On the Way Up

She’s bubbly, naughty, and full of fun. Meet Puunam Khaur, who’s been misunderstood on a number of occasions because she’s too busy living life happily and on her own terms. Puunam is well-known in the city of Hyderabad; a definite head-turner wherever she goes. This week, we caught up with the PYT to better understand her and her future projects.
What does 2015 have in store for you?
There’s a lot of work happening in Tamil cinema, and I’ll have three releases this year. One is Acharam, the second is En Vazhi Thani Vazhi, and the third is my most ambitious project, Vadham.
What do you mean ‘most ambitious’?
Vadham is the story of a rape victim, and it was very difficult; I had really tough shots, such as being in water for 40 days. The movie stopped in between because of some issues, but we’re starting work again now, and I’m really looking forward to getting back to it. It’s the most important project of mine so far, so I have my fingers crossed. I almost gave my life to it, actually. While shooting one day, I almost got washed away by the water; my leg got stuck and I was somehow saved. A lot has gone into this movie, and I hope it comes across to audiences that way.
That sounds like pressure.
Yes, a little bit, but to be honest, I was waiting for something like this. When you love something, it doesn’t seem all that difficult. Given who I am, I give 100% to whatever I’m doing, so it’s not too bad. I’m not saying this because it’s an interview; that’s just who I am. I become fully involved, whether it’s love or a project – I do things with complete conviction.
What about En Vazhi Thani Vazhi?
I’m really nervous about that one. I’m working with Shaji Kailas, who’s a national award-winner, so who wouldn’t be nervous? This is my first time with him, and I worked in 42° heat, dancing in the desert and getting tanned! I just hope I’ve done justice to my character.
You made news for belly dancing in EVTV.
Yes, I have a belly dancing sequence in the movie. The number was choreographed by Brinda Master and shot in Jordan.
How are your moves?
(Laughs) The story I’m about to tell you goes back to when I was participating in Femina Miss India South 2008, during the impromptu talent round. All the other participants were professionally trained dancers, and then there was me – I knew nothing! I’d grown up watching Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi and Shakira, so I just put together everything I knew. I actually ended up mixing Telugu, Tamil and Hindi songs and performed like no one was watching. To my surprise, I actually won that round, and it gave me the confidence that I could probably dance a little bit.
Are you a movie buff?
Oh, yes! I love watching movies. I grew up with Divya Bharti, Sridevi and Madhuri sizzling on-screen. I’d always want to be like them and do the things they were doing.
So you did want to be an actress.
I wasn’t really looking for a career, so this wasn’t planned. It happened, and today I enjoy my work, but the only downfall is that I don’t know the strategies used to stay in the industry; my publicity work is really bad. Many times, I get misinterpreted because of the way I react to things; I’m not a docile girl, prim and proper. My friends even call me a monkey because I like jumping around and doing fun things.
Would you say it’s a complicated industry?
Well, I don’t understand it, but I love it. It gives you a high to be here.
What makes you sign a film?
I’ll be honest with you. That stage probably comes along a little later in one’s career when there are options to work with. I’m not at a level where I get a lot of projects in hand, but I have stopped playing the hero’s friend/sister. I did so for the survival factor, but once I realised the right was not going to flow into my life until I stopped the wrong, it became a conscious decision to be more selective.
So what do you look at in a project?
For me, it’s either a good project or a bad one. I don’t look at budgets. If I feel it’s a good project, I take it on.
Looking forward to anything else this year?
I hope my movies do well. I’ve only been working for the last year and a half. Thanks to that, people think I’ve just been partying, but I hope all my releases do well. Apart from that, I want to fall in love!
What’s your take on Sankranti?
I absolutely love the festival. Around 50 of us come together every year and fly kites. Last year, I set a record by eating 30 sesame laddoos in a day; thankfully, nothing happened to my insides! (Laughs)    

..... as told to Anahita