She's the face of the new mother on TV commercials, but she's far from one-dimensional. From lover and vamp to sister-in-law, Pooja Ghai, 29, has done a variety of roles in the more than hundred commercials she has under her belt. She's also acted in soaps, and today, she's co-founded event management company and production house.
"I come from a lower middle-class family, and had to start working when I was barely 16 years old," said Ghai. "My dad was a secretary for film stars and he knew a lot of people. So I got small roles in television serials. But the big break came with Balaji Telefilm's Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi."
She's also acted in soaps such as Viraasat and Kabhi Aiyee Na Judaii, but has taken a break from acting, concentrating on commercials and her production house. "There's no fun in soaps anymore," she said. "The storyline on all channels is the same. I want to go back to acting, but there's so much more in television that I want an equal pie in everything."
She has earned the luxury to make choices.
A single parent with a eight-year-old son, Ghai drives a Skoda and earns Rs 6 to Rs 7 lakh a month.
"Television is big business now," she said. "When I started, I earned Rs 2,000 a week, and would be so happy about it. But now the scales have changed, and actors get paid as much as Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 per day. The boom is definitely here to stay." Ghai herself used to earn between Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 30,000 a day for acting in soaps.
Today, besides continuing to act in commercials, Ghai has joined hands with friend Vikas Kalantri to form White Leaf Entertainment, a company that instituted the Gold television awards. In the first year, in 2007, the awards were held in Mauritius. Ghai is now preparing for the second award function.
The company is also looking at creating original reality show formats and buying the rights to some overseas ones. "Reality is the buzzword now and it's going to rock the small screen in the days to come," she said.
Ghai is also set to launch her television magazine Gold in March. "So much is happening in the television world that there will never be any dearth of gossip to fill our pages!" she said, smiling.