Lankan Sinhala men more handsome than India
By Chamitha Kuruppu
She is a wonderful combination of beauty and brains. Pooja Gauthami Umashankar is the latest sweetheart in Sinhala cinema. Her charming personality, hypnotic smile and down-to-earth qualities make this vivacious actress stand out from the rest of the crop.
Pooja was here in Sri Lanka last week for the premiere of her latest film Yahaluwo and 50 day celebrations of Asai Mang Piyabanna. And when Lakbimanews caught up with her, during her three - day stay in Sri Lanka, she was more than eager to talk about her upcoming films, Sri Lankan roots as well as controversies surrounding her.
She wasn`t in one of her glamorous outfits, but still looked beautiful in the maroon kurtha type top with her tresses let loose. ?In my next movie I want to have wavy hair, so I will look more Sri Lankan,? she says.
Daughter of Sandhya Hemachandra and Indian businessman Ram Rao Umashankar, Pooja was born in Bambalapitiya. At the age of three, Pooja along with her family went back to India where her parents lived. Her childhood was spent in a hostel but she doesn`t complain. According to her mother, Pooja was a rare child who enjoyed hostel life.
Shy and studious
?I loved my glass of milk back in the hostel. I knew they mixed water with the milk. But I loved that watery taste. I used to hate the thick milk mother gave me when I came home for holidays,?she recalls.
She was a shy and studious child who only concentrated on getting good grades to please her parents. ?My father always said if I don`t study well he will make me live with my grandparents in the village. I didn`t want to run after cattle or spend my life in a boring village far away. So I made it a point to study well to be a businessman like my father,? says Pooja. Becoming an actress was not even one of the wildest dreams of this once shy damsel. But lady luck smiled on her, changing her career path from businesswoman to film star. While studying for her MBA in Human Resources Management and Marketing ? Pooja was spotted by director Jeeva who was looking for a fresh face for his latest film. ?I was shopping that day when director Jeeva came to me and offered a role in his new movie. I was thrilled as well as hesitant,? Pooja notes.
?I only had to work for ten days. And the money they offered was a big amount for me at that time. Would you believe it, I thought I could deposit the money in a bank and live on the interest till I die,? she says laughing like a kid.
Her maiden film Ullam Ketkume made her a star loved by everyone in South India. But it was her stunning performance in Attagasam that opened doors to this beautiful actress to get into Sinhala cinema. Actor-turned director, Channa Perera who was looking for an actress for his maiden film Angelika was stunned by her performance in Attagasam. And when he got to know that Pooja`s mother was a Sri Lankan he knew Pooja would definitely fit the role.
Pooja`s mother fell in love with the script. Pooja`s grandparents who had watched all her Tamil movies although they couldn`t understand the language were thrilled to finally see their grand daughter in a Sinhala film. ?I wanted to make my grandparents happy. So I decided to do Angelika. But I never thought I would continue to work in Sri Lanka,? notes Pooja.
This cine wonder has worked in three Sri Lankan productions of which two became hits. Her latest film Yahaluwo directed by Sumithra Peries started screening on Thursday.
Pooja who has visited Sri Lanka every Christmas, today complains she rarely gets an opportunity to be with her relatives. ?I am working 24/7. I miss being with my grandparents and my relatives.?
Although she loves to sleep, Pooja says she is compelled to wake up by five in the morning to be ready for shooting. Once she is back at home after shooting she makes sure to spend some time in the gym. ?I have my dinner and go to bed by 10 pm because I have to wake up early the next day. I wish I could sleep longer. I loooove to sleep.?Once a great fan of ambul thiyal, bean curry and many Sri Lankan dishes, Pooja says after suffering from chicken guniya last December, she can no more stand the smell of Sri Lankan food. ?When I was sick, my mother made all sorts of Sri Lankan dishes and the smell made me want to throw up. I am still not over that and other than Kiribath I can`t stand the smell of most Sri Lankan food.?
Well, it can`t be only Sri Lankan food that she cannot stand - what about criticism from Sri Lankan actresses who talk ill about Indian actresses invading the Sinhala cinema? ?I know there are a lot of allegations. But that is human nature! When there is competition people tend to make such allegations.
I am happy I am above that. I am not a part of the competition. If Sri Lankans decide they want me out by tomorrow I am okay with that. I am different and I am happy about that!? she says and her self confidence surfaces.
Who are your closest friends in the film industry, we queried. ? Well ... I thought I had so many close friends and I was so fond of them. But I soon realised that they were talking behind my back, talking ill about me. So I am unable to tell who are close to me. But I really like Nirosha Perera, Muthu Tharanga and Gangu Roshana. Roshan Ranawana is a good friend and a real gentleman. Sanath aiya (Sanath Gunatilake) and Rosy akka (Rosy Senanayake
) are not friends, they are mentors. I find them nice people to be with,? Pooja says.
She believes Sri Lankan men are more handsome than Indian men. ?I like their brownish complexion,? she says. Will she marry a Sri Lankan and settle down in Sri Lanka. ?No. no, I want my samba, rasam and dosai,? she says adding ?I was brought up in that culture. I want to spend my life in India that is where my heart lies.?