"TV gives me an unbelievable high":Poonam Narula

The beautiful Poonam Narula Goel is one of the few privileged actors on Indian television who has cut across channels and featured in major soaps and serials on Star Plus, Zee, Sony as well as Doordarshan.

A commercial artiste by training, Poonam did a course in acting from Ashok Kumar's Acting Academy and hasn't looked back since. Today, her fan mail could keep a small post office busy.

Cut to July ,this year. Venue - the Star Parivaar Awards. The favourite nanand (sister-in-law) category had Poonam (Nivedita of Kasautii Zindagi Kay) and four other lovelies vying for the honours. The others included - Chhaya of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Aanchal of Kehta Hai Dil, Priti of Kumkum and Guddo of Bhabhi.

Not surprisingly, Poonam beat them hands down. A very emotionally charged husband Manish Goel (Tilak of Bhabhi) presented the trophy to her.

Whether it's playing a young lady in search of her lost mother (Kanyadaan) or a woman married to a cruel taxi driver (Lekin), Poonam has done justice to a variety of roles. And mind you, her presence has literally lit up serials - be it Aashirwad, Saath Saath, Itihaas, Kutumb, Kasautii Zindagi Kayor even Kaahin Kissii Roz where she has made an entry recently.

Boy, isn't she giving Sudha Chandran aka Ramola Sikand a run for her money!

Seems like it's a combination of hard work and a flair for acting that works for Poonam, Vickey Lalwani tells her at Sankraman Studios, Goregaon, where she is shooting for Kaahin...

But Poonam brushes it aside modestly, "I have to thank God for my success. He has loaded me with lots of luck," and adds, "I also thank Ekta Kapoor, whose Balaji Telefilms has given me a number of assignments. My first big break came with Ekta's Mano Ya Na Mano."

Read on for excerpts from the tete-a-tete that ensued:


Are you aware that 'Kaahin...' was on the verge of folding up, that TRPs had fallen? But things improved lately... after your entry.

I know (smiles). I love the serial - and my character in it - to the hilt. Sudha Chandran is a great inspiration. When she and I are in the same frame, I am very alert and charged up. Luckily, I get along very well with her.


Were you skeptical about signing up for this out-and-out negative character?

Not at all. Ekta had taken a call and I never discount her judgment. She has a great eye for who can do what. She didn't even audition me. She simply called the executive producer of Kaahin... and asked her to tell me that she wanted me to do this role.


Poonam on the sets of 'Shararat'


"When I joined TV, there were very few actors. So I didn't have to struggle much. Good work kept coming my way. Call me Destiny's Child!"


What is the secret of being the only one who has really stood up eye-to-eye against Ramola Sikand, sorry, Sudha Chandran?

Don't bypass the people who are writing the script and screenplay. And of course, Ekta Kapoor and Nivedita Basu (creative head of the show).

A lot of scenes have me in the focus. But yes, I am putting my best forward. So, thanks for the compliment (laughs).


Now take it from the back. How did you get drawn by the glamour world?

Ashok Kumar's son Arup and my father are best friends. One summer evening, Arup uncle's son was getting married and we were all there. Preeti Ganguly came up to me and suggested that instead of lazing around in my summer holidays, I should join her acting classes. My dad had no objection, and within a few days, I was a regular at Ashok Kumar's Acting Academy.

A few days later, a photographer connected to the classes clicked my portfolio. Suddenly one day, Ekta called me for an audition. My portfolio pictures had reached her and I still don't know how. Within a few days, I was playing a psycho in Mano Ya Na Mano. I was overjoyed. It took some time to sink in.


Seven years have passed since then. Have things changed in the television industry?

Un dino bada aaram tha (Back then, there was plenty of relaxation). There were very few actors. So I didn't have to struggle much. Good work kept coming my way. Call me Destiny's Child (laughs).


Okay, Destiny's Child. Please elaborate on the changes.

I like the name (laughs). Okay, seriously, unlike earlier, today things are very edgy.

With the advent of more channels and the one upmanship war between them, the demands on actors have multiplied manifold. You have to deliver in every episode, rather, in every scene. And then there is the speed factor. With so many dailies cropping up, there is a mad rush for the goods to be delivered on time. Add this to the number of actors who have entered tellydom; there is tremendous competition, to the extent of artistes plotting the ouster of his nearest rival in the same project. Frankly, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. But still... (pauses).


Uh, huh?

Once you are in this profession, you can't settle for anything else. It gives you an unbelievable high, something that you can't get out of your system no matter how hard you try, something that has to be experienced to be believed. Mind you, I am not talking about the bread, butter and jam that it gives. I am talking about the addiction it gives.


Ever thought of getting into movies?

No. Ever since my first brush with television, I always had more than I could chew. Besides, I have not been one of those girls who has starry dreams in her eyes. Till date, I have not gone to any producer for a role.


No public relations (PR) stuff?

Never. I don't have a Public Relations Officer. You'll never see me pushing myself even to the media. I mean, I don't push for interviews. And, you'll seldom see me at parties.


But you fit the heroine's bill. Surely, offers must have come your way...

