a happier person than Pooja these days. The lady is absolutely on cloud nine or may be even higher than that with the success of Naan Kadavul and the Hosannas that she has been receiving for her performance. Super Star Rajnikanth has congratulated and Pooja is pinching herself hard to ensure that it is not a dream. Meet Hamsavalli aka Pooja who is our guest for the week in a lively and animated conversation.


BW:
Hardships of Hamsavalli

Pooja: People have been asking me if I had suffered hardships doing the role of blind Hamsavalli especially wearing white lenses. But I can very honestly say that Bala sir did the hard part and I did the easy one. Of course, initially it was difficult wearing the lenses especially during test shoots. I felt as though some foreign body like a sand particle was lurking inside my eye. However I got used to it slowly. Apart from the lens issue, I never had any hardships. But, more than me, Arya, Krishnamurthy,

 

"Bala sir

did the

hard part"

Keerthana, cinematographer Arthur Wilson, art director Krishnamurthy – they had more of physical strain. It was more of mental work for Bala sir and a happy ride for me. I had made lots of friends, had good food and generally had loads of fun. Ever since the film was released, I have been getting calls from people appreciating my work and I am really happy that all the hard work has paid good dividends and the film has been liked by audience.

How did Naan Kadavul happen?

It was an accident and a nice one at that. One day Seeman sir had called and asked me to go for test shoot for Naan Kadavul. I assumed it was for a second heroine or some other part but he insisted that it is for the main one. I was doing a Sinhalese film then and was a bit hesitant. I was sure I would not be taken and hence took a chance so that I can at least meet Bala sir. In Bala sir’s office at Chennai, assistant director Shalini gave my costume of a skirt and blouse and did the base make up, ruffled my hair a little and gave me the lens. When I put on the lens, I felt too uncomfortable and was not able to open my eyes as the lens hurt me a lot. That’s when Bala sir came in which I realized by his voice and the change in the acoustics around me. After the initial warm up conversation I was asked to sing. I was nervous. Thankfully, a Sinhala film tune came to my mind and I started singing in a loud voice. For one, I did not know who was in front of me or their reaction as I was wearing the lens. This helped me shed all my inhibitions. After a few minutes, Shalini said, “Ok you are in it. Come to Periyakulam tomorrow”. I was shocked because I was already committed to a Sinhala film and I cannot walk out from it. But Shalini was very angry with me and wondered what made me come for a test shoot if I was not serious about it. Then Bala sir advised me to approach the Sinhala film producer and ask for his permission. The producer at Srilanka was very understanding and let me go. I am very thankful to him for if he was not gracious enough to let go of me, I would not have had this golden opportunity.

"The first two days

were very casual"


How were your warm up sessions?

Perhaps, Bala sir had understood my apprehensions and trepidations. The first two days were very casual. We tried out different make up, color tones, dresses, hair setting, eyebrow appearance etc. By then I had gotten used to the entire team. And then shooting began. I used to wear my make up, costumes, reach the shooting spot and wear the lenses. Once I have the

lens on, I would not know what is going on around me till the lunch time and then later pack up in the evening. I had no opportunity to know how I had acted or how I looked. It is only during the premiere of the film that I got to see myself completely and the way I had looked and acted. During the making of Naan Kadavul, many of you have asked me to describe my character but I had never answered. It is only because of this.


What about other characters in Naan Kadavul?

In Bala sir’s films, characters are portrayed perfectly and they are beautiful. Like wise even in Naan Kadavul, all the roles have come out very well like Dimple, Muruga and host of others. They all have no knowledge of cinema but have rendered a superb performance. In my opinion, they are the super stars. We are all like different colored threads but Bala sir had the vision to combine us, stitch in the right manner which has resulted in a splendid dress called Naan Kadavul. It is a beautiful story and I am very happy to have worked under him.

About your dubbing?

I am not aware if Bala sir wanted to use my voice during the shooting. Perhaps, this idea could have occurred to him during editing. When he asked me to dub, I hesitated and told him that I will goof this up and suggested that he use a dubbing artist. But he insisted that I dub. I was at my wit’s end the previous night and was praying to God. The next day when I reached AVM

"We are all

like different

colored threads

but Bala sir

had the vision

to combine us"

"I

suffered more

during dubbing

than while acting"

dubbing theatre, I saw fighter Rajendran dubbing and heard different types of sounds. This gave me severe headache. Bala sir is very understanding. He realized my plight and asked me to just observe everything and dub the next day. He again gave me a concession and said that I can dub two scenes a day. I did not have many dialogues in the film and a dubbing artist could have completed it in half a day whereas I took six full days to finish. I suffered more during dubbing than while acting. Though I can speak Tamil, my Tamil will have mix of Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, and Sinhala accents. But more than me, sound engineers had a tough time when I was dubbing. They were very helpful and supportive. My dubbing credit goes to Senthil, Ravi and Bala sir and acting credit to Bala sir. My thanks are also due

to Wilson sir who showcased me correctly. Thanks to Ilayaraja sir for the lovely, soul stirring music which has helped the film to a large extent. I am just a small mustard seed in Naan Kadavul.


