Pooja Chopra has had a successful career in the entertainment industry. However, her journey hasn't been easy. Raised by a single mother and an elder sister, Pooja cleared various obstacles in her personal life before shining bright as a queen.
In an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon, Pooja spoke her heart out about the kind of challenges she and her family had to face after being abandoned by her father when she was just 20 days old.
Excerpts from the interview:
It mustn’t have been easy for you as a child to deal and cope with domestic issues. What was your childhood like?
I would say my sister had a tougher life because she was the one who took care of me when mom would be out the whole day to work. From getting me ready for school, making sure I had food on time to dropping and picking me up from school, she did it all while managing her own studies and life. She is just like my second mother. My school uniforms, books, bags, shoes etc were all second-hand, old and tattered. There were days we didn't have enough to eat. More than me, my sister had it difficult.
Your mother went through a lot. How did she come out of it?
She did go through a lot because she had nobody's support. When it came to her own family, nobody supported her. Everyone was of the opinion that she should go back to her husband and somehow convince them. Only she will be able to answer how she came out of it.
Did the issues at home take a toll on your & your mom’s mental health?
My mother never made us feel unwanted. She loves us unconditionally and overcompensated for dad's absence in every way and tried to do her best. Due to this, we didn't face any mental stress. I am very strong because of my mom. She is an inspiration and made us mentally strong to fight the odds and stand tall. I see her as an example. She has fought tougher battles when there was nobody with her and when divorce was considered taboo.
What motivated you to take up acting and modelling projects?
During school, I won Miss Mount Camel and I got picked for some inter-college fashion shows. That's when I got noticed and choreographers called me for fashion shows in Pune. My pictures started coming in newspapers. I would get Rs.100-200 for walking. I became a celebrity in my neighbourhood. I went on to win several other beauty pageants which gave me the confidence to participate in Miss India. It happened gradually and people around me would fuel my passion. It happened more by chance than choice. I didn't pick this as my career. I wanted to be an IPS officer. The career chose me.
Did your father or the parental side of your family reach out to you after Miss India? Were they supportive?
No, my father never reached out to anyone. They didn't recognise me because when we left his house, I was barely 20 days old. 'Chopra' surname didn't ring a bell. My mother's pictures were flashed in newspapers and channels after I won because it was a story of a single mother bringing up two daughters. My father's sister connected with my mother to reconfirm that I am my father's daughter.
Did things change for you after Miss India and acting debut?
Things took a sharp turn after I won the pageant. It was a normal lower middle-class ordinary girl making it to the headlines. It was a big deal. Definitely, there was a sudden fame I got which I enjoy to date. It did help us financially. Everything changed for the better after Miss India. Acting gave me a deeper understanding of life and the industry.
You started working at a young age. Was it to help your family financially?
I started working when I was 16 years old. I walked my first fashion show for Rs. 300. My mother never accepted the money I earned. She said the money you earned is your pocket money; she never gave us pocket money. The money my sister earned by delivering newspapers, and campaigning on trucks would be used to pay for my Marathi and Maths tuitions. The money I earned was for movies, food or I would simply collect. Nobody pressurised me to earn.
Being women, did you have to face the harsh side of patriarchy?
Since the time I was born, it's been about girls vs boys. My entire being revolves around that. Girls are not second to any boy. Whatever he can do, she can do it twice and that too better. She isn't a burden but a blessing. Girls aren't outsiders or paraya dhan. We're in a patriarchal world. I am fortunate to get an opportunity to work with people who don't make me feel like an outsider due to my gender. They've made me feel comfortable and it feels great. Our country has a long way to go in blurring the lines between male and female.
What’s that one message you would like to give out to women and girls going through similar circumstances?
Don't let the noise affect you. Believe in yourself because if you don't, nobody will. We should take it as a responsibility to shine so bright that there's no disparity between boys and girls. Women are capable of doing everything.