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Screen presence

SAJINI V. SAHADEVAN

Pooja's first film in Malayalam, `Pandaya Kozhi,' has her singing the praises of the Malayalam film industry.



MAKING A MARK: Pooja says working in `Pandaya Kozhi' was a wonderful experience.

Grounded, vivacious and sincere - that's Pooja for you. A string of Tamil movies, a couple of Sri Lankan films and now a role in `Pandaya Kozhi.'

Pooja's tryst with the big screen began with a friend introducing her to director Jeeva, which landed her the role of an Anglo-Indian girl in `Ullam Ketkume.'

Pooja had her mind set on a job and the film didn't make her rethink her decision either. "I said to myself I'd act in just this film, see what it's like, make good use of the money and get back to studying," she recalls. But soon after she was offered a role opposite Madhavan in `Jay, Jay.'

"Who'd say no to starring with an actor like him? I had to give in," she says. She later worked with the actor again in `Thambi.' Soon there was `Attagasam' with Ajith, followed by `Pattiyal' with Arya and Bharath.

"These actors have helped me at the professional and the personal level because they have contributed, perhaps inadvertently, to improving my performance as an actor. Knowing them has made me a better human being as they have certain qualities that I felt I should also imbibe. The industry has taught me so much. If I were to work within the walls of an office I'd be answerable to just one boss. But here, I am answerable to a different boss every day. It helps sharpen your senses and you develop a heightened sense of awareness about dealing with different kinds of people.

"Each day I'm enthused, knowing I'll learn something new. I love the spontaneity," she says.

She feels at ease on the sets whether in Kerala or Sri Lanka. "The place is so much like Kerala. The landscape, the cuisine, the attire and of course the sets where the work is done within a schedule of 30 days," she says and adds, "the industry in Sri Lanka isn't as huge as the one here but it has it's own value."

Realistic stories

The actor is all praise for Mollywood. "Malayalam cinema holds an elevated position. Its realistic stories win the films a respect that is hard to come by in any other industry. Even Sri Lankan directors were thrilled to hear that I was working in a Malayalam movie," she gushes. She recalls watching films like `Akarae, akarae, akarae.' "I remember watching Malayalam movies as a child. The humour is distinct and comes naturally to the actors," she says occasionally managing a few words in Malayalam.

" On the sets of `Pandaya Kozhi,' Narain, Sudheesh and the others would call me over and have me pronounce words in Malayalam and have a hearty laugh!," she smiles. Working with Lal in the Tamil film `Oram Po' led to her signing up for the role of Chempakam in `Pandaya Kozhi.'

Pooja has her head on her shoulders and is not one to get carried away by the world of glitz and glamour. "I know there are plenty of pretty and talented girls who deserve to be in the industry. I've been lucky to be at the right place at the right time," she points out.

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