Your relationship with Arya

People have been asking me about this and I find it extremely funny. To some I have said that I love him very much and to some I have replied in negative. But the truth is I love Arya very much but as a friend. This has always been misunderstood. We can love our mother, our brother, our sister and so on. Arya is a very nice person and a good friend to me. We have done four films – Ullam Ketkume, Oram Po, Pattiyal and now Naan Kadavul. Arya will always call me and say that our chemistry will not work out. But when he called me recently and said that though we did not have love chemistry in Naan Kadavul,

"I love

Arya

very much"

somehow it has worked out. As regards Naan Kadavul, I did not take any physical strain, but Arya did. All the fight sequences were done without a soft cushion and he had to sit upside down. Hats off to Arya for his stamina and guts to do those stunts! Even when I did not have shooting, I used to watch the fight shots. A lot of home work has gone to shoot those sequences which Bala sir did with his team. They used to have lengthy discussions on all the aspects of the scenes to be shot which used to extend into the wee hours. Bala sir has an excellent back up team which helped him a lot.


Will you continue to act in such films?

I don’t know if I would get such roles. All that I know is I am happy right now.

Did you prepare for Hamsavalli?

Actually I wanted to visit a blind school to understand their behavior, body language, thinking pattern but had no time and rushed to Periyakulam for shooting. The nice thing was Bala sir did the complete homework for me. We had an exhaustive discussion about my role and he told me everything that was required. He completely sketched Hamsavalli in front of me. He also added that blind people will have some other senses like hearing which will be very sharp. Though I did not understand him initially, his speech fell into place on the third day when I made out from the sounds of children returning from school that it was 4 o’clock. From the sounds of chirping birds, I would know it is 6’o clock and time to pack up. From the sound of the bus horn, I was able to make out the location of bus whether it was near or far. From the voices, I was able to gauge the age of people. We also had some kind of guessing game. From the voice, I was to guess who the person was and if I was right I used to get 10 points. I realized how difficult it is to be blind.

Do you have something to say to such people?

Everybody is special and God has gifted everyone with some special talent. In my opinion, they have enriched me.

About the games played during the shoot?

Yes! It was lots of fun. My mom first came to drop me at Periyakulam and seeing the team, she left confidently saying that I will be well taken care of. One day Bala sir called me and said if I answer his questions (in Tamil) correctly, I will be given Rs 50,000/-He asked me to find a palindrome in Tamil and I called everyone to find the answer luring people with some cut in my prize money to them. Somebody said it was srilasri but the answer was wrong. So Bala sir said he is giving me one more chance but the prize money was getting reduced to Rs 40,000. I finally found the right word. It was vikadakavi but I would not tell you who gave me the answer. So this is how Bala sir broke the ice with everyone. He made sure everyone was comfortable on the sets.

"I always

used to win

by cheating"


Card games during Naan Kadavul shoot

My father had taught me rummy and at home we all play cards in our free time and I always used to win by cheating. But I was not able to employ my cheating tricks here and somehow Bala sir used to let me win. I played for five days and won 2.5 lakhs. But I lost everything in just one game. I felt very sad but this is how we all had a good time.


How was it working in Sinhala films?

Their working style and work culture is entirely different from ours. They are in a way more similar to Malayalam films and are small budgeted. Most of their films are love based and they prefer such themes. They don’t like action themes. I love working both in Sirilanka as well as in Tamil Nadu.

What is the feedback that you have been receiving for Naan Kadavul?

People have been appreciating my work, cameraman Wilson’s work and everyone’s acting. They also like the humor which is laced through out.

You are the third heroine for Naan Kadavul. Your comments?

Yes, I know that. Earlier Bhavana and Karthika were in the film but they could not do for various reasons. I consider myself lucky to have acted in Naan Kadavul.

Who was the first one to congratulate you?

The first person was Bala sir. He called me and said “Pooja, you have done a good job”. Such words coming from someone like Bala sir who is a man of few words was something remarkable to me. He generally does not talk to everyone unless he is comfortable and during shoots he will not speak as he is engrossed in his work. But he does not restrain anyone from speaking. So when I was appreciated by him, I was not in cloud 9 but was in cloud 13. His appreciation was most important for me.

Which was the most difficult scene?

Climax scene! They had to apply a mask kind of make up on my left cheek. An experienced make up man by name Anil who had done Kamal’s face in Anbe Sivam did my face. I never expected my skin to be so sensitive. Although they used the best products, the gum that was used to stick the mask on to my face had burnt my skin completely. I had to wear this mask for three days as continuity was to be maintained. When I had to speak, I was constantly afraid that the mask would come off. Meanwhile pus started coming in from the burnt part and I had to remain with that for the entire day. But thankfully, my doctor gave me a medicine which helped me and I was back to normal in a week. So climax scene was the most difficult part for me.

How many takes you generally took?

Bala sir’s style of functioning did not have any takes or rehearsals in the sense that we would not know which one is a take, which one is rehearsal etc. When he calls for action, we are supposed to do the entire scene. So we had continuous practice sessions. The last scene at the hilltop had many artists and I did not know how Bala sir managed everyone but he did it in a fantastic manner.

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