Pooja Hegde
Pooja Hegde Image Credit: Supplied

He’s a palmist who can see into the future and she’s a surgeon who believes in logic and science, but sparks fly between the unlikely pair in ‘Radhe Shyam’, a sweeping period romance out in the UAE on March 11.

If your eyebrows just shot up at the preposterous story line, then actress Pooja Hegde, who plays the protagonist in this star-crossed romance with actor Prabhas, will bring you down a peg or two.

“This film will challenge your brain … It’s a new take on love stories. And I love love stories and I just love love …I have grown up watching love stories and I even started a foundation called ‘All About Love’. So you know how I am committed the cause of love, right,” said Hegde in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

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Pooja Hegde Image Credit: Supplied

The actress, who made her acting debut in a Tamil superhero film ‘Mugamoodi’ in 2012, grew up on a staple of romances such as Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ and ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ and believes that love — not just limited to what you feel for your partner — has incredible healing and magical powers.

“Love is the most powerful form of magic that’s out there now … When I saw those films it just brought a smile to my face and made me believe that love is the most powerful emotion … If somebody is gone and you can still feel their presence and your love for them, then isn’t love truly magical?” she adds.

In her upcoming labour of love ‘Radhe Shyam’, she is going gowns blazing as she proves that eternal love and soulmates can never go extinct. But the film was a test to her patience, just like how true love happens to those who wait.

Prabhas and Pooja Hegde in 'Radhe Shyam'
Prabhas and Pooja Hegde in 'Radhe Shyam' Image Credit: Phars Films

The big-budget spectacle was offered to her four years ago and saw multiple delays owing to the pandemic that ravaged the globe. But she doesn’t regret a single minute spent making this film happen. In ‘Radhe Shyam’, she plays the pragmatic and strong-willed doctor Prerna who finds love and companionship in a legendary palmist (played by superstar Prabhas) who predicts a dark twist to her life.

“When I read the script, I loved the girl’s role. It was amazing to read a script where the girl was so powerful. Even though it’s a period film set in the ‘80s, Prerna is someone who thinks like those empowered girls of today. And, in a commercial film to play such an important role is something that I was really attracted to,” said Hegde.

Her road to stardom: 

But it wasn’t always this easy for the self-made star. While she followed up her Tamil film debut with a Telugu film ‘Ok Laila Kosam’ opposite Naga Chaitanya Akkineni and topped it off with her Bollywood debut in director Ashutosh Gowariker’s ‘Mohenjo Daro’, she remembers a time when the film offers weren’t flooding in. 2022 sees her clocking a decade in this entertainment industry.

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Pooja Hegde in her Hindi acting debut with Hrithik Roshan 'Mohenjo Daro' Image Credit: Supplied

“It’s funny when people say that I just completed a decade because I don’t feel it … My journey has been like a roller coaster ride and it had its ups and downs. It was hard and there were 360 degree spins. After my first film, there was almost a year where I didn’t have any work coming to me whatsoever,” said Hegde. The entertainment industry in India has come under the radar for being increasingly hostile to outsiders and for being nepotistic.

But Hegde doesn’t dwell on the negatives, but she admits that drama seems to follow her everywhere. She points out that she has a lean but potent catalogue of films and that every project that she has been a part of has been eventful and altered her life for the good.

“Two years of my life just went into ‘Mohenjo Daro’ and then two years of my life went with the pandemic … So I don’t feel like I have been here long.”

As expected, ‘Radhe Shyam’ which was shot ‘before, during, and after the pandemic’, was a challenging project. Hegde tells us that she flew into Georgia in Europe just when the pandemic had sprung up for the first time and was taking the world by storm. Nobody knew the extent of damage it would have wreaked back then.

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Pooja Hegde and Prabhas in 'Radhe Shyam' Image Credit: Supplied

“My crew was already in Georgia just before India announced their first lock down … At that time we didn’t know how serious it was all going to be … I remember my family calling me up asking me not to go to Georgia in the midst of a pandemic approaching. They kept saying films can be made later and your life is more important,” said Hegde. She didn’t listen.

While she chose to travel to Georgia, she remembers giving her hairstylist who was due to fly with her the option of backing off from the project.

“I remember calling up my hairstylist and saying: ‘you know, if you don’t want to go, I understand because I know you have family at home and I will leave it to you.’ But for me, I was like, my crew is waiting for me. I never wanted my producers to lose any money,” said Hegde. But her plans went awry nonetheless.

Two days into the shoot in Georgia and the entire crew had to rush back to India before the country went into an indefinite lock down.

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Pooja Hegde Image Credit: Supplied

“We had to scram and book tickets in time and head to an airport where there were not many souls except a few who were wearing gloves and mask... But it was all worth it,” said Hegde.

Nothing came easy: 

Perhaps the decision stick with this film also stemmed from Hegde’s awareness that she has worked her way up in the competitive industry. Nothing came easy to her, she points out.

“Remember people aren’t going to give you opportunities every single time to prove yourself. People don’t give you films on a platter … We have to learn to pick what comes to you and create a path for yourself and figure it all out … I never went into any acting school. I just learned on the job.”

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Pooja Hegde Image Credit: Supplied

During her first film, she remembers how she was confused when the crew threw technical terms her way. But every film and every shot helped her evolve as an actor.

“I learned by watching people around me …Just being on the set every day helped me evolve … My first film just went in understanding the basic technical terms … But ‘Radhe Shyam’ was a life changing experience for me. A bit of my soul is left behind in this film.”

Hegde’s quick take on …
A recent film that gave her the feels: ‘Rang De Basanti’. I just saw it again and I felt all the emotions in that film even now.

Love in the times of dating apps like Tinder: “Tinder age exists but I know a lot of people who have found lasting love through dating apps … I just had my best friend get married this week and she found her soulmate on a dating app.”

The best part about playing Prerna in ‘Radhe Shyam’: “She’s stubborn, strong-headed, and is all hearts. She knows what she wants, yet she’s childlike in many ways.”

I spent four years of my life working on ‘Radhe Shyam’ and it was great. The film has made me a stronger person and has made me more resilient. It has made me realise my own willpower … And this is no period saga with women wearing lehengas [embellished ethnic full skirt] and ghungats [veil], it’s a different period film.

- Pooja Hegde on how 'Radhe Shyam' will be different from other period epics

Don't Miss It

‘Radhe Shyam’ is out in UAE cinemas on March 11