Actor-director Pooja Bhatt, who was last in theatrical release Zakhm in 1999 is back with a bang with R. Balki’s directorial feature Chup… that released on September 23. The actress plays a criminal psychologist in the film. In an exclusive candid chat with The Free Press Journal, Pooja talks about alcoholism, depression, what made her choose Chup… as her comeback and much more. Excerpts:
How it feels to be back on silver screen after Zakhm?
The casting agent called me and pitched me my part and informed that R. Balki is directing it. I met him and found an interesting ensemble. He then sent me the script, I read it and loved it. It was quirky, audacious, and darkly funny. My character in Zenobia in Chup is totally different than Rani in Bombay Begums. Balki also brought my Dil Hai… curls back (laughs).
How did your OTT debut with Bombay Begums happen in 2021?
I got Bombay Begums, when I was really not looking to act, it just came to me. I was working with my father on Sadak 2 around that time. I had the privilege to assist my father. I directed few films not because I wanted to tell a story, I wanted to learn everything since I wanted to own a production studio. I should I know the craft and I don’t wanted to be dependent on anyone so I taught the art of filmmaking to myself, however, direction is not my calling card. I love designing films. I said for the show earlier but they came back to me after 3 months.
How has been your life so far post sabbatical?
I am in the most beautiful phase of my life. I used to love to drink and I drank openly but since life gave me the second shot, I haven’t touched it for the last six years. I realised, that alcohol was being used to escape but I just pulled the plug one day. I got the new direction to my life, the neediness as a woman diminished. I believed a bottle of champagne and a toxic relationship is equivalent. Till the time you use something or someone to fill up a vacuum in your heart, you are an addict.
Post leaving alcohol, for the first time, I discovered single blessedness where I learned to sit with myself, understood my weaknesses, my strengths etc. and I would be able to forgive myself. I got a lot more clarity during the lockdown, I was alone and living in my farmhouse else I would have cracked up. I was drinking and I got a certain kind of negativity, in regards to Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. I was sober and put a lot of my demons to rest.
Your roles in the 1990s were all solid women-centric once be it Sadak or Tamanna. How do you see the current scenario?
Even Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi for that matter, I was telling my dad the other day when he was playing Tere Dar Par Sanam, that for some strange reason, we keep forgetting this film in our filmography. In those, people used to ask that why we make female-centric movies? Starting from Arth, my father has always portrayed women in a very different way. When I decided to produce Jism that even worked, it wasn’t for the erotica but it had love, infidelity of our times. I even feel Jism 2 was very tame in a lot of ways, it was traditional than the first part.
You still have an immense fan following from the film Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin. Your thoughts?
I still do have that very famous black dress with those pinks petals on it for posterity purpose. I took it from the Vishesh Films’ costume trunk. I think, it’s not about any individual, the film offered various reasons for people to come to cinema halls that resonated with them. Most of the people had their first crushes or they were on their first dates, perhaps, the film got even more significance. Nostalgia is a drug.