She is not an off-the-cuff name as yet, but New Yorker Poorna Jagannathan, who set the screen on fire as a tough-talking, street-wise journalist in the comic caper Delhi Belly, says the role came closest to what she is in real life too.
“It is a character that resonated with me from the moment I read the script. From a girl who hates wearing nail polish, to the fact that she is a steely journalist,” says Poorna, mother of a five-year-old, who also works as a part-time advertiser and TV actor.
And by convincingly portraying her role, including scenes of her faking an orgasm and other lewd bits, the 39-year-old actor stole the film. But how she bagged the role is a story in itself. “I played a mean game of Blackjack at a charity event and won two tickets to India,” she says and adds, “In Mumbai, I met up with an old friend from New York, Arjun Bhasin, who set up an audition for me for Delhi Belly.”
Although rumour has it that after her first audition the makers were screaming, “We found her, we found her,” it still took her four rounds of gruelling auditions to confirm the role. “It was the longest eight-month wait of my life,” laughs the actor.
Casting her was a risk the makers took, she says. “I’ve done a lot of TV and stage work, but I’ve never been a lead in a movie and have no Indian recognition,” she says. The actor is also all praise for Aamir Khan. “I have huge respect and admiration for Aamir. Everything he does is genuine and sincere and that shines through in his movies,” she states.
Her street-style Hindi accent shone through the film and Poorna practised hard to make it sound authentic. “Since the character is not an NRI, but a pucca Delhi girl, it was important that her Hindi be somewhat believable,” says Poorna.
Prod her about the kiss that left the audience in splits and she says, “We were nervous. And Imran’s wife was on the set! But we’re both professionals and did our best. What many people don’t know is that kissing on screen is all about mechanics. You have to get the angle right, you have to get the timing perfect and the mike guy and the camera person are all but sitting on your lap. It’s a ménage à quatre a lot of the time,” she adds.
But it was the hotel room scene that got Poorna going. “The hotel room scene needed some improvisation. The fake humping was in the script, but the dialogue around it was improved upon. The outtakes were hilarious. I wanted to talk dirty in Tamil, but I was laughing too hard,” she says. TOI