How Pooja Devariya's kathe began
From knowing only basic Kannada to taking on a lead role in a Kannada film, Pooja Devariya tells us how she hired a tutor and took lessons from her grandmother to get the diction right
When a beautiful story takes the priority over language, it can make actors cross borders. Pooja Devariya, who is making her Kannada debut with Senna Hegde's directorial debut, Katheyondu Shuruvagide, is glad to start her journey in the industry with a significant role.
Only a few know about the actor's connect with Karnataka. Though born and brought up in Chennai, her mother is a Kannadiga, which makes her familiar with the language. Despite knowing Kannada, Pooja's first challenge was to get the voice modulation right. "Since the director preferred recording the dialogues at the time of filming (sync sound), instead of opting to dub, it was quite a challenge. I am familiar with the language, though I haven't had a chance to speak it much," she says, adding, "To get the pronunciation and diction right, I had a tutor in addition to the director helping me. Having a natural flair for languages also helped."
A white lie to get the role
"My first conversation about Katheyondu Shuruvagide with director Senna Hegde was entirely in English. After 40 minutes, he asked me whether I knew Kannada, and went on to say, 'Otherwise there is no point in having this conversation'. At that point, I said 'yes', confidently, but immediately clarified that I don't speak it on regular basis. I later got help from my grandmother and a bunch of people. I was trying to constantly talk in Kannada even in the flight. So much so, the person next to me asked me whether I was okay. Senna knew my Kannada was raw but appreciated the effort I was putting in. I had the entire script with dialogues a month-and-a-half before the film started which helped."
With her theatre background, Pooja knows that practice makes one perfect. "Being a decade-old in theatre, I am used to memorising lengthy dialogues for two-hour-long plays. There are no retakes in the theatre, so a lot of practice goes into it. I also look at films in the same way because at the end of the day, even though theatre and cinema are completely different platforms, the fundamentals remain the same. If I am able to face the camera confidently, it's only because of my theatre experience," she says.
As she prepares to celebrate her 27th birthday tomorrow, Pooja says that she is able to connect to a film like Katheyondu Shuruvagide, that is relatable to those going through mid-life crisis or even quarter-life crisis. "This is a neat romantic comedy and doesn't involve any kind of physical intimacy. All of it is brought out through conversations and expressions," she says about the film which caters to different age groups. "Ashwin Rao Pallakki and Shreya Anchan cater to those in their 20s, Tarun and Tanya (my character) to those in their 30s, and Aruna Balraj and Babu Hirannaiah to the 50 plus age group."
'I have no inhibitions'
About her on-screen chemistry with her co-star Diganth, she says that she was the first to break the ice. "I have no inhibitions to go up and speak with anybody. Though we were introduced formally, we made sure see each others films. From his two films--Lifeu Ishtene and Pancharangi--I got an idea of the kind of films he has done. Diganth also helped with my Kannada in this film," she says.
Pooja admits that she is very picky when it comes to choosing roles, which is why even though she made her debut in 2011, her next only came out five years later in 2016. She didn't sign any script until her second project came by in Tamil because she felt none of the rest were worth her time. So, when Senna offered her a film of her liking, she heaved a sigh of relief. "Finally, somebody was offering me a subject that interested me," says the actor, who adds that having gone through the different mediums of art - theatre, digital content and acting, she doesn't have a race to run. "My big year in the film industry was 2016, when I had great stories pouring in. When Raskhit Shetty (producer of the film along with Pushkar Mallikarjunaiah) referred my name for Katheyondu Shuruvagide, I was so happy."
At no point after signing the film did she look back, thanks to a lively set atmosphere, and helpful cast and crew. "I got a chance to observe what was going on behind the scenes. There was so much emphasis on details that the director and DoP, Sreeraj Raveendran, knew each and every angle that suited the film best. Every scene was discussed before being shot. And, there was no hierarchy. Everyone's suggestions were taken into consideration," she tells us.