Pooja Hegde (/pɑː hɛɡd/ born 13 October 1990) is an Indian actress who predominantly appears in Telugu, Hindi and Tamil films. She was the second runner-up at the 2010 I Am She–Miss Universe India pageant. She made her acting debut with the Tamil film Mugamoodi (2012) and had her first Telugu release in Oka Laila Kosam (2014).[1] she established herself as one of the leading actresses in Telugu cinema.[2][3] Hegde is a recipient of four SIIMA Awards.

Pooja Hegde
Hegde in 2022
Born (1990-10-13) 13 October 1990 (age 33)
Alma materM. M. K. College
OccupationActress
Years active2012–present
AwardsFull list

Hegde won the SIIMA Award for Best Actress – Telugu for her performance in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020) and Most Eligible Bachelor (2021). She was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress – Telugu for Oka Laila Kosam, Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo and Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava (2018). Her other commercially successful films include Duvvada Jagannadham (2017), Maharshi (2019), Gaddalakonda Ganesh (2019) and Housefull 4 (2019). This was followed by a career setback as the 2022 films Radhe Shyam, Beast, Acharya and Cirkus, and the 2023 film Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, were all poorly received.[4]

Early life and work

Pooja Hegde was born on 13 October 1990[5] and brought up in Mumbai, Maharashtra in a Tulu-speaking Bunt family.[6][7] Her father, Manjunath Hegde, is a criminal lawyer and her mother, Latha Hegde, is a former Immunologist and entrepreneur.[8][9] They are originally from Udupi, Karnataka.[10] She also has an elder brother Rishabh Hegde, who is an orthopaedic surgeon.[11][12] Her grandfather, Rama H Shetty, was a national level athlete.[13] As she was born on the occasion of Lakshmi Pooja, her parents named her Pooja.[14] Besides Tulu, she is fluent in English, Hindi, Kannada and Marathi.[15] She later learnt Telugu and Tamil following a career in her respective cinema.[16][17][18]

She considers Bangalore as her home town, and maintains strong connections there.[19][20] She said: "I have great memories of my childhood days here. During summer vacations, I used to come here to my grandfather's place in Kanajar. I, along with all my cousins and relatives, used to come during summer vacations. We would spend most of our vacations here."[21]

She did her schooling in Maneckji Cooper Education Trust School, Mumbai.[22] She went to M. M. K. College where she did her Masters in commerce.[23][24] While still in college, Hegde developed the networking skills while helping her mother in her network marketing business.[25] She trained in classical dance and music for ten years and showed interest in traditional dance forms, including Bharatanatyam.[26][27] Hegde has said that she was shy and introvert child.[28][29] "When I got into college, I wanted to change that about myself. So I enrolled in every single extracurricular activity there was", she added.[30] One day, someone from Miss India met Hegde at one of her college events and suggested her to participate in a pageant.[31]

She competed in the Femina Miss India 2009 competition, but was eliminated in an early round despite winning the Miss India Talented 2009 honour.[32][33] She re-applied the following year and was the second runner-up in the Miss Universe India 2010 competition.[34][35] Early in her career, she gained recognition with a television commercial for Hero Maestro with Ranbir Kapoor and modelled for various other brands and products.[36][37] She rejected offers of several projects from big production banners over three years before debuting in Mugamoodi.[38] She said "as I went on refusing film offers for three years, my mother one day told me that there must be something in me otherwise so many film-makers wouldn't be offering me films. She told me to give it a try."[39]

Career

Early work (2012–2017)

Hegde made her acting debut in Mysskin's Tamil superhero film Mugamoodi (2012) opposite Jiiva,[40] portraying the female lead character of Shakthi, a fun-loving girl who inspires the male lead to change his outlook on society.[41] 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 memorising words in English, adding that the similarity between Tamil and her native tongue Tulu was also useful.[42] 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.[43] Times of India stated that "Pooja Hegde though has little to do and comes across as just another pretty face."[44] NDTV wrote "Pooja Hegde, the debutante may have floored everyone with her amiable appearance, but she definitely needs some coaching in expressions."[45] She earned a nomination for the Best Tamil Female Debut Actress at the 2nd South Indian International Movie Awards.[46]

 
Hegde in 2017

Hegde's second film release, the Telugu film Oka Laila Kosam (2014), featured her opposite Naga Chaitanya. She was praised for her performance in the movie. Around the same time, she was nominated for Best Actress at the 62nd Filmfare Awards South.[47] Following a 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. Her second Telugu film, Mukunda, was a romantic-action tale, set in the backdrop of a village, released in late 2014.[48][49]

