Back in 1997, Pooja Batra made a splash in Bollywood with Virasaat, but after a mixed bag of films, got married in 2002 and settled in the United States. After a dozen years, she popped up in a cameo in ABCD2 (2015). Now she has bagged a biggie — the lead role in the Hollywood sci-fi film One Under the Sun. She plays an astronaut and is cast opposite Gene Farber.
How did you bag the lead role in a Hollywood film?
Ever since I moved to America, I have been trying to land a good role; but it’s very difficult here. For this film, I went for the audition and I performed three scenes — one with my on-screen husband who tries to convince me to go to the mission, the second, in which I am in the shuttle and talking to command, and the last in which I am reunited with my daughter. They liked my acting and fortunately I got selected.
Tell us about your role in this film.
I play Kathryn, who is one of the five astronauts selected to go to Mars. She is also the sole survivor of the space shuttle moment, a distraught mother who is waiting to reunite with her terminally ill, cancer-afflicted daughter.
Sounds like an emotionally challenging role.
Yes, there is a situation when my daughter is dying but they don’t allow me to see her...it was so emotional, I imagined myself in her place and it was like being in a pressure cooker. There was another challenging scene — when I come back to earth and people are interrogating me.
Considering you have done a dozen odd Hindi films, what was it like to shoot a Hollywood movie?
There is hardly any difference besides the language. I have worked here with many actors and I looked forward to the shooting. I applied no makeup; I was in a room which made me sweat because of the heat.
Did you do any research for the role?
I have looked up to astronauts since my childhood. You don’t get such inspiring and strong roles in India. There is no revenge angle here like in Bollywood movies; she is a power woman. I am lucky to get it.
Which was the last Bollywood movie you loved?
Bajirao Mastani (2015). Everyone was amazing in the movie.
How did the break from work affect you?
After I left India, sadly, the number of roles offered to me diminished. Moving to a different country does affect your career. I did a cameo in ABCD 2 recently.
Any other projects you look forward to?
I will come to India for the release of Punjabi film Killer Punjabi which I co-produced. In Mirror Games, I play a psychiatrist.