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A woman of varied facets

Madhur Tankha

‘Listen to your inner voice':Bollywood actor Pooja Bedi is all set to host a reality show for the small screen.

NEW Delhi: She aspired to work at the New York Stock Exchange but ended up in the make-believe world of Bollywood. Pooja Bedi, a popular face in every genre of reality shows, is now endorsing the upcoming Emotional Atyachaar Season 3 on UTV Bindass.

Pooja, who usually helps estranged couples as a relationship expert for newspapers and magazines, has analysed the problems of 46 participants for the reality show. She says whenever a female participant feels her partner is cheating on her, it is correct most of the time.

“Barring three, 43 participants have cheated on their respective partners. Girls need to listen to their inside voice. During our childhood days our parents narrated to us the fairy tale of Cinderella in which the couple live happily ever after. But reality is different. We must teach young people to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. They need to watch reality shows like Emotional Atyachaar to know the ground reality,” says she.

Whenever a girl feels she is being cheated by her partner she seeks help from friends and close confidants. “Or else they write to relationship experts like me. But when they are really desperate, they approach Emotional Atyachaar. Most of the couples in the show are young, passionate, tempestuous and impatient. Couples are marrying late and as a result they are getting into relationships.”

Noting that in our male chauvinistic society we have double standards when it comes to relationship, the actor says when a man has an extra-marital relationship it is okay, but if the woman strays then it means disrespecting her partner.

Sharing her own experience, the actor says she showed the door to two partners when she discovered they were cheating on her. A celebrity does not have to approach any reality show because constant media scrutiny of the private life of celebrities ensures that they know when their partner is being unfaithful to them.

Seen as a glamorous personality, Pooja in reality is a different person. She excelled in both academics and sports while studying at a boarding school in Sanawar: “At Lawrence School, I was part of the hockey, basketball and swimming teams. Being a bright student I signed the school Book of Honour. However, I enrolled at an institute in the US where the curriculum was not as extensive and challenging as in India. Initially it was exciting but soon I got bored with all the talk about nail polish and cars.” Not surprisingly, when Pooja bumped into film-maker Jagmohan Mundhra and he promised to make her a heroine in his next movie she instantly acquiesced. “My parents Kabir and Protima Bedi were annoyed for frittering away my chances of working at the stock exchange.” Pooja's debut film Vishkanya changed her life forever. “The film was terrible, but at least it gave me a platform in the Hindi film industry. My father also starred in the film though we never shared the screen together.” Then Pooja's luck changed overnight in Aamir Khan's sports drama film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander in which she played a bold college girl.

The actor soon got typecast as a girl brought up in the West unlike conventional heroines like Sridevi and Rati Agnihotri. “But I have no regrets that I have not been portrayed as a typical sari-clad Indian heroine. My upbringing was in the West. My father, a strict disciplinarian, took me to different parts of the world. This globe-trotting exposed me to diverse cultures and interaction with creative personalities like artists and philosophers expanded my creative horizon.”

She breached the male bastion by endorsing a condom brand in a bold commercial that was far ahead of its time. “The Kama Sutra ad was aimed at creating awareness about AIDS. I also did important movies like Lootere and Phir Teri Kahaniya Yaad Aayee. Later, I got married and my husband told me to put a stop to my acting career. I became the mother of two children and later I split up with my husband.” Pooja is happy occupying an important place in the entertainment business. It has been a learning experience for her. “I joined television when few film actors dared.”

“I was offered a chance to participate as an inmate in every edition of Bigg Boss but refused every time because my children are growing up. I am an adventure freak and enjoyed participating in Khatron Ka Khiladi and dance show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. Now even supers tars like Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar are hosting television shows because they get more money on the small box than on the big screen.”

But recently the actor had a nasty experience in reality show Maa Exchange in which one of the contestants made adverse comments about the actor in front of her children. “My daughter, who had a terrible time, supported me. It taught me that you cannot expect your neighbour to give you respect. My children now know how to handle such a situation when I am not around in the house.”

Pooja played an Egyptian princess in a Telugu fantasy film Shakti released recently. “My character has magical powers. It was interesting going through the lines and uttering dialogue in Telugu.”

As a social worker, Pooja has set up The Grassroots Foundation that is involved in housing for the poor, skill training, farm reforms, education and micro finance. “Then I have also worked for Habitat for Humanity.”

Shedding light on her multi-faith background, Pooja says she is a descendant of Guru Nanak. “My grandmother was an English woman who later shaved her head and lived her life in a monastery in Sikkim. She gave me a Buddhist name, Karma Saraswati. Later, I was married to a Muslim and was renamed Noorjehan.”

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