Broke and unable to make it to her cousin’s wedding in India; Los Angeles-based Poorna Jagannathan won her airplane tickets by playing Blackjack at a charity event. And that’s not where her luck stopped. The actor met her designer friend Arjun Bhasin, who “had an epiphany” and set her up for an audition for Delhi Belly. The story gets even more bizarre.
“Rumour has it that after my first audition, people were screaming, ‘we found her, we found her’,” laughs Poorna. Four rounds of gruelling auditions and eight months later, she was finalised for the part of Menaka in the adult comedy that has opened to rave reviews. Call it a classic case of ‘right time, right place’, but Poorna justified her casting with a stellar performance, leading several people to wonder where she’d come from. And the actor is no newbie.
Having lived in Los Angeles, she’s worked in a slew of TV shows like Law & Order, Rescue Me, The Game and more recently, Royal Pains. She’ll also be seen in Oscar-winning Australian director, Bruce Beresford’s next, Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, alongside Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Poorna’s journalist character, Menaka, is also admittedly quite close to her real-life self.
“She’s someone totally comfortable in her own skin and absolutely nothing ruffles her feathers. I loved every single aspect of her — how unconventional and unapologetic she is, and how game she is to go on any roller coaster ride. I’ve played her pretty close to me, but she’s edgier while I’m a complete goofball.” All praise for her Hindi debut film’s producer, Aamir Khan, Poorna says, “He’s one of those rare people in the business. When he falls in love with something, he’ll get behind it 100 per cent and make it happen.”
Describing her experience of working with Aamir and his nephew, lead actor Imran Khan as “blissed out”, she adds, “I look at this film and think of the power of risk-taking. The movie you are seeing today is the script I read three years ago. Akshat Verma has written something that doesn’t just push boundaries, it gleefully oversteps them.”