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Tamil Actress Pooja Umashankar

The meteoric rise of Pooja

Less than 10 years after making her film debut, Pooja Umashankar has become a star of the Sri Lankan, Malayalam and Tamil movie scenes, and starred in a string of smash-hit releases – notably 2005’s Anjalika and the 2007 release Asai Man Piyambanna. Her success as an actress has taken her into a host of exciting new areas; she is currently a judge on the popular reality dance show Aatam Paatam Kondatam, and an ambassador for a prominent Sri Lanka telecommunications company.
The workload shows no sign of slackening; Pooja has signed up to do a string of further films and commercials, and her public engagements are multiplying as her fame grows. Her success, not just as a Tamil actress but as an icon of Sri Lankan and Malayalam cinema, has earned her a string of accolades, such as Best Female Character Artiste at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. Further honours seem sure to come her way in the near future.
Born in Sri Lanka, Pooja was schooled in Bangalore and gained a Master’s Degree in Business and Management before getting her big break as a Tamil actress. Her father is a Kannadiga and her mother is Sinhalese; this mixed background helped Pooja to master a number of different languages from an early ages, and today she can speak Kannada, Tamil, Sinhalese and English fluently.
Pooja’s father, who worked for Unilever, was never keen on her becoming an actress – he thought it was too shallow a professional for his brainy daughter, and she would be better pursuing a more stable career which rewarded her intelligence. Thankfully for all Tamil movie fans, she remained determined to chase a career in the film industry, and she began to reap rewards almost as soon as she finished her schooling.

Fame and Fortune

Pooja’s fame is based mainly on her ability as a Tamil actress; her breakthrough came in the 2003 Tamil movie Jay Jay, and 11 of her 18 roles to date have come in Tamil productions. Yet her biggest successes have arguably come in other tongues - Anjalika, her first film in the Sinhala language, was so successful it prompted the Sri Lankan government to introduce a tax on foreign actors. Although she seems happy to remain a Tamil actress first and foremost, Pooja is clearly willing to consider any new opportunity across the Indian movie spectrum.
She is also willing to veer away from the glamourpuss roles to which she is physically suited; in a recent role she played a dowdy girl who ran a bike shop, and she played a blind beggar in 2009’s Nenu Devudni. Yet, no matter how down-to-earth she tries to portray herself, the fans still treat her as a God – there are rumours that fans want to build a temple for her in Sri Lanka, although she denies this!
The offers have continued to flood in thick and fast – Pooja claims she has had to turn down several Tamil movie roles because she has had too much on her plate. She is determined to choose her parts with care, in the hope that she can cultivate an enduring image of sophistication and intelligence, far removed from the Barbie girl stereotype which can afflict beautiful young film actresses.
Pooja celebrates her 30th birthday in May, and her position as a Tamil movie icon will doubtless come under threat from younger women who can match her stunning looks and effortless glamour. However, Pooja has no intention of fading into the limelight anytime soon; this is one Tamil actress who has the talent and the ambition to keep going for years to come.
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