In July 2014, Hegde agreed terms to make her Bollywood debut opposite Hrithik Roshan in Ashutosh Gowariker's 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.[50][51] 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.[52][53] Mohenjo Daro released in 2016. On her performance, Lisa Tsering of The Hollywood Reporter wrote she "brings a forgettable blandness to her sparsely sketched role."[54] Writing for IndiaTimes, Shubha Shetty Saha wrote, "Pooja Hegde is pretty and makes quite a confident debut."[55] and became major box office flop.[56] In 2017, she appeared in Telugu-language vigilante action comedy film Duvvada Jagannadham alongside actor Allu Arjun.[57] Writing for The Indian Express, Manoj Kumar R found that "Pooja Hegde has convincingly done the given job that is to look stunning in every frame of the film. Especially, she looks ravishing in all the song sequences."[58] The film was successful in box office grossing over ₹150 crore.[59]

Commercial success and fluctuations (2018–present)

In 2018, Hegde featured in three Telugu films. The first is a special appearance in the song "Jigelu Rani [simple]" for the period action film, Rangasthalam. The song was trending in the YouTube and she was praised for her performance.[60] Later in Saakshyam, alongside Bellamkonda Sreenivas[61] and Trivikram Srinivas-directed action-drama Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava, opposite Jr. NTR.[62] The film received positive response and was a blockbuster.[63] Haricharan Pudipeddi of News18 opined that "Pooja Hegde gets a meaty part and she deserves praise" for it.[64] Writing for India Today, Janani K found "she has done a commendable job" in it.[65] In 2019 too, she made an appearance in three films which are Maharshi, Gaddalakonda Ganesh and Housefull 4. Maharshi is a Telugu film directed by Vamsi Paidipally co-starring by Mahesh Babu. It received mixed reviews on release.[66] The film was awarded the Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment at the 68th National Film Awards.[67] Her second Telugu film in the same year was the Harish Shankar-directed Gaddalakonda Ganesh, a remake of the 2014 Tamil-language film Jigarthanda, featuring Varun Tej and Atharvaa along with her.[68] The film received positive reviews.[69] Praising her performance, Firstpost's Hemanth Kumar wrote "Pooja Hegde, who has played a key role, fits into her character quite well, and her chemistry with Varun Tej works quite well."[70] Hegde returned to Bollywood after a gap of three years with Sajid Nadiadwala's comedy film Housefull 4 directed by Farhad Samji, featuring her as Rajkumari Mala and Pooja (reincarnated),[71] which went on to gross over ₹296 crore worldwide.[72]

 
Hegde in 2022

Her 2020 Telugu-language action drama film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, alongside Allu Arjun and directed by Trivikram marks their collaboration with both Arjun and Trivikram, for the second time, after DJ: Duvvada Jagannadham (2017) and Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava (2018).[73] On her performance, a The Times of India critic wrote, "Pooja Hegde manages to bring in spunk into a character that is nothing more than a manic pixie dream girl, but she sure is a delight to watch on-screen."[74] The film became third highest-grossing Telugu films of all time, grossing over ₹280 crore.[75] Her performance fetched her several awards, including the SIIMA Award for Best Actress – Telugu. Hegde's dance performance in the song "Butta Bomma" received wide response.[76]

In 2021, Hegde starred in Most Eligible Bachelor, directed by Bommarillu Bhaskar opposite Akhil Akkineni in which she played the role of a stand-up comedian.[77][78] Her performance in the film received critical acclaim and won her the SIIMA Award for Best Actress – Telugu.[79][80] In 2022, Hegde starred in the multilingual period romance film Radhe Shyam with Prabhas directed by Radha Krishna Kumar.[81] Hegde's performance received positive reviews.[82][83] The film's song "Aashiqui Aa Gayi" also gained more popularity among audiences with Hegde's grace and style being appreciated.[84] Her second film in the same year was Tamil film Beast directed by Nelson, alongside Vijay. Released on 13 April, the film marked her return to Tamil cinema after a gap of 9 years.[85][86] On her performance, Divya Nair of Rediff.com wrote, "Pooja Hegde looks pretty and does a decent job".[87] Sowmya Rajendran of The News Minute opined "Pooja is gorgeous in 'Arabic Kuthu'".[88] Hegde's #ArabicKuthuChallenge went viral in social media,[89][90] and many recreated her signature step.[91] The film has worldwide collections of over ₹300 crore.[92] Her next brief appearance was in the Koratala Siva-directed film Acharya alongside Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan.[93] These three films were commercial failures.[94][95] She performed her second dance number in the film, F3 alongside Venkatesh and Varun Tej in the party song "Life Ante Itta Vundaala".[96] Her last release in 2022 was Hindi film Cirkus directed by Rohit Shetty where she played one of the female leads opposite Ranveer Singh.[97] The film was a commercial failure.[98]

