Actor Pooja Kumar speaks on ‘more running around’ in the sequel, three dance set-pieces in a film and her love of cinema and politics
When American actor Pooja Kumar agreed to play the role of a nuclear oncologist in Kamal Haasan’s ‘Vishwaroopam’, she had no clue that she would go on to do two more films with the iconic actor, making it three in a row — ‘Vishwaroopam’, its sequel and his next, ‘Uthama Villain’.
It’s a rare feat for someone who chose to not to take up offers from Tamil filmmakers and decided to go back to the U.S. to achieve several things: a degree in political science and finance, producing critically-acclaimed short films, collaborating with U.S filmmakers of Indian origin, working for Congressman Jim Talent, and so on.
Her comeback of sorts after a decade-and-a-half has been spectacular.
Though ‘Vishwaroopam’ was a challenging film, considering the range of themes it dealt with — impact of religion, the geo-politics of the sub-continent, and notion of religious identity and so on — Pooja says that it was still within her comfort zone. “It was an international film set in New York,” she says.
It was ‘Uthama Villain’ that presented her with a formidable challenge. “I got to play a non-Tamil-speaking modern-day actress, who is offered a character that speaks old, archaic, chaste Tamil. Being a trained dancer, it also gave me an opportunity to do three different dance set-pieces in the film — a commercial number, another one set in an earlier period and then, a dance choreography as part of a stage play. It was challenging to do all these in a single film,” says Pooja.
‘Uthama Villain’, she says, is a complex film in more ways than one. “Mr. Kamal Haasan’s part is tricky – one that combines pathos and humor. Those who love his comedy are in for a treat,” she says.
While she will be seen playing the role of the oncologist, Pooja says that she will be doing a lot ‘more running around’ in the sequel. “There is a sequence where we defuse bombs and engage enemies in a gun battle — all under water. Thanks to my scuba diving training, I have performed these stunts by myself. The film is slightly delayed because it has a lot of special effects,” she says.
Having been interested in contemporary politics all along, Pooja says that she is fascinated with how cinema and politics are intertwined in Tamil Nadu. “ Films and politics have been a part of my life, which is why I love it here.”
Having worked with arguably the best actor in Tamil cinema today, Pooja says that she would like to follow Mr. Kamal Haasan’s advice to set the bar high. So what’s next?
“I have been offered films in both Tamil and Hindi — including one by Mr. Vijay Amritraj. I would like to do one film at a time and give it my all,” she signs off.