FROM being a beauty pageant queen to becoming part of multiple movie industries in India, it has been quite a journey for Pooja Hegde.
After making her acting debut in the 2012 Tamil superhero movie Mugamoodi, she has flown to great heights by acting in multiple languages, which have also included Hindi and Telugu. She has worked with the biggest leading men and was most recently seen opposite superstar actor Salman Khan in Kisi KaBhai Kisi Ki Jaan.
After a cinematic run, the family friendly film has been drawing in audiences on streaming site ZEE5 Global.
Eastern Eye recently caught up with the beautiful Indian star to speak about the film, her experience of working with Salman Khan, and career challenges.
The actress also spoke about her foundation All About Love, Hollywood aspirations, London memories and a historical character she would like to portray on screen.
Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ka Jaan is doing well on the streaming platform ZEE5 Global. How does it make you feel?
It makes me feel good because streaming platforms introduce and reintroduce a film to a whole new larger audience. I am excited for people to see my work in Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan. I hope I entertain them and bring a smile to their faces.
What do you think is making the film click with audiences?
I think it’s just one of those films. It’s all about loving your family, being together, and strength in unity. There is action, comedy, and beautiful songs. So, there is a little bit of everything, so people just relate to it a lot more.
You have previously worked with superstars like Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, and Prabhas. This was your first film with Salman Khan. How was the experience?
It was great. The atmosphere was really good and it was just a very positive set to be on.
Did you feel intimidated by his presence?
What eases the pressure is him just being very honest and real. And sometimes that can be a bit, okay? But when you realise that he is just saying what’s on his mind, you will appreciate what he is saying even more.
What do you think separates him from other superstars you have worked with before?
As I said, it is just that he is so real that people sense that energy. I have cousins who are just such big fans of Salman Khan because they feel like he is someone who speaks his mind and is just being honest and frank. And people like that. That’s what sets him apart actually. That he is unapologetically himself.
This film faced a few hurdles before going on the floors. Were you a little sceptical about its future?
Not really, I think that my work begins when I get on to the set. I try not to think about the production aspect of all of this because then I would be overthinking, and I am already an overthinker. So, I try to avoid thinking too much about these things. On the set is when I start to think about my character.
Did you decide to pursue acting after participating in the prestigious Miss India pageant?
After doing Miss India, I kind of got into modelling, doing ramp shows, and stuff. Then I started getting offers in films and my first thought was, ‘Will I be able to do it? What if I don’t like it?’ I had never been to any acting school, and it was not something I had grown up with; that I wanted to be an actor. But when opportunities were coming, I said, ‘Okay, why not? Try it and see if I like it’. When I actually started acting, I genuinely enjoyed the entire process and what I finally saw on screen was magic, to be honest.
What kind of challenges did you face at the initial stage of your career?
I think challenges keep changing. I didn’t think too much when I signed my first film, which was in Tamil. I didn’t see how big or small of a role it was. I just did the film because it was being offered to me at that point. After that, I thought that next time I should select my film and hear it out. I have to be more selective about it. When you come from a non-filmy family, your first film becomes your audition tape to the world. People watch you. Either they like you or don’t. So, if the film does really well, it kind of gets you more films, otherwise you have to push and really hustle to get your next project. And that’s the way I have made my entire career.
Is there a historical or mythological figure you would like to play on screen?
I think Gayatri Devi (the third Maharani consort of Jaipur from 1940 to 1949) is someone that I would like to play. I have always found her to be very graceful and dignified.
What are the types of roles which are a complete no-no for you?
I feel never say never. The moment you say never, I feel it just starts to come to you. Whatever you resist, persists. So, it’s better to try not to resist and take it one film at a time.
A lot of Indian actors are exploring opportunities in the West. Do you have such Hollywood aspirations?
From your lips to god’s ears, I hope something good comes up. I have always been someone who goes where the work is. I do one Hindi film, then I would go do three Telugu films, come back to do another Hindi one, and then another in Tamil. So, I have just gone where the work is, and think work attracts work. Sure, why not? If something comes up and it interests me, I would love to.
You also run a foundation called All About Love. What’s the idea behind it?
It was just to create a culture of giving back. That’s something that is really needed and motivates me. I think anything done out of an act of love can really mean something in somebody else’s life. It would probably change someone else’s life. So that’s what the thought process was. Either you enrich someone or someone’s life, or encourage them, possibly helping them in their education. Empower them. I just thought it was time to start giving back to society in whatever way I could. I started helping people out. Whether it was their medical bills or giving basic groceries to 100 families during Covid-19. You do your little bit and hope that it makes a difference.
What do you do when you are not in front of the camera?
I am sleeping or catching up on content that I missed out on.
When did you first realise you were famous and a celebrity?
I don’t know if it is always a moment. I still feel like the same person who started 10 years back. If you meet my family, you will realise they keep me very, very grounded. Of course, I do get recognised more when I go out, and that’s a given. It’s a part and parcel of what I do.
Is there any fan moment that is still etched in your mind?
So many. I remember someone had my full name tattooed on their arm: Pooja Hegde. When I saw it, I was like, ‘oh my god.’ It is a very big commitment to make. So, it’s really lovely to see gestures like that. I am such a workaholic. I am always going from one film to the next and sometimes when I look back, pause, and talk to my fans or I see these small gestures of love, I feel I have come a long way in terms of the love I am getting from people.
So, it’s good to sometimes step back and just watch your entire journey.
Who are your biggest influences?
I mean it depends. I don’t have like one person who is, yeah, like I want to be exactly this person. I feel like different people inspire me in different ways.
Do you recall your first pay cheque?
I remember when I was a model and had a little journal that I used to keep. My dad had told me to make a note of whatever work I was doing. I started with smaller amounts. Sometimes when I look back at that diary, I am just ‘wow, I started with this’.
Do you have any favourite memories from London?
I love London in general. It has been one of my favourite cities to go to. I am waiting when am I going to get a chance to go next. But last summer was a very special London trip for me. It was a dream growing up to take my family on vacation. I wanted to take them on an all-expensespaid kind of vacation where I could just give my parents whatever they wanted and a luxurious vacation. I did it last summer. Yeah, they were in London for a month, it was such a lovely trip. It was one of my favourite trips ever because I got to take my dad out to eat ice cream and we went roaming around the countryside for 15 days. We went to Cotswolds and all these beautiful locations in London.
What is your message to people who haven’t seen Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan yet?
Do watch Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan on ZEE5 Global. I hope you guys enjoy it and I hope you like my character Bhagyalakshmi. And I hope I make you laugh.