It's not that offers haven't come my way. There have been roles which I have turned down in Hindi and southern films. But nothing meaty. Tell me, why should I take the fluff and drop the meat?



"I've got some offers for films, but nothing meaty. Tell me, why should I take the fluff and drop the meat?"


You sound and even look pretty satisfied with your career. Am I right?

Yes. Didn't I say I am Destiny's Child? (laughs). Truth is, I have played so many different characters till date. Even today, I am doing comedy in Shararat, a character with grey shades in Kasautii... and an out-and-out negative role in Kaahin...

I have never got typecast even for a small period of time and I am just 25 years old.


Okay, how concerned are you about your make-up?

I hate to wear anything heavy and garish. I specifically tell masi (aunt, referring to Nirmala Sood) that, as far as possible, I would wear simple attire. I am quite averse to the jari stuff especially. But yes, I would do any heavy make up if the scene demands it. But not otherwise...

Anyway, I have never had any problem with any channel wanting me to look something that I would be uncomfortable with. There too, I am Destiny's Child (laughs again).


But why don't women take off their make-up when they go to bed in serials?

There is a lot of objection to this portrayal by the so-called intellegentsia. But do you know the hectic pace at which work takes place in the dailies? There is no time to take off the make-up.

Often, I am working in two separate units at the same studio. Before one scene is over and done in one unit, the stage is set for another scene in the second unit.


What do you do on those rare occasions when there is free time between two scenes?

I do lots of masti (fun). They call me a brat. I know most of the Balaji people very well. I have been a part of this production house for quite some time now. Balaji sets are like a second home for me.


Balaji Telefilms is a tough task master, isn't it?

I don't know why anybody should say so, unless he/she is not serious about his work. They demand work and they pay you for it in time. Maybe they pay a little lesser than others, but if and when you go out after working for them, you demand your price and you get it.

And don't they give us dream roles, some of which may never be forgotten? They give us name, they give us fame. Why do some actors still crib and complain? What are they trying to say? I am terribly amused by such people.

Like in Kanyaadan, I was quite new. I was not paid a great amount. But look at the recognition I got. Till date, some people call me 'Sakshi' (the character I played in the serial).

And yes, I started getting three times that amount when Kanyadan ended. Is that a bad deal? It's preposterous to imagine that Ekta should start giving everyone a dream role and a fat packet as well. Somewhere down the line, one ought to compromise.


Do they have a watertight contract with actors?

Ekta has never told me that I have to work for Balaji Telefilms only. Right now, I am giving time to Shararat as well and we haven't discussed a word about it.


You said you do lots of masti on the sets. You must be a spontaneous actor then, I guess.

Hmm... I am essentially a director's actor. Importantly, I need a director who gives me the flexibility to say my lines in my own way subject to the fact that I won't change their meaning.


Do you take your characters home?

No way. Once the camera stops rolling, I am only Poonam Narula Goel. I am a shut on-shut off actor.


These days, many young girls are playing mothers and mother-in-laws. Even you play mother to a 25-year-old in Shararat. Does this trend reduce the scope for 45- or 50-year-olds to act on TV?

I don't think so. This is not a trend. Many young girls are playing more than their age because the story goes ahead by a few years. Besides, talent cannot be suppressed in the television industry. If one is talented and even 60-plus, he/she will get sufficient work.


Poonam Narula at the sets of 'Shararat'

"No replacement is done in a flash. Only when problems reach a crescendo, is such a step taken. There is a genuine reason behind every ouster."

You have been in the industry for seven years but never been replaced in any serial. But do you subscribe to the school of thought that many replacements are done unfairly?

Sorry, I don't. Every maker is tense whether the audience would identify with the new character. He/she does it out of circumstances and not by choice.

No replacement is done in a flash. Only when problems reach a crescendo and things go out of control, is such a step taken. There is a genuine reason behind every ouster. More often than not, the artiste has thrown tantrums or has been irregular. In today's scenario of cut-throat competition, it becomes impossible for the maker and the channel to go on with unprofessional people.


How and when did Manish Goel and you decide to tie the knot?

We were working together in Kasautii..., but were just colleagues and nothing beyond that. Of course, I knew he was a nice guy. If you work with a person for some time, you definitely come to know how he/she is.

It so happened that his parents had come down from Delhi. His mom visited the sets and told me, "I love you from the days of the serial Aashirwad. I would be delighted to have you as my bahu (daughter-in-law)."

I just laughed at the time. A few days later, my parents and I were shopping in Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri (in Mumbai). Incidentally, Manish and his parents were there. We met at one shop. After, 10 minutes, we met at another shop. After, 15 minutes, we met at a third shop. Finally, we decided to shop together.

During that time, Manish's mom told my mom about her desire. My mom thought we both were in love. She questioned me. I told her that there was nothing of that kind. But my family quite liked him and his family. I began to give it a thought. (pauses).


Go on...

... I took nearly three months to decide whether I should get married or not. The question was not whether I should marry Manish or someone else. The question was whether I was mentally ready for marriage. I was living under the thought that marriage was still two or three years away. But then...

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