Pooja Hegde is an Indian model and actress. A former beauty pageant contestant, she was crowned as the second runner-up at the Miss Universe India 2010 competition, before going on to make her acting debut in Mysskin’s Tamil superhero film Mugamoodi (2012). She then featured in the Telugu films Oka Laila Kosam and Mukunda (2014), while signing on to feature as the lead actress in Ashutosh Gowariker’s next venture, Mohenjo Daro (2016).
Pooja was born and brought up in Mumbai, Maharashtra, while her family is from Mangalore, Karnataka. She is fluent in Tulu, English, Kannada and Hindi. During her time at college, she revealed she gained confidence by helping out with her mother’s network marketing business, improving her networking skills. Furthermore, she regularly sought to enter in intercollegiate competitions, participating in dance and fashion shows.
She competed in the Miss India 2009 competition, but was eliminated in an early round despite winning the Miss India Talented 2009 honour. She re-applied the following year and was the second runner-up in the Miss Universe India 2010 competition, while also being crowned Miss India South Glamorous Hair 2010 in the subsidiary competition. She made her acting debut in Mysskin’s Tamil superhero film Mugamoodi (2012) opposite Jiiva, portraying the female lead character of Shakthi, a fun-loving girl who inspires the male lead to change his outlook on society.
She was selected after Mysskin had seen still photographs from her pageant success, and Hegde helped practice Tamil dialogue for the film by writing and memorizing words in English, adding that the similarity between Tamil and her native tongue Tulu was also useful. Prior to release, the film garnered high expectations as a result of the novel theme of a superhero in Tamil films and the film took a grand opening at the box office in August 2012. However, the film received mixed to negative reviews from critics, hampering its progress, and the film ended up becoming a surprise commercial failure.
Hegde’s performance also received mixed reviews with a critic from Sify.com citing that she “disappoints”, though a critic from The Hindu noted “she doesn’t have much scope for talent display.” She earned a nomination for the Best Tamil Female Debut Actress at the 2nd South Indian International Movie Awards, but lost out to Lakshmi Menon. Her second film release, the Telugu film Oka Laila Kosam (2014), featured her opposite Naga Chaitanya.
She was praised for her performance in the movie. Following a brief hiatus after Mugamoodi, she revealed that the film’s prominent production house and the success of the director Vijay Konda’s previous venture, had prompted her to work on the project. She undertook Telugu lessons to help her portray the leading female role. She is also currently filming for Mukunda opposite debutant Varun Tej, nephew of actor Chiranjeevi. The romantic-action tale, set in the backdrop of a village, will release in late 2014. In her second Telugu film, Hegde impressed many with her memorable performance in Gopikamma song from Mukunda.
In July 2014, Hegde agreed terms to make her Bollywood debut opposite Hrithik Roshan in Ashutosh Gowariker’s forthcoming period film Mohenjo Daro, set against the backdrop of the Indus Valley civilisation. She was selected after Gowariker’s wife had spotted her in an advertisement and called her to audition, which she successfully completed. As a result of her commitment to the film, she revealed that she would take a break from appearing in regional Indian movies until her Hindi film’s release and rejected an opportunity to work in a film directed by Mani Ratnam.