By Radhika Bhirani
Mumbai– She started her acting career even before she was 16, pursued her graduation three years after becoming an actor, did her MBA when her children were in senior secondary school, and at 56, she has received two honorary doctorates.
Age has been no bar for veteran actress Poonam Dhillon in doing what she wanted to, but she says that barrier needs to be broken for both men and women in the Hindi film industry.
Poonam, who began her accidental career with Yash Raj Films’ “Trishul” 40 years ago and went on to feature in 80 to 90 movies, has been having an intermittent brush with showbiz over the past few years.
Now, she will be seen in Sony Entertainment Television’s new show “Dil Hi Toh Hai” and in a film helmed by Luv Ranjan — in both of which she plays a mother, but with different traits.
How does it feel to be back?
“Back? Where did I go,” asked the evergreen actress, breaking into a laughter.
“I’ve been very much around, enjoying doing things at my own pace rather than just working, working and working,” asserted Poonam, whose last Hindi film was “Ramaiya Vastavaiya” five years ago, but she did a Punjabi movie and a play in between.
She feels delighted to see the transition that the Hindi film heroine has undergone.
“People have started accepting that today a female plays an equally important role in a film. At one time, especially during the era of action heroes, women took a bit of a secondary role because heroes were doing most of the action. But look at ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’. It saw Katrina Kaif doing as much action as Salman Khan perhaps.
“Women are given their due, and I think female-centric roles are also well-written. But it doesn’t matter who is in the centre — a male or female. As long as it is an entertaining, gripping film, people just enjoy it. Even if it is a cartoon character in it, they still enjoy it. It’s all about good entertainment,” Poonam said.
She has no complaints as far as her career is concerned, but doesn’t dismiss the fact that after a certain age, there aren’t enough roles for older women and men too.
” ‘102 Not Out’ (featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor) was an exception. The age barrier still has to be broken in our Hindi films. Internationally, that’s not a barrier. You see a Jane Fonda doing a romantic scene even at 80 or a Meryl Streep in the central role. Various older actors are doing substantial and meaty roles.
“But we (in India) have to accept that a woman 50-plus still has romance in her life. It’s a reality of life that women have romance, traumas, dramas in their life. Very soon we are going to get there,” added Poonam, who is content with how her journey in the “unplanned and unpredictable career” has shaped up.
“This (acting) was not something I wanted to do or thought about doing. Once it happened, I started learning on the job because I was not a trained actor.
“I came in a bit unprepared and raw; so perhaps that’s what people thought was charming about me because I was naive, fresh and I wasn’t a typical wannabe actress… I wasn’t overtly ambitious, or tried to get films by hook or crook. I always did things at my own pace,” said Poonam, who always enjoyed reading, spending time with her family and studying.
Academics have been intrinsic to the life of the mother of two.
“Three years after joining films, I continued doing my graduation. Then I wanted to do my masters, and recently I got a doctorate through two universities which has been very exciting. I wanted to do my doctorate.
“I got honorary doctorates which made me feel very fulfilled. These are the few things that make you good about what you have achieved, because nobody gives you one if you have not achieved anything in your life.” (IANS)