Pooja Hegde returns to Kollywood; here’s everything you need to know about the beauty and her ‘Beast’
Pooja Hegde is everything you don’t expect her to be! A foodie with an insatiable appetite, a Harry Potter fan and a closet singer — we catch up with actress to find out more about her many sides...
She’s stolen our attention with her slick dance moves and matching step with actor Vijay in the promotional songs for director Nelson’s Beast — that releases on April 13 — but Pooja Hegde has been around for quite some time now. Completing 10 years in the film industry this coming August, the actress is 14 films old and has five upcoming big banner releases in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Making her debut in 2012 with director Mysskin’s Mugamoodi, the actress marks her return to Tamil cinema after a whole decade with the upcoming release and going by the popularity of the promotional songs, is all set to make a second innings in Kollywood. Fresh from her win for Best Actress — Telugu at the 10th South Indian International Movie Awards for her role in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, we catch up with the actress who defines herself as — goofy, passionate and bohemian — to find out more about the new film, her upcoming projects, her love for music, her secrets to fitness, her love for ‘classic’ fashion and so much more!
How was working on Beast and tell us about your experience working with your co-star Vijay?
I’m super excited about Beast. After my debut with Mugamoodi, this film marks my return to Kollywood, almost after 10 years. The songs have been doing really well and I hope I get that much appreciation and love for the film too. Working with Vijay was great! He is such a sweet person and I’ve always been a fan of his work. I revisited almost all his recent films after I signed the movie on, back-to-back, and he’s just so good at what he does. He’s super professional and really hardworking and I’ve come to really admire that about him.
You’ve been gaining a lot of appreciation for your moves in the promotional songs from Beast. How do you feel about all this attention that’s focusing on your talents as a dancer?
I’ve always been a dancer. I studied classical dance, bharatanatyam, for almost 10 years. Somewhere within me, therefore, there has always been a dancer just waiting to be discovered. However, I must say that I have slowly become more comfortable with dancing in front of the camera, with each passing project. I’ve been appreciated for my dancing in the past too. Telugu audiences really liked Jigelu Rani from Rangasthalam and Elluvochi Godaramma from Gaddalakonda Ganesh, so I am really happy that Tamil audiences are now appreciating me for Beast too. I’m happy that I don’t stick out like a sore thumb in these dance sequences because my co-stars, be it Hrithik Roshan (Mohenjo Daro) or Allu Arjun (Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo) or even Vijay (Beast), are known for their dancing. I’m glad that I’ve been able to match up.
Tell us more about your passion for dance?
To be very honest, my mom wanted to learn bharatanatyam and she wasn’t allowed to by her father, as we come from a very academic family. So, she kind of fulfilled that dream through me. I was also inclined towards music all throughout my childhood. I’m very thankful though about having been nudged into learning dance as a child, because it instilled a sense of discipline in me and helped me cultivate the ability to express myself. I was a very shy child and if it wasn’t for dancing, I don’t think I would have been an actress today. I never ever dreamed of getting into films but I guess the universe had different plans for me and here I am today, 14 films old and apparently loved for my dance skills. Strange, no?
So, you also sing?
I sing. I don’t know if there’s a future in singing for me. But I do love singing. I don’t know if anyone would agree it is a talent or agree that I sing phenomenally well, but I sing all the same. I’m not trained in music though, sadly.
And you said you never dreamt of being an actress?
I was a very lost child. I wanted to do so many things. I finished school, and chose to pursue the commerce stream because I hated chemistry. I was very shy and I was aware about that and so in college, I decided to sign myself up for all the co-curricular activities possible just so that I’d lose my stage fright and be more confident in front of people. And then one day, someone from Miss India saw me at one of these college events and approached me and asked me to participate and though I was like, ‘really, me?’ initially, I did end up participating in Miss India 2009 and three years later I debuted. Like you know in Harry Potter they say the wand picks you? That’s really what happened to me in real life with acting.
You’re a Harry Potter fan! So, which Hogwarts house do you think you belong to?
Like everyone else, I always thought I’d be and should be in Gryffindor but as I grew up and did several online tests, I finally realised that — if sorted by the sorting hat — in fact, I am a Hufflepuff! The books by JK Rowling didn’t really do my house enough justice, but I really think we Hufflepuffs rock. I’ve read all the additional information available out there on my house and now I am super proud of the legacy of Helga Hufflepuff. (laughs)
Ten years down — how has the journey been, so far?
I really don’t feel like it’s been 10 years. More like five years, honestly! My journey has never been one of those stable ones. My career only took off after Harish Shankar’s DJ: Duvvada Jagannadham (2017). And then in three years, COVID-19 happened. And now post the lockdowns; the industry seems to be slowly moving towards a new normal. So, it honestly doesn’t feel like a decade.
How do you define your unique sense of fashion?
I am more about classics than trends when it comes to fashion. I like to follow trends, only to see what’s popular and if I am inspired, I’ll spin it around to fit my personal sense of style. My fashion reflects my mood and I often use it to tell the story I want to — be it in my personal life or on screen. I will always choose the LBD over something more contemporary and I will always dress for comfort at home — my ganjis and shorts and oversized shirts. What I do want to start doing is pairing a pair of my favourite sneakers with whatever red carpet ensemble I choose to wear next. That really would define me. I am equally comfortable in something I pick up on Linking Road or the latest haute couture, because I am confident I can carry both off with equal aplomb.
And how do you manage to stay in such good shape?
I love to eat and my only reason to work out is so that I can continue in my profession and still eat as much as I want. That said, I go all out when I am gymming and ensure I do everything to stay fit and in shape. I sleep properly and with my packed schedule these days, I’m usually out to the world by 11 pm. I also only eat home cooked food and so my cook travels with me everywhere. As long as I have my home food, my body is happy and I am a happy person.
What about ensuring your mind is healthy?
I am a workaholic and I feel guilty when I am relaxing and so I often need to tell myself that it’s okay to relax. The pandemic really threw me under the bus and it took me a long time to be okay with the new normal. I’m still a work in progress and I will keep doing everything I can to ensure my mind is as healthy as my body. I ensure to take enough rest, find my gaps during the day and have that one non-negotiable holiday every year.
Your social media is flooded with pictures from your travels. Is travelling your biggest passion?
I love travelling. I really do! I love meeting different people and indulging in different cultures. I feel that who I am today is largely because of the amazing people I’ve met on these trips. These were people who expanded my idea of what the universe was and what my role in it could be. My perfect trip is to a cold destination where I can be bundled up in lots of warm clothes and I can feel the cold only on the tip of my nose. I’m more an ‘experiences over things’ kind of person.
Finally, tell us about your other upcoming projects?
In Acharya, my next release, I am playing Neelambari, a brahmin village girl. She’s naughty, she’s fun and she’s innocent. It was written so well and I am really looking forward to my fans getting to meet her, hopefully by the end of the month. There’s also Rohit Shetty’s Cirkus with Ranveer Singh; Farhad Samji’s Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali with Salman Khan; and Trivikram Srinivas’ latest project with Mahesh Babu.
QUICK FIVE WITH POOJA:
Designers you swear by: Anything from Dior.
A place you want to visit ASAP: Giraffe Manor in Kenya.
Comfort foods: Kichidi, Chicken Sukka and Neer Dosa with spicy Mangalorean Happala.
Five things, forever in your bag: My phone, my charger, a book, a lip balm and sanitiser.
Three make-up essentials: Blush, lipstick and foundation or under-eye cream.
Beast releases on April 13 in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada & in Hindi as ‘Raw.’