In 2023, she starred opposite Salman Khan in Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, directed by Farhad Samji.[99] The film was released coinciding with the Eid festival.[100] Ronak Kotecha of The Times of India, wrote, "Pooja Hegde has a meaty role, which she pulls off confidently, but could have dialed down over-the-top filmy antics."[101] The film also underperformed commercially and was Hedge's fifth consecutive box-office bomb.[102][1]

Hegde will next star opposite Shahid Kapoor in Deva, a Hindi action thriller film from filmmaker Rosshan Andrews,[103] and in Sajid Nadiadwala's Sanki, opposite Ahan Shetty.[104] She will also be starring in a Tamil period action drama directed by Karthik Subbaraj opposite Suriya, which is tentatively titled Suriya 44.[105]

Other work and media image

 
Hegde in 2020

Hegde is considered among the most popular actor of Telugu cinema.[106][107] She stood at the 7th place on Forbes India's Most Influential Stars on Instagram in South Cinema for the year 2021.[108] Nikita Sawant of Femina noted, "Hegde has a refreshing charm about her, and also has some serious acting chops."[109][110]

Hegde has frequently featured in Times' Most Desirable Woman list.[111][112] She was the Hyderabad Times' Most Desirable Woman of 2017.[113] In the same list, she stood 5th in 2019 and 3rd in 2020.[114][115] She is an active endorser for several brands and products including Citra, pTron and Garnier.[116][117][118]

Hegde supports various causes through her foundation "All About Love", which works towards providing support to unprivileged children across the country in the areas of education and health.[119] She said, "All About Love is just a small way of giving back to the society. I am extremely grateful to the people for putting me in a position where I can make a difference to someone's life today."[120] In 2020, she donated 2.5 million (US$30,000) to Cure Foundation.[121] In October 2017, she agreed to pay complete medical expenses of two kids at Tata Memorial Centre.[122] During the COVID-19 pandemic in India, she gave ration kits to 100 families.[123]

Filmography

Key
Denotes films that have not yet been released
Year Title Role(s) Language(s) Notes Ref.
2012 Mugamoodi Shakthi Tamil [124]
2014 Oka Laila Kosam Nandana Telugu [125]
Mukunda Gopika Telugu [126]
2016 Mohenjo Daro Chaani Hindi [127]
2017 DJ: Duvvada Jagannadham Pooja Telugu [57]
2018 Rangasthalam Jigelu Rani Telugu Special appearance in song "Jigelu Rani" [128]
Saakshyam Soundarya Lahari Telugu [129]
Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava Aravinda Telugu [130]
2019 Maharshi Pooja Mahalakshmi Telugu [131]
Gaddalakonda Ganesh Sridevi Telugu [132]
Housefull 4 Rajkumari Mala/Pooja Thakral Hindi [133]
2020 Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo Amulya Telugu [134]
2021 Most Eligible Bachelor Vibha Telugu [135]
2022 Radhe Shyam Dr. Prerana Chakravarthy Telugu
Hindi
Bilingual [136]
Beast Preethi Tamil [137]
Acharya Neelambari Telugu [138]
F3: Fun and Frustration Herself Telugu Special appearance in song "Life Ante Itta Vundaala" [139]
Cirkus Mala Hindi [140]
2023 Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan Bhagyalaxmi Gundamaneni Hindi [141]
2024 Deva TBA Hindi Filming [142]
TBA Suriya 44 TBA Tamil Filming [143]

Awards and nominations

Hegde has won four South Indian International Movie Awards including Best Actress - Telegu for Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo and Most Eligible Bachelor.[144][145]. She has also won three Zee Cine Awards Telugu: Entertainer Of The Year (Female) and Favourite Heroine Of The Year for DJ: Duvvada Jagannadham and Favourite Actress for Maharshi.[146][147]

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