Pooja Hegde on playing spiritual leader in Saakshyam: I’ve always focused on character than my look

There’s a notion in the film industry that your life could change any given Friday. It couldn’t be more true when you think about how much things have changed for Pooja Hegde when she returned to Telugu cinema after a hiatus of three years. Back in 2014, she made her foray into Telugu cinema with Oka Laila Kosam and Mukunda, and soon after made her Bollywood debut with Mohenjodaro, Pooja made her comeback to Tollywood with DJ (Duvvada Jagannadham) in 2017. In less than a year, she has signed four major films including a film each with NTR Jr, Mahesh Babu, and Prabhas, apart from shaking a leg with Ram Charan in this year’s smash hit Rangasthalam. And now, as she awaits the result of her latest action-drama Saakshyam, Pooja Hegde is understandably nervous and excited.

“We’ve worked really hard on the film. Saaskhyam is grand in every sense and it’s got stunning visuals. No matter how excited we are about our work, beyond a point, I believe that a film has its own destiny. I hope and pray that people like our film and it’s always a good feeling when people appreciate your work,” Pooja says.

In the film, she plays a spiritual speaker, a role nothing like what she has done so far. Ask her if she’s a spiritual person in real life, Pooja says, “It was something brand new for me, especially after DJ. I do believe in a higher power and spirituality, but I don’t pray everyday. I don’t follow any rituals either. Frankly, I’ve always focused on the character than my look. I would say I’m lucky that I can be a girl next door in Mukunda, Oka Laila Kosam; a suave urban chic in DJ; and now, a spiritual speaker in Saakshyam. There are many sides to me and each character gives me an opportunity to explore a different side of my personality. I’m just experimenting with everything right now.”

Pooja Hegde with Saakshyam co-star Bellamkonda Sreenivas/Image from Twitter.
Pooja Hegde with Saakshyam co-star Bellamkonda Sreenivas/Image from Twitter.
The actress has pulled off some risky stunts in the action-drama without a body double, a first in her career. She credits action choreographer Peter Hein for everything that she has done in Saakshyam. “He was really helpful throughout the shoot and ensured our safety. He just doesn’t compromise anywhere and he’s almost like a warrior on the set. Even if he gets injured at times, he doesn’t sit back. His grit was inspiring, and I can’t fathom where he gets all that energy from!” Pooja says, adding, “Having observed how stuntmen pull off such risky stunts from close quarters, it has changed my whole perspective on action. I have always respected stunt choreographers, and now, thanks to Saaskhyam, I’m in awe of them.”

The team shot the film in various locations including Dubai, USA, Varanasi, Pollachi, and Bellary to name a few. One of the most memorable experiences, Pooja says, was grooving to a song in Grand Canyon. “It was my first visit to Grand Canyon in USA, and it was quite a surreal feeling to shoot there,” she adds. Another time, at the end of a grueling schedule, the entire team pooled in money to buy lots of goodies for the kids on the sets. “All of us got along really well during the shoot. My co-star Sai Sreenivas and I became good friends. Since we are in the same age group, there was no hierarchy and we were in the same boat. He has worked really hard in the film.”

2018 is turning out to be a phenomenal year for her and with so many big projects lined up, it would seem that she’s under immense pressure all the time. However, she says that she has been trying to learn a different approach to streamline all her work and thoughts. “Because I’m doing so many things, it’s important for me to compartmentalise everything in my mind. I have to look at each film individually and focus on my work on that day. I’m learning to be more in the present,” Pooja admits.

Earlier this month, she spent nearly three weeks shooting in London for Sajid Khan’s Housefull 4 and now that she’s back in India, she’s focusing on upcoming films in Telugu. Despite all this, Pooja confesses that this is exactly what she wanted in her life. “The biggest thrill in my life is sleeping the moment I hit the bed after a hard day’s work (laughs). I’ve always been a workaholic, I guess. I get restless if I go on a holiday for more than two days. And more importantly, I love the fact that I’m too busy to think about what’s going to happen next,” she says.