Like many former beauty pageant winners, Pooja Chopra too was drawn to the arc lights. But she took her own sweet time to choose the film that would be her launch pad. Finally, it was Vipul Shah’s Commando that grabbed her attention. Chopra talks about her journey from being Miss India to becoming an actress, and discusses some memorable moments while shooting Commando.
I lived in Kolkata before I moved to Pune. After completing my education, I wanted to take part in the Miss India pageant and I had to work really hard to do that. At the time, I was focused on modelling.
On Winning Miss India
Obviously, I had no idea that I would win although I had always dreamt about it. I was so speechless that it took a whole week to sink in. You know, after you win a contest like that, there’s so much else that happens that you don’t get any time with yourself. So, after a week, I sat down alone and kept looking at the crown. I was thrilled. I was actually living my dream!
Every Miss India ends up making a career in the entertainment industry and films is the logical next step. But even after I was crowned Miss India in 2009, I didn’t take on any projects. For the first year, every winner of the pageant is bound by a one-year contract and cannot sign any projects. After that, instead of jumping onto the Bollywood bandwagon, I chose to take acting classes to learn the art of acting and dance. I decided to take the plunge only when I felt I was ready. I was offered a few projects before Commando came along and, looking back, I think I made the right decision.
This might sound clichéd but Commando was a dream project for me because it was exactly the kind of character I wanted to play – cheerful, full of life, always happy and a lively Punjabi girl, a character that is very similar to me. People assume the film is a hardcore action film but it isn’t. It has action as well as masala and romance. Action is the USP of the film because Vidyut Jamwal is trained in action and we haven’t used either body doubles or cables while shooting. But it has a strong female character too, which I am playing.
To be honest, I didn’t choose Commando on the strength of the script. You see, I wanted to be associated with an established face or name while making my debut. Since I am a newcomer, I don’t really know how to analyse a script. But when Commando was offered to me, it had Vipul Shah’s name attached to it, which is one of the biggest reasons I chose this film.
There were so many tough scenes but I made sure I did everything the director expected of me. Since watching me on screen is my mother’s dream, I worked very hard. Scenes like running in a thick jungle are not easy, that too with Vidyut being so physically fit. My ankles used to hurt so much! But, as they say, no pain, no gain. Then, there was this scene where I had to take a 40-foot dive. It’s never easy to jump when you know just how deep it is. After that scene, I felt an adrenaline rush and it really was great.
Another challenging scene was while shooting the Saawan bairi song as it required no lip sync or display of any facial expressions. Not smiling was the biggest challenge because I am always laughing. Speaking with my eyes in that song was a huge challenge. I did so many photo shoots and watched many videos to prepare for that song.
Our team is almost new, from the composer to the actors to the director. Energy levels were very high because, for a newcomer, it is make or break. My co-stars Vidyut and Jaideep (Ahlawat) were very supportive. They have done a few films but this one will bring them fame. Having a supportive co-star is very important in your first film because they will make allowances simply because there’s so much you don’t know.