An unlikely heroine

An unlikely heroine

A first-generation American-Indian, Pooja Kumar, who has a three-film contract with actor Kamal Haasan, talks to Team Viva about her fortuitous path to Tamil cinema

An American-Indian landing a plum role in a mega-budget Indian film is unheard of but actress Pooja Kumar, the lead actress in Vishwaroopam, Vishwaroopam 2 and Uttama Villain, has had an unexpected journey and found her identity. “It’s karma and destiny. All of the work I did up to that point (when Kamal Haasan called her for Vishwaroopam) prepared me for this,” she said.

In the Vishwaroopam series, she plays a nuclear oncologist who is initially self-absorbed but later falls in love with the spy, played by Haasan. “He made this character come alive. The character has a purpose and isn’t just a prop. Since he was surrounded by his mother and sisters while growing up, he wrote a character where the woman is actually integral to the movie. I play a nuclear oncologist and this attention to detail, like the profession, makes the character more clear,” she added.

She began her journey as an off-Broadway actress in the US, where her parents went in 1970s for education and stayed on. As someone who continues to be a resident of the US and has come to terms with her identity as a person of colour, she never felt that she was any less from the others. Growing up with doctor-engineer parents and great teachers, she realised that arts is how she could inspire other people of colour towards equality. “My first performance was in Taming of the Shrew where I played Petruchio. I wanted the male part because it was a bigger role than the female one. A girl played Katherine. So two girls played the lead, which is interesting because in Shakespeare it used to be guys playing all the characters and we reversed it. What was more interesting is that this was in St Louis, Missouri, which is very Caucasian. At that time, I didn’t think I was brown,” she said.

After 27 off-Broadway plays and Hollywood movies, she received a call from  Haasan. “We did a Skype call and five days later I was on a plane to Chennai. I didn’t know anything and wondered what was the worst that could happen? I would meet this amazing filmmaker, get on the plane and come back. It would be a win-win situation. He gave me five pages of dialogue in Tamil. After that, I was like great, this won’t happen in a day. I’ll do vannakam and leave,” said she. However, not only did she get the part but she also signed two to three films with Haasan.

Before this film, she had never done a romantic comedy with action, she said. “Vishwaroopam II is a global movie for the global Indian. Earlier, people attempted this fusion but it didn’t work well. Sir has a unique voice. I think he combines Western edginess with Indian sentiments and that’s difficult to do. These are very different genres. He has put Tamil cinema on the global scene.”

Having worked in both India and Hollywood, she felt it was  unfair to compare the industries in both the countries. “People do so because Indians are the largest English-speaking immigrant community and are successful there. In actuality, we have so much history which they don’t have. People have asked me how do you compare the two places. There the budget is like $100 million here it’s $10 million,” she added.

The actress reiterated that it was destiny that brought her back. She visits her grandmother in Lucknow often. Yes, she is pan-Indian, mother from Lucknow, father from Dehra Dun and immigrant in Chennai.



Sunday Edition

View All

Dabholkar murder case: Sharpshooter in CBI net

19 Aug 2018 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai

Five years after the renowned rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in Pune, the CBI on Saturday arrested one of the sharp-shooters who allegedly pulled the trigger. Identiying the arrested person as one Sachin Prakashrao Andure from Aurangabad, a senior official said that Andure was one of the sharp-shooters who allegedly shot Dr Dabholkar...

Read More


View All

Ranchi girl wins Int’l beauty contest

19 Aug 2018 | PNS | Ranchi

Yet another girl from the Capital City Khushboo Vijay became the winner of Miss India International Global 2018 and will be representing India next year in Malaysia 2019 for World Finale. The event was held in Guwahati on August 2018...

Read More

Page generated in 0.1935 seconds.