At her peak as an actor, Pooja Bhatt represented everything from feisty to bubbly that most actors take for granted today. She realised early on that the shelf-life for actors is pityingly small and she chose to withdraw from the scene than fall back on sister or mummy roles.
“I have always lived my life my way. I never gave up acting, but there was nothing left for me to do. But I am glad that direction came to me at the right time,” says Pooja, having just exhausted herself with 'Jism 2', her fourth film as a director.
Of all her films, she knew instinctively that 'Jism' as a brand had the potential to be carried forward. Thus, the idea for a sequel was born. When everything was in place, it was decided that Bipasha Basu, the original heroine from 'Jism' made a decade ago must be approached. “But it didn’t look plausible to have her, because as you know she died in the first part. We had to look for some other face.”
In came Sunny Leone, the Indo-Canadian porn star, who was personally convinced by Pooja’s father, Mahesh Bhatt, on the Bigg Boss 5 show. In fact, Pooja had toyed with the idea of working with her during 'Jism' itself, as early as 2003.
Sex and erotica is an intrinsic part of the film, says Pooja and as such, it was a masterstroke to cast Sunny in a role that has already set male testosterone rising.
But the director shoots back vehemently, “What is this thing about the film being a porn flick? What Sunny does in her profession is very different from what she is doing here. We cast Sunny because we thought she suited her role. The film would have been just the same if there was somebody else in it. Sure, nobody is saying she is a great actress, but she has given everything she can.”
Pooja says people should look beyond her sex appeal: “I was taken by her cute looks. I always thought she is a beautiful, young woman, very committed and one could see that in her.”
Known for her strong views, Pooja has a clear-sighted vision of what porn is and should be and why 'Jism 2'-bashers’, as she calls the film’s critics deridingly, are so grossly misinformed to look at it as a porn film. She says a film like 'Jism 2' is sensuous and erotic and people must learn to differentiate between the two. “People can be such hypocrites. They are fine with toilet humour, but they won’t accept a full-fledged adult subject matter. Porn is a guilty pleasure for many people. But don’t they know that porn is feeling-less, that when you watch a porn film you are doing it without undergoing any emotions? A film, on the other hand, is based on emotions and there is a greater involvement and participation of the viewer.”
Although Pooja, like every filmmaker, is rather proud of 'Jism 2' and hopes that it does well, she has, in her mind, already moved on. A few years ago, she had built a home outside Mumbai, in the small village of Kalote where she now lives with her husband and her pets.
It’s her paradise, to which she retreats after a hard day’s work. “Just to be away from the maddening crowd and put your thoughts and head together is something worth giving everything up for, really,” she laughs.