Pooja Hegde can rarely be spotted without her ornate headgear in the snatches available online of Mohenjo Daro . “I wore headgear with flowers, even gold,” she says. “They were really heavy. The one with gold would give me a splitting headache within five to ten minutes of wearing it. The others would trigger a headache in 15 minutes. If you look at the videos of making of the film, you’ll see me resting my head or holding my head with my hands.”
The 25-year-old plays Channi, who people consider the chosen one or ‘ navlokani ’. The way she’s dressed in the film, she says, reflects why she’s different from the rest. “People believe that Channi will be the one to usher in a new order; one for the better, in Mohenjo Daro,” she says. “They treat her like a girl who has magical powers. How does one separate the chosen one from the rest? Ashutosh Gowariker felt I should be dressed differently, I wore costumes made of shells, metal and beads.” Mohenjo Daro needed costume designers equal to the task. So, Neeta Lulla stepped in, along with April Ferry, who designed for the sixth season of the epic HBO fantasy Games of Thrones.
Mohenjo Daro is Hegde’s big-ticket entry into Hindi cinema. She is eager to see how two years of her work will be received. When she signed the film, she didn’t know it would take this long.
The actor did realise, however, that she would not be able to work on other projects. “I am bound by a contract to not accept other films until Mohenjo Daro ’s release,” she says. She had to turn down offers for Telugu and Tamil films, including one from Mani Ratnam. “I was so upset. It’s like a dream to work with him and I had to say no.”
It wasn’t easy for her to move away from the Telugu and Tamil film industries, after being a part of films like Mugamoodi (Mysskin’s Tamil superhero film), Oka Laila Kosam and Mukunda . “I really miss working in Telugu and Tamil. Fans there adore you,” she says. “I had to say no to some good projects with brilliant actors and directors. When Mohenjo Daro came to me, I decided to go by my gut instincts. If something big comes up, you need to give it that time and effort.”
Gowariker’s wife Sunita happened to notice Hegde in a commercial opposite Ranbir Kapoor. The actor auditioned and eventually got selected for the role. In the pre-production stage, Hegde was filled with questions. But “Gowariker had the answers to all of them. He has researched extensively,” Hegde says. “His office is filled with books. We could ask him anything about that era and he would explain. He has an eye for detail. He met many archaeologists while planning the film.” Hegde says the film isn’t a historical retelling but a fictional drama. “Channi and other characters are figments of Gowariker’s imagination. Unlike Jodha, for which you can find references in books, there’s nothing about these characters.”
Breaking the ice
The actor says she was nervous when she first met Hrithik Roshan on the sets. “He’s so good looking and talented. I didn’t want to end up feeling inadequate on screen.” A photo shoot helped break the ice.
When it came to dancing, she practiced at length to match up to Roshan. “For some reason, while doing the photo shoot, he kept asking me when I’d have to leave and what time my flight was. He was surprised when I told him I live in Bandra. I was born and brought up in Mumbai.”
Hegde’s roots are in Karnataka. “If my mom came to the sets, we would speak in Tulu and no one would understand. It’s an advantage when you know any south Indian language.”