Interview By: Drishti Pandey

Pooja Chopra, who won Femine Miss India world 2009, and after doing a successful debut with ‘Commando’ gradually winning hearts by her confident acting skills; talks about her journey from being a model to a self believing diva who won the crowning glory that eventually brought her to the glamorous world of cinema. Read on…

“I’m a director’s actor”

How did films happen to you? 

After winning Miss India, films fell into my laps easily because the next gradual progression is films. So it wasn’t a fight or a struggle to get into it. But on the other hand I don’t have anyone to guide me and advise me to which films I should pick up. So I took my own time to choose the script of whatever little understanding I had and I went ahead with it and that’s how it all started.

Was ‘Commando’ the genre you would ideally choose to debut? 

I didn’t have any pre conceive notion or anything in my mind to what I want my ideal debut to be; but when I heard the script, I liked the story and when I heard my part; which was very interesting. It wasn’t something about just look good and dance around trees. Simrit was a very strong girl and she fights against the villain and also the other side bubbly, happy character so I liked all of that. Plus the markers were very good so that’s how I went ahead for my first film.

You’ve done a Tamil film so how was your experience down south and how different was a Hindi film as compared to it?

It is quite different and I totally enjoy working in Bollywood because there’s always a language barrier there, so it’s tough to understand the language and to emote in that language. It gets a little difficult and challenging. It’s always nice to act and emote in the language that you interpret and understand. Although the technicians are very good and they have amazing stories down south. But I totally enjoy doing Bollywood films.

 How matured have you grown as an actor after doing ‘Commando’? And how has the scenario been after that?

It’s been three years after ‘Commando’ and after that I’ve done ‘Yeh Toh Two Much Ho Gaya’ and after that I’ve done ‘Ouch’, so I think with every film I’ve grown  and have learnt about myself, about the craft of working with different people. So it’s like learning things everyday when I’m on locations. I wouldn’t say I’m much matured as an actor and I can get up with any challenging role but yes I’m learning everyday that I’m spending on locations and sets. Right now I’m shooting for ‘Tom Dick and Harry 2’ so it’s a learning process which is on.

How did you come onboard for ‘Ouch’, how was the Collaboration with Neeraj Pandey and your Co-star Manoj Bajpayee?

I have been waiting to work with Neeraj Pandey since a long time, to that matter we were suppose to  work on ‘Baby’ together and I was suppose to play the role of Priya but unfortunately I had met with an accident and I couldn’t be a part of it; that will be one of my biggest regrets. Because I have always admired him and his body of work, I mean he’s a very good director and he makes meaningful, real films, and I’ve always enjoyed watching his films.  So what happened was he fortunately remembered me and my audition from ‘Baby’ so he called me and told me about this short film and also that he will be directing it and then asked me if I’ll be interested in doing a short film with him; I was like yes definitely. And then script reading and all formalities started and finally my dream came true of working with Neeraj Pandey happened. I still want to work with him in a feature film because this was just a short film, so I was really happy about it and I had this thing in my heart that I have to work really hard and leave no stone unturned and perform to the best of my capability in ‘Ouch’. And my collaboration with Manoj sir was so that when I came to know he is my co-star; I really had cold feet because he is one of those actors in front of you, who know it’s very difficult for an actor to stand to hold their own because he’s such a good actor that any other actor will find it tough to hold the screens, but fortunately he turned out to be a very encouraging co-star so he totally supported me and he encouraged me to perform to the best of my abilities and I guess it’s seen  in the film. So now I think, I was fan of his work but now I’m a fan of him as a person. He is a wonderful person to work with.

“I want to experiment all kinds of characters but maybe I want to play a negative role”

Do you think digital market is getting wider and very much recognized in the industry?

It’s the future, it’s the next step. It’s progressing really fast in all aspects, to the fact that since ‘Ouch’ has been out and it’s barely been a week and it has hit some 3 million views, so it shows that it is an industry on its own. It shows that it is one of the medium for sure and definitely has a very bright future.

 What is that one thing you a passionate about?  

One thing that I’m really passionate about is the process of when I’m working on the sets, during the shoots every day. When I’m putting my efforts in playing a character; that is the feeling that I want to wake up and feel everyday that really makes me feel good. I’m really passionate about the craft and the making of a person, a personality, initially I didn’t know I wanted to be an actor, it happened after Miss India. But I only discovered after acting; that this is something I totally truly enjoy.

Do you have a wish list of directors?

Neeraj Pandey is definitely on top of the list; ‘Ouch’ was just a starter. The next thing what I’m looking forward to work with Neerja Pandey in a feature film and other directors I would really want to work with some day would be Imtiaz Ali, I really admire his work, Ayan Mukerji, really understands the sensibility of a person and I enjoy his movies. Rajkumar Hirani I guess is one director who’s in everybody’s wish list.

 Any desired genres you would like to work on?

I want to experiment all kinds of characters but maybe I want to play a negative role. May be a mentally challenged character; something like in the film ‘Barfi’ which Priyanka has acted.

How has your learning been so far?

Every day is a learning process for me, every day I go on the sets and I learn something new but definitely the people who you work with your director, co-stars definitely add up and enrich your knowledge that you have and make the entire experience very enriching.  Because working with people who have good body of work; so I have learnt a lot from them and picked up a lot. It depends on who you’re working with and they make the entire process enriching. So that is my constant effort and I always look to people who can help me learn because I don’t come from the industry; so I have to learn the job. I’ve been always lucky to work with good people. And now also when I’m working with Deepak Tijori he has a body of work, also has been an actor, so he totally understands you as an actor, he helps me in all the ways. I’m a director’s actor. Whatever the director will tell me to do; ill do that.

What coming up next?

 ‘Tom Dick and Harry 2’ will be the next immediate thing which the audience will see me in. And before that if any other short interesting film comes my way I’ll do that; because short films doesn’t take 6 to 8 months to work on. So if hopefully that happens then they will be seeing in that.

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