Interview Hindi Tamil Telugu

I am looking for opportunities to prove myself, says Pooja Hegde


With Radhe Shyam (2022), the actress makes a return to Hindi cinema after a span of three years.

Shriram Iyengar

"I am the president of overthinkers," declared Pooja Hegde, much to the delight of the gathered film press corps in Mumbai. Promoting her film Radhe Shyam (2022), which was released on 11 March, the actress looked relaxed.

"I am my biggest critic," she said. "I am always critical of my work and my go-to is always the director. The directors always tell me it's okay. As actors, we are anyway overthinkers, and I am the president of overthinkers."

Hegde's fans might disagree. Over the past few years, she has become a familiar face in the Southern film industries. With Beast (2023) alongside Vijay, Acharya (2023) alongside Ram Charan and Chiranjeevi, and Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali alongside Salman Khan, the actress is enjoying a purple patch.

"I am also a strong believer that my hands have magic," she said. "They are a map which shows where you have been in life, but also where you want to go."

With Radhe Shyam's plot revolving around a celebrity palmist and his struggle with destiny, Hegde's beliefs seem to be translating on screen. She added, "Prerna [her character in the film] is very different from me, although I feel like I have left a little bit of Pooja in Prerna. She is very stubborn, childlike; at the same time, she knows what she wants. She has a lot of different shades to her character. It was complex, which is why I loved playing her." 

Radhe Shyam is directed by Radha Krishna Kumar and features Hegde opposite Prabhas. Following are excerpts from the interview:

How do you feel returning to theatres after such a big lockdown?

I am excited because the theatrical experience is different. Recently, I saw Sarpatta Parambarai (2021) on OTT. The end fight had my mum and dad cheering on. If this had happened in theatres, it would be different.

For Radhe Shyam, the producers invested in making it a fantasy land, a dream world. It will be a visual treat in theatres. I am happy that occupancy is now 100% and people can enjoy it in theatres.

After Housefull 4 (2019), why such a long gap for your next Hindi film? Was that a conscious choice?

A conscious decision that I didn't want to do films for the sake of it. When you come from an academically driven family, when your first film doesn't do well, it is difficult to get another. I got films, but not something I loved or was excited about. At the same time, South films were interesting. I thought I should concentrate on that.

I did Housefull 4 because the banner was [Sajid] Nadiadwala sir and Akshay [Kumar] sir. That gave me Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali. I am a happy-go-lucky person, so I feel that has led me to it.

I always wanted to be an 'Indian' actor, so never thought to concentrate on one particular language. The magic of languages, and their instant connection, brings you closer to the audience. It is something I don't want to let go of.

What do you think of astrology? Do you believe in it?

I believe in it. I believe astrology is a science. We need to cut ourselves some slack that Indian sciences also have a lot of power and meaning. The people who wrote those astrology books were also seers. If you look at Saturn, it has an orbit that wobbles around the sun, quite like a man limping. If you look at the portrayal of the god Shani, he does have a limp. It is no coincidence. It is a science, and I cannot explain it.

I am also a strong believer that my hands have magic. They are a map which shows where you have been in life, but also where you want to go.

Regional cinema has strong female protagonists. Is that what sets those films apart?

It is great. In Radhe Shyam, you will see Prerna as a strong character. As a girl, when I see someone on screen, I relate to that. I want to inspire another generation. I have seen Hema Malini fight villains in Seeta Aur Geeta (1972), or Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman (2017). I hope more films come up where girls are stronger and more resilient.

How is your character Prerna different from Pooja Hegde?

Prerna is very different from me, although I feel like I have left a little bit of Pooja in Prerna. She is very stubborn, childlike; at the same time, she knows what she wants. She has a lot of different shades to her character. It was complex, which is why I loved playing her.

What do you say about the chemistry between Vikramaditya (Prabhas) and Prerna in the film?

Chemistry is magic that has to happen. I am glad you feel that is present in the love story. Somewhere, I love love. I started a foundation called All About Love. Since that is the case, I naturally give in a scene. Sometimes, the cinema gods need to bless us for the magic to happen.

I have grown with this film, with this character. I read a lot, built a back story for her. Call it destiny again, but when the gap of two years [the pandemic] came in the way, it helped. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to go back into a character. This work helped me. I remembered it.

Is there anything specific that makes you pick a script?

I think it is the gut feeling. I go by my gut feel. When I did Most Eligible Bachelor (2021), I was stressed out but I went with the gut feel. It did well. Sometimes, it's the director. Tomorrow if Rajamouli sir calls me, I am not going to ask him, 'What's the story?'; I would just do it because I love the director.

Now I have done some work. So I am taking films that excite me as an actor. While I am doing the commercial films, Cirkus I am doing because I am a fan of his [Rohit Shetty's] films.

Did you worry about being overshadowed by Prabhas in the film?

God keeps throwing me these challenges. He makes me dance next to Hrithik Roshan or Allu Arjun. My first ever ad was with Ranbir Kapoor. I have been prepped every single day to the film. Sometimes, you have to motivate yourself to study the character. It makes the exam easier.

Is South cinema overtaking the Hindi film industry?

I hope we stop doing this. I hope good content reaches people and transcends borders.

What do we say to people who still tag a Beast or a KGF as a 'regional film'?

I don't think that's a bad thing. I think there is power in these regional films. If I have seen Narcos (2015) in Spanish, then I can watch a Telugu film. Regional cinema is our strength. Hopefully, someday we reach a point where it is just cinema.

Are you critical of your work?

I am my biggest critic. I am always critical of my work, and my go-to is always the director. The directors always tell me it's okay. As actors, we are anyway overthinkers, and I am the president of overthinkers. I think it is a journey, and I am waiting for opportunities to be able to prove myself.