There’s a certain twinkle in her eyes when she walks towards you, a warm smile, coming across as someone who is full of confidence and sure of herself – that’s Pooja Kumar for you. Acting isn’t new to her, considering it’s something she’s been doing since the early 2000s. Getting recognised, however, took a while. As the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait. And not only did she wait; she went for it the minute opportunities came a-knocking!
Photographer: Kunal Daswani
Hair and Makeup: Verve Salon
Location: Novotel Hotel, Chamiers Road
Styling: VK Sara
Call it an unconventional debut, Pooja was in her 30s when she entered the South Indian film industry again. Given her identity, she admits that she was treated quite fairly owing to her previous work in the USA. “This is something that had just came and all I had to do was do a good job and do what I love. And that shows, right? People appreciate when you are working hard,” she admits. Working with Kamal Haasan meant being at your passionate best. “The best thing about Kamal sir is, he wants to be passionate about work and he wants you to be passionate about what you’re doing. Coming to the set, doing the role and leave – that’s what people usually do. But he wants you to engage and expects that from everyone!”
Some of her noteworthy performances included ‘Flavors’ where she played an American Indian who has to choose between marrying her best friend or opting for an arranged marriage, ‘Night of Henna’ – the first Pakistani-American film, ‘Bollywood Beats’, to name a few. “New directors were coming in and making stories on immigrants in America. This wasn’t mainstream in America yet, so we were making films with our money, marketing it ourselves, borrowing money from our aunties and uncles because we had no voice to bring out that particular story. I felt like this is great but we will have to take it to a bigger level,” she recalls. Until then, she acted in a number of short films. All this changed when her manager told her about a certain actor from India who was inquiring about her. “It was Kamal Haasan! We had a two minute conversation on Skype. He didn’t tell me about the project or my role. After the conversation, I thought I messed up. I thought I should’ve worn makeup or told him more about my work. But five days later, I’m on a plane to Chennai and the rest is history. I worked for 12 years before I got my break and I tell everyone that when an opportunity knocks, you have to use the moment!”