Within a short period of time, Poornima Bhagyaraj managed to impress the audience with the girl-next-door image and her impeccable acting skills.
Within a short period of time, Poornima Bhagyaraj managed to impress the audience with the girl-next-door image and her impeccable acting skills. She was a part of several hit films in Tamil and had even acted in Hindi, Malayalam and Telugu in the first half of the 80s before her marriage to acclaimed director-actor Bhagyaraj. In a candid chat, the actress looks back at her memorable career, her decision to quit acting after the wedding and a lot more about her love life with Bhagyaraj. The excerpts.
Ticket to the silver screen
I grew up watching a lot of Hindi films, as I pursued my schooling in Mumbai. During my ninth grade, I expressed my wish to act in films to my dance master, who later suggested my name to Hema Malini’s mother, Jaya Chakravarthy. After a few months, she asked me whether I was interested to watch the shooting of Dharmendra’s film, Dhillagi. I agreed and went for the shoot. Basu Chatterjee, the director of the film, saw me and asked if I was interested to play one of the characters in the film. I agreed, and that’s how my career started. Dhillagi was shot for more than three years and by then, I started going to college. Meanwhile, I shot for a film, titled Paheli, in 1977. It was released even before Dhillagi.
I think my mom was very much interested to watch me on screen. She accompanied me to shoots. In fact, both my dad and mom were my pillars of support as they had always respected my dreams.
Even before the release of my first Hindi film, I signed for a Tamil film with director K Balachander. I was called for a screen test and got selected. I was excited to act in the film because Kamal sir was signed for the lead role. What more I can ask for? To make a Tamil debut with Balachander and Kamal sir would have been a dream of sorts for any aspiring actresses. Unfortunately, Kamal sir fractured his leg and was unable to shoot for the film. Balachander asked me to wait for six months. I waited for two years, but it didn’t materialise. That’s when I decided to move on and went ahead with another Tamil film.
Turning point in career
In 1980, I was called for a screen test for a Malayalam film, Manjil Virinja Pookal, in Mumbai. I was initially hesitant to sign the film, as I had no idea about the Malayalam film industry. But LV Prasad sir’s son informed me that it’s a beautiful script, and motivated me to sign the film. The makers said that I had to travel to Kodaikanal for the shoot and stay there for 25 days. As days passed by, I understood the depth of my character and gave my best shot. Unexpectedly, the film became a huge hit in Kerala, and I was conferred Kerala State Award for Best Actress. There was no looking back after the film’s success. I got a lot of offers from Malayalam and Tamil films. Noting my performance in MVP, Durai sir signed me for his Kilinjalgal. This film gave me a break in Kollywood. I got married to Bhagyaraj when I was at the top of the game.
My association with Bhagyaraj started from the film, Darling Darling Darling. To be honest, I had no idea of getting into a relationship, as I was busy with films. I worked on double shifts as I had a lot of projects on hand. Bhagyaraj, who lost his first wife Praveena, asked me whether I am interested to marry him. I asked him to meet my parents and discuss it. They were okay with the proposal as they found him very loveable and honest. Moreover, I don’t want to miss someone like him and immediately agreed to marry him. Even though I was at the peak of my career, I decided to quit acting. I thought it would be tough for me to balance both my personal and professional lives. But now I feel cinema has given me everything in life.
The ‘love’ letter
Bhagyaraj is someone who loves to keep himself occupied. Even now he makes sure that he writes something or the other. I am proud of him as he is so passionate about his work. But he gets zoned out often and fails to listen to me. In the 1990s, when we started a magazine, we used to get a lot of letters from the readers. He brings all those letters to our bedroom and reads them all night! This act upset me (smiles). One day, I wrote a letter to the editor saying, ‘I miss you so much, and please spend time with your wife’. After reading it, he felt so bad and made sure to spend time with me. I can never forget it.
Making a comeback
It was only in 2013, I decided to make a comeback to films. And it happened mainly because of my kids. They want to see me on screen again. In fact, I was a bit nervous to act in front of the camera after almost two decades. I am not aware of what new-gen directors expect from actors, so it was a little tough initially. Recently I’ve shot for Trisha’s Mohini, which is yet to hit the screens.