She is a rare amalgam of intelligence, looks and fun. Pooja Umashankar, the Jay Jay actor, chirps about her college days in the same eloquence as she orates philosophy. Before you know it, her voice gets a coat of wisdom and she is talking about how cinema influences her lifestyle.
With a yawning gap of three years after her much-critically-acclaimed role as a beggar in Naan Kadavul, Pooja will be seen in Balaji K Kumar’s Vidiyum Munn, set to release this year. The Indian-Srilankan actor, who confesses to be extremely choosy about her scripts, says that she said ‘Yes’ to Vidiyum Munn in less than five minutes into reading the script. “I consider myself the luckiest girl to get this role. Initially the director was hesitant to take me, thinking that I was married. I told him that I was very much single and insisted that he shouldn’t give this role to anyone else,” she says with a laugh.
Pooja says the movie has four men, who for three reasons are behind two women and all of it happens in a single night. “The two women include Malavika Manikuttan and myself. Malavika is a firecracker on the sets. We had competition as to who would act which scene better,” she says.
So is it women-centric? “Many people have been asking me if it is like Vidya Balan’s Kahani. My answer is no. All of us, including Vinoth Kishan, have our significant roles, but the script is the real hero,” says the actor, who considers this movie as a platform to talk about the plaguing issues in society today.
The actor is, however, mum about her role in the ‘Hollywood style drama thriller’. “All I can say is that the colour pallette of the movie includes really loud colours, and I was asked to gain eight kilograms,” she says. “This was on the condition that Javed (the producer) sponsored my life-membership in a gym,” she adds with a laugh.
Dainty and fair like a vanilla scoop, it is surprising that the actor appears chubby and darker in her roles as a sales person in a medical shop, in Pattiyal or as a lady selling briyani in Oram Po. “As much as I would love to get appreciated for my looks, I am happy that people recognise me with my role as that briyani selling girl rather than Pooja,” says the actor. “Also, I don’t mind taking up any role if the script is good — be it that of a glamorous girl or a middle-class next door girl. Even as a villain!” she adds.
Reel life apart, what is Pooja like in real? “When I am not acting, I help my mom take care of my grandparents who live with us. I am a family person and always like to be amid a lot of people. This trait is probably because of my stay in hostel since ninth grade. Any time in hostel, you are always surrounded by at least 250 people,” she says.
The actor, who doesn’t drink or smoke, gives hilarious accounts of how people see her dancing in parties and think she is high. “I would have been just consuming water. I can dance like I am drunk without getting high,” she says in a naughty tone.
While her fans await Vidiyum Munn’s release, Pooja stays a satisfied soul – be it with her role or the shooting process. “It was like we were in an auto-pilot mode, with Javed, Shivkumar (director of photography) and Edward (art diector) sweating it out. For the first time I had the script in my hand. Life was beautiful and easy,” she ends in a dreamy note.