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Pooja Kumar is an American actress, producer, model and television hostess. She was crowned Miss India USA and has been a VJ for Channel V, a newsreader on the show Namaste America and has starred in such feature films as Kaadhal Rojave, Night of Henna, Flavors, Hiding Divya, Park Sharks, Bollywood Beats, Man on a Ledge, Anything For You and Vishwaroopam.
Pooja was born into a Mathur family in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents are immigrants from India; her father is from Dehradun and her mother is from Lucknow. She attended Washington University where she graduated with degrees in political science and finance.
Kumar is also trained in the Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Kathak forms of Indian classical dance. She was crowned Miss India USA in 1995.
Pooja Kumar first signed on to appear in director KR’s Tamil film Kadhal Rojave in 1997 alongside George Vishnu, but the film’s production delays meant that it only released in 2000 and her stint as an actress in the Tamil film industry went unnoticed. She was earlier signed and then left out of the 1997 film VIP, while she had also signed to appear alongside Karthik in Chithra Lakshmanan’s Chinna Raja, but was eventually dropped from the film.
Pooja produced a short film, “1001 Auditions”, that has been selected in eight film festivals, including being nominated for “Best Short” at the Stuttgart Film Festival in Germany. She has also produced a short film called “Shoot My Life”. Pooja has also been seen in national TV commercials for Bombay Dreams, Verizon, Dodge, Pearle Vision, New York Lottery, Tata True Roots, AOL Time Warner, and Outback Steakhouse.
In 2003, she received the Screen Actors Guild Emerging Actress Award for Flavors. In 2008, she hosted a late-night live quiz show on Zee TV in India, known as Jaago Aur Jeeto. She appeared in the musical comedy miniseries Bollywood Hero on the IFC in 2008. She starred opposite Saturday Night Live comedian Chris Kattan in the three part series. In the late 2000s, she appeared in the Pakistani drama serial Ishq Junoon Deewangi on Hum TV.
|2003||Magic Magic 3D||Deepti||Malayalam|
|2005||Night of Henna||Hava||English|
|2006||Hiding Divya||Palini Shah||English|
|2010||Anything For You||Uma Krishnan||English|
|Drawing With Chalk||Jasmine||English|
|2012||Man on a Ledge||Nina||English|
|2013||Vishwaroopam||Dr. Nirupama Wisam||Tamil|
How did you bag the role in Vishwaroopam
Kamal was looking for an actor for Vishwaroopam and he saw some of my work online and he wanted to talk to me. People from Kamal’s office contacted me in New York through my manager and when my manager asked me if I’d like to work with Kamal, I immediately said yes. I grew up watching his movies and I am a huge fan so there was no question about asking any more questions before accepting the offer. So they scheduled a Skype call and Kamal interviewed me. I got the job and I flew to Chennai two weeks later. I met Kamal and despite being such an accomplished actor, he was such a humble person. I am truly honored and humbled to be able to share screen space with such an icon of the Indian film industry.
About your character in the film
I play the role of Nirupama, a nuclear oncologist from Chennai. She chose the field of oncology because her dad died of cancer. She wanted to make a difference in people’s lives by finding a cure for cancer and hence she goes to New York to do her PhD in oncology. Her uncle forces her to marry Kamal, who is a dance choreographer in NY and they marry. What’s interesting about the movie is that it unravels through the eyes of Nirupama, which is a very novel idea in Indian cinema that has never been done before. The character has so many shades of grey and what’s going to be interesting for the audience is that Nirupama understands a lot of her life through Vishwanath, Kamal’s character.
Did you do any rehearsals for the role? How was it to get into the character of a south Indian woman?
We didn’t rehearse. Kamal was very open to discussion and he let me improvise on my character. He also provides lots of suggestions and you don’t question any of his suggestions because he knows what works well with so much of experience behind him.
How strong/meaty is your role in the film?
I think Nirupama is meaty, strong and funny. She has so many facets to her and I don’t think women characters are explored that much in our movies so that’s going to be interesting.
The hero of the film is a dancer. Do you have any dance sequences?
I am so upset I have no dance sequences with him. I’ve been telling him to write another movie that has dance sequences so I can dance with him.
The director and the actor in Kamal
Kamal knows everything about Tamil cinema and going under his guidance took me to another level, even though I did not know the language. He is so versatile and the fact that he can slip into the role of a director as well as an actor is brilliant.
Are you fluent in Tamil? Who has done the dubbing for your role?
I cannot speak Tamil I can only say ‘Tamil kathukittrikken, next time varumbodu innum nalla pesuven.’ The talented Abirami dubbed for me and she’s done an amazing job. I dubbed for myself in Hindi though.
Tell us something about your costumes in the film?
I loved them. They are so beautifully done.
What did you like most about Vishwaroopam?
It’s a story about love and friendship. It has a theme with the capability to resonate across the world. It’s going to be a joy ride and you haven’t seen anything like this in Indian movies before. Kamal has envisioned this project and it’s going to be very interesting to watch.
What was the most challenging part of the shooting?
The most challenging part is the language because I am not familiar with it. But it worked well for me since I could concentrate on the emotions much more than the language part of it.
About your co stars
All of them are wonderful.
About your co starsWorking with Andrea and Sekar Kapoor
Sekar Kapoor, as we all know, is a well known director in the international arena. I learnt lot acting with him. And Andrea, I love her. She is such a wonderful actor and a good human being. I wish her all the best and I hope we can work together again.
Have you watched Kamal’s films earlier? If so which one did you like the most?
The first movie I watched of Kamal was Ek Doojhe Ke Liye. I loved him in all his movies including Sadma, Appu Raja, Sagar and so on. I really liked him in Sagar. He is one of the pioneers in Indian cinema and an icon.
On your IIFA experience
We had a great time in IIFA, Singapore. I was so excited to see the buzz the movie is creating with the trailers. It’s an international movie, an action blockbuster. You are going to love it.
On your transition from a model to a VJ and to an actress
As an artist, you have to do many different things. I think if you are able to resonate with people all across different mediums, it’s wonderful. It has not been a transition for me because for me work is work. That’s how I see it.
There’s been a long gap after your first Tamil film, Kadhal Rojavee…
I worked in a Tamil film earlier and then went back to the US. In the US, there weren’t many Indian actors doing Hollywood films. It was Persis Khambatta and she went bald and acted as an alien. That was the image Indian actors got in Hollywood movies. I really want to break that image and start working to get South Asians in the international market.
About your current projects
I am working on producing a romantic comedy which will start soon. There are two more projects that I am going to work on. But I can’t talk about it right now. I will let you know as soon as I can.
As an Indian American actor, do you see a talent flow from West to India these days, especially in films?
I think the world is getting smaller and people understand more about the world and India and its culture. Indian food and Indian cinema are making a difference in the international arena. We have been around for long but it’s only now we are getting the recognition. I think we should all be like one big family and celebrate cinema and be passionate about it.