She hasn’t been seen on Tamil screens since 2009 and her absence, inevitably, led to rumours flying thick and fast — that she had gotten married, she had quit films, she had been sidelined because she is part Sri Lankan. However, Pooja Umashankar, the diminutive actress who surprised everyone with her performance in Naan Kadavul, is now back with Vidiyum Munn, a thriller that takes place in a single day.
The first obvious question we put across to the actress is on her disappearance from Tamil films. She explains that it was a combination of factors that led to this. “After Naan Kadavul, I could have done anything that came my way and gotten away with it, but I took a conscious decision to wait till I get the right project,” she says and lists that the fact that she had to go to Sri Lanka to help out her mother and be with her aging grandparents to be another reason. “And, I also got an offer to play a princess — the exact opposite to the beggar character in Naan Kadavul — in a Sri Lankan film, Kusa-Paba,” she adds.
She says she was aware of the rumours floating around during her absence, but also lays part of the blame on herself as she was not available for people to cross check. “But, I don’t mind these rumours that have come about me as they haven’t harmed me. As long as they aren’t defaming me, I’m not bothered about rumours. You know, they linked me up with Arya at one point of time, but those are things I can laugh about,” she quips.
Did she get offers in Tamil during this time? Pooja admits that she could have missed out on some good projects as she wasn’t aware that not many in the industry had her Sri Lankan phone number. And, she adds that after Naan Kadavul, there was also a talk that she will do only performance-oriented roles. She reveals that she even got calls from people saying that they couldn’t picture her as a glam doll after that film. She says, “In fact, somebody called me and said, ‘Madam, after you did the Hamsavalli character, you stink when I think of you’.”
Pooja continues, “That upset me. But I looked at the other side and thought, ‘My God, I must have been so convincing that if they still smell the stink of Hamsavalli.’ I tried to see the positive side of such comments and get the negative out of my system.” Meanwhile, a quirk of fate, the actress feels, ensured she had to let go of one film she was offered during this time — Bala’s Paradesi.
“I had agreed to do the film, but then, the FEFSI strike happened. The film was supposed to begin around March 2012, but because of the strike, it got postponed repeatedly. The film’s shoot was supposed to end by June, but the strike went on till May. And I had to go to Australia for 15 days to attend special screenings of my Sri Lankan film. I had committed to it a year earlier, and couldn’t let my producer out in the cold. At the same time, I couldn’t ask Bala sir to wait for 15 more days as he had 150-200 junior artists ready to begin shoot. It wouldn’t have been right. So, a week before the start of Paradesi, I went to Bala sir’s office and cried. I was feeling very guilty as I had put him in a position where he was forced to find a girl at the last moment. But he was so sweet and told me, ‘Pooja, your word is more important. You should go to Australia’.”
Luckily, she didn’t have to wait long to make her Kollywood return. “I got a call from Pushkar, my Oram Po director, informing me that one of his friends, a director well-known in the LA circuit, had a script that he wanted me to listen to. When Balaji Kumar pitched me the story, I liked it instantly. I told him, ‘Don’t look for anybody else. I’ll come back to India and do the film.’ I’m so glad I said that because I’m now proud of how the film has turned out,” she signs off. (Courtesy Times of India)