When Pooja Bedi is kicked about something, she doesn't even make an effort to play it down. Right now, she's totally stoked about playing an Egyptian princess in the Tamil/Telugu bilingual Shakti, touted to be the most extravagant and expensive film to be made in Tollywood.
I'd a blast doing this role. I'm mightily impressed with the professionalism that exists in the south film industry. Even two decades ago, when I was doing this Telugu flick with Mohan Babu, I was aware of how organised everything was. That was a time when everything in and about Bollywood was chaotic.
Not willing to give away too much about her role, Pooja says, "This is a negative role. And, no, I'm not the vamp; I'm the villain! And that's really a big deal. I play an evil Egyptian princess vested with magical powers." Taken in by the grandeur of the sets, she continues, "I've never seen a grander or a more magnificent set. We shot a substantial portion in Egypt.
Does she speak Tamil and Telugu? "Heavens, no! But I did pick up some Telugu lines, and my favourite is Na aaina peddha veeradu...." Of Jr NTR, who's the hero, she says, "He's really very sweet. He refused to do a fight scene against me because he said he did not fight with women!"
For someone who's lived life on her own terms and not let any kind of negativity seep in, from where does she find the strength to be this positive person? "I'd be lying if I said that I took it all very calm and cool when my 12-year-old marriage broke up. I did feel angry, bitter, sad, but I didn't let them consume me. They were not the most overriding feelings. Once I came to terms with the development, I chose to dwell on the beautiful moments we had shared. I've had two lovely children with him, and plenty of good memories.
Nor does she rail against the institution of marriage. "I can't wait to get married again. But, yes, there are things I've learnt, and I'll go into the next one with my head as well as heart."
Finally, how did she deal with the flak that she received for being part of Maa Exchange, a reality show akin to Wife Swap? Defending her decision, she says, "Have you seen the kind of comments I've got on social networking websites? I've been flooded with congratulatory messages. While I went to her (rival contestant) house and set so many things right in their relationship, she was malicious and toxic. I've had people telling me they were moved by the way my daughter Aalia defended me.
Pooja revels in living life king-size, and her zest for life evident when she says, "We need to celebrate our lives. One day, we're all going to be dead and gone, and be nothing more than a pile of ashes. This is one life we've got and the only way to live it is to live it up shamelessly and joyously.
We're ready for more feel-good wisdom, but there's the chess class beckoning. "I'm being tutored by a champion," she says, excusing herself. A full life, anyone?