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An exclusive interview with Pooja Umashankar

Exclusive: ''Ajith’s film was my big ticket to Sri Lanka''

Dec 04, 2013
Actress Pooja Umashankar has been around in the cinema space for more than a decade and she is a seasoned campaigner who has done the glam stuff in movies like Attagasam, Jay Jay and also many performance oriented roles such as Naan Kadavul and the recently released Vidiyum Munn. She has also bridged the divide between the two extremes very well in movies such as Oram Po and Pattiyal.
In this conversation with Behindwoods, the pretty actress is at her candid best
How has this 10 year journey in cinema been? 
It has been a learning experience for me, both personally and professionally. It has shaped me into a much better human being on the whole. I appreciate all the opportunities that I have received and am glad I picked them up. I have embraced them all and have no regrets at all.
Talk us through your transition from a glam doll to a character-driven actress
In my iniital years, I took baby steps and wanted to leave a mark and set milestones which I could be proud of. As time passed, I wanted to do a balancing act and tried out different shades. I wanted to prove that I could do different roles. That’s why I did all those myriad roles starting from a biriyani seller to a middle class employee at a pharmacy to a beggar. I didn’t want to be typecast.
Now when I look back at those glam roles, I don’t feel bad at all. Beyond a point, I made a conscious decision to work with newcomers as their ideas were fresh and they were brimming with enthusiasm. I have worked with many such first time directors and am happy I gave them a foundation. 
After Naan Kadavul, offers started drying up drastically as till then you were among the top actresses. Why do you think so? What were you doing in this hiatus?
The directors in the industry have to answer this. Maybe they felt I had become too choosy and gone out of their league after doing a heavy film like Naan Kadavul. I was also sure that I wouldn’t take up offers just for the sake of it and wanted to make proud, the people who believed in me. Importantly Bala Sir shouldn’t have felt “Why is Pooja doing a substandard film” after shining in a film like Naan Kadavul.
I also had some family issues to take care of and then the Sinhalese movie industry gave me a lot of plum offers which I happily did.
How does the Sinhalese industry work? And also tell us about the roles you have done there
It is a much smaller industry compared to the Tamil industry but there is a healthy mix of commercial films and parallel cinema being made there. Such art films have done good rounds in the festival circuit.
After playing a beggar in Naan Kadavul, I played a princess in the movie Kusa Pabha and this was a complete extreme. Till date, I have done 5 Sinhalese movies and 4 of them have become big hits. The other was critically well-received. 
Interestingly, I got my first Sinhalese film Anjalika, thanks to Ajith’s Attagasam which was running in Sri Lanka when the director saw that film and approached me after coming to know that I was half-Indian and half-Lankan. 
I have been received very well by fans in Lanka and I am humbled by their love and support. I won the Most Popular Actress Award in 2012 in Sri Lanka. 
About Vidiyum Munn
I was picked for this film after director Balaji Kumar saw me in Oram Po and Naan Kadavul. I will confidently say that my director and cinematographer have shown me very beautifully on screen. I love the way I look in the film. In fact I had to let go of Paradesi as my dates for Vidiyum Munn clashed with Bala’s film. I was supposed to do Dhansika’s role. Bala Sir was gracious to let me proceed with Vidiyum Munn, as he felt that this new team needed my presence. I hope he is proud when he sees the film.
About Arya making it really big of late
We started our careers together and I am proud at seeing his amazing growth. It feels as if I have achieved all this, as such is my close bonding with Arya. He has put in a lot of hard work and it is not just luck. 
Naan Kadavul Rajendran is also big nowadays
If you see Naan Kadavul, the order of suffering and pain was headed by Bala, followed by Arya, myself and Rajendran. Back then during Naan Kadavul’s filming, I told Rajendran Sir that he will surely make it big one day. Now, he owes me. I am yet to see his recent movies such as Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara but am really happy to hear about the response to him among fans. This man is like a rock and he is so strong! 
How do you keep in touch with your fans and well-wishers?
I maintain my official FB page on my own and there are close to 30000 fans in the page, most of them Sri Lankan. I personally reply to all suggestions, comments and feedback. It takes up a lot of time and I hope to not get addicted to it totally. It is such a powerful medium to harness for great causes! But, there are some fake profiles in my name and I wonder why people have to resort to such means.
I want to reciprocate the love and support that I receive from fans. I am yet to explore Twitter and hope to hop on to it soon. 
What kind of roles are you looking at in the coming days?
I am open to any role even if it is a glam doll role such as the ones in Jay Jay and Attagasam. I hope directors are also open to casting me. 
Expecting to see more of you in the coming years, Pooja. Good Luck!


An exclusive interview with Pooja Umashankar

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