A dancer with Olympic dreams!
Pooja Kanwal is fast becoming a rising star on television. Her show Palampur Express, a daily show on Sony Entertainment Television, is becoming quite popular, thanks to its unique story of a girl's dream to become an Olympic runner.
This may be her first show but she is not new to showbiz. Daughter of popular actress Anita Kanwal, Pooja has been appearing in ads and films since the age of 17. She had debuted with the Rajashri film, Uff Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai in 2004.
The 24-year-old has done South, Punjabi and Pakistani films as well.
Rajul Hegde caught up with the young star on the sets of Palampur Express to know more.
What made you take up this show?
I couldn't resist this offer because it sounded so original and innovative. I always wanted to do author-backed roles. This show is different and I didn't want to do a regular kind of indoor show. I was very clear that when I do television, it has to revolve around the main protagonist. I'm getting to do that here, and it's a very progressive show. It gives incentives to young girls to make a mark in this field. And now, television is as big as films. I am glad to be part of such an encouraging show.
Are you a sports person?
No. I have always been a dancer [she's been dancing for 11 years]. For eight years I learnt western dance and then moved on to Kathakali because it has more dimension. Any classical form of dance helps actresses.
But I am a fitness freak. I had tried my hand at martial arts when I was seven-eight years old. I have always been into some form of physical activity but not sports.
I was training to become an actress, so I took up dance and plays in school and college.
Image: Pooja Kanwal
'You need not be a sportsperson to be runner'
Since you are not a sports person, did you take any training to get the right body language of an athlete?
Yes. My coach Deenatha gave me training in running. I practice whenever I have time.
Do you follow a diet to keep fit?
I don't eat too much because I don't know when I'm required to run. I make it a point to eat small portions during breaks.
You were supposed to take tips from India' sprint queen P T Usha?
We were supposed to go to Delhi for the press conference to meet her. But it got postponed.
Have you done any kind of homework to play this character?
I have been given DVDs of runners. I carry them almost everyday and watch them on my laptop whenever I am free.
Did you have to run for the audition?
No. I was asked to do basic stretches. I think they chose me because they liked my acting. I fit the age group they wanted and also because of my dancing. They wanted someone with a toned and flexible body, which I had because of my dancing. To be a runner you need not be a sportsperson but need to have the right body language and stamina. You can have a good body even with dancing [smiles].
Image: Pooja Kanwal
'Sports has worked very well in Bollywood'
How much do you identity with your character Pavani?
Pavani and I have a lot of similarities because we have the same kind of drive and madness to achieve our goal.
Did you think the audience would accept this serial because it is an unexplored genre on television?
Of course. Sports, as a concept, has worked very well in Bollywood. Look at Lagaan, Iqbal, Chak De! India... they have all become superhits.
Will the story remain the same or change to a love story?
Absolutely. Pavani is 18 years old so she will have her share of crushes and guys falling for her. This show is about her journey and all these people who are in the show are part of her journey.
You have done Pakistani, Punjabi and South films. Does it mean films will take a backseat now?
I have just completed a song for my Punjabi film in Manali last week. I have also finished shooting for my Hindi film Blue Oranges. It's a murder mystery with Rajat Kapoor, Harsh Chhaya and Rajat Sharma. With this kind of routine, it is not possible to take up any films now. This is my 62nd consecutive day of shooting. Pavani needs all my time.
Image: Pooja Kanwal
'The response to the show is mindblowing'
How long will this show run?
Nobody knows the exact period but it will definitely run for a year.
What is the kind of response you have got for this show?
It is mindblowing and more than what I expected. I heard that Ladies Special and our show are neck-to-neck. I don't know the numbers. Whenever I go out, people recognise me. My distant relatives whom I have probably not met are calling me asking what will happen next in the story. I am very happy with the kind of response we are getting.
Do you enjoy shooting for television?
I am happiest when I'm shooting because it's my profession. It all depends on the role and what I'm doing.
Are you a sports enthusiast?
I don't watch sports. But since I'm doing this show, I make an effort to watch races.
What do you watch on television?
I used to watch Balika Vadu. Now, I watch my show.
Image: A scene from Palampur Express