Poorna Jagannathan Talks Delhi Belly, Imran, Aamir and More!

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Opening this Friday is the Abhinay Deo directed, Aamir Khan produced comedy Delhi Belly. The film stars Imran Khan, Vir Das and Kunal Roy Kapoor, who are caught up in the mad cap story of chases, gangsters and all sorts of trouble that make up Delhi Belly. The boys club is joined by actress Poorna Jagannathan, who plays one of Imran’s colleagues Menaka. Calling the film completely outrageous, Poorna says it is a hysterical comedy that had her falling on the floor laughing from her first read of the script. She sat down and talked with us about working with Imran, Aamir and what you will say while watching this film!

How did the role in Delhi Belly come about?

I was in India for a wedding and I bumped into a friend who was doing the costumes for the film. He knew my work from New York and said, ‘Oh I think you must be right for something I am associated with’. He set me up with an audition. It was a simple, simple kind of audition and I had several of them. It is a great character and fit like a glove.

Tell us about your character.

Her name is Menaka and she’s a journalist. She just a pistol of a character, definitely a woman who lives life on her own terms. She is also very mellow, very laid back. She is someone you just completely relate to. The whole tone of the movie is very relatable. Although it’s an outright outrageous comedy, it’s also so conversational and so real.

Your main scenes are with Imran Khan, how was it to work with him?

He brought a lot to the table. He looks great in the film. I think he’s so natural. This is so different from anything else he has played. He’s also a perfectionist. He definitely works really, really hard and is a very dedicated actor.

Did you enjoy working with Vir and Kunal?

I Did! Kunal Roy Kapoor is the funniest human being offset and on-set. He shows up and you start laughing. I mean there’s something just so lovable and likable and funny about him. He’s one of my favorite characters in the film. Vir is hysterical. The three boys have amazing chemistry.

How was it working with director Abhinay Deo?

Abhinay is an actor’s director. You know the one thing I look for in a director or the hallmark for me in a good director, is when you come with a problem or if you come with a question, that the director solves it by giving you some action. I think that is the easiest way for me to figure out someone works for me or not. Very personal approach and if I came to him he would say, ‘in this scene then do this’ and it would be very practical and have an action for me. I thought he was one of the best directors I’ve worked with.

This certainly is not your average Hindi film. How would you describe it?

It’s a balls out comedy. You are just on the floor laughing. From the first day I read the script to watching it a month ago, through this whole process, I have just been on the floor laughing trying to catch my breathe…it is so funny and outrageous! It just pushes every boundary there ever was. I mean while watching it you say ‘they DID NOT just show that!’ So, definitely it’s an amazing and a genre stretching film.

How do you think Hindi cinema has changed to have a film like this be accepted?

I think Delhi Belly joins a body of work verses that it is a stands out alone. I think last two to three years movies have been made, which kind of shift the paradigm a little bit. Delhi Belly joins that conversation and of course it takes it a little further and pushes the edges a little more. It’s truly amazing that a film like this was made. It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t Aamir Khan. No one would have touched it.

Imran told us that the comedy is done very straight faced.

It’s very situational. So the writer just puts us in those craziest of situations and you are just playing it straight. I think if you play into the comedy it is not funny anymore.

What would you say is the best thing about the film?

I think the writing; you’ve never heard writing like this before. Plus the editing of the film is superb! It’s only 90 minutes long and it is very fast paced. You sit in your seats, you are bent over laughing and then you have to leave and it goes by in a flash. But still for me it’s the writing. Akshat Verma writes like no one else writes.

Like the film, the music is something new, do you like the soundtrack?

I love it, I do. You know, the oddest thing happened – I’d gone over for dubbing and I had met Aamir and he’s asked ‘have you listened to the sound track?’ We listened to the music and since I don’t speak the language that well, he translated every word of every song to me. Of course the music is gorgeous and the lyrics are amazing, it is all fantastic in this film. ‘Saigal Blues’ is probably my favorite song it is so beautiful. I heard it and it brought back huge nostalgia.

How is it to work with Aamir as a producer?

I’m in awe of him. I really am. I’ve always loved his acting, but you meet a lot of people and the balloon just bursts when you meet them. They’re just assholes in the first two minutes of meeting them. He’s such a hugely inspiring person because of the risks he has taken. I just feel he himself is growing into… I don’t know how to explain it…he’s just a constantly evolving human being and very relatable, very grounded; yet just willing to put himself out there. That in of itself is really, really huge.

With each new production it seems he tries something new from Peepli Live, to Dhobi Ghat, to now Delhi Belly

Oh My God, he’s totally changing Bollywood one film at a time and it’s because he does what he loves and anytime you find that one who just goes after his heart it pays off. There’s a lot of risk involved and a lot of downside to it but it pays off. It’s really inspiring to meet him.

What can audiences expect from Delhi Belly?

Oh it’s a very, very serious subliminal messages of world peace and then some more.
(I Laugh)
What they should expect…they should expect not to take their parents or their ailing grandparents to see Delhi Belly. They should expect to have a fantastic time. Someone was watching the preview today and she literally was like ‘there was a part of me that was laughing and a part of me was saying Oh My God, this is so not allowed’. You know we are all just so bound by the Indian tradition that when you see someone just kick it open, you kind of have a reaction to it. So it just absolutely, definitely delivers a punch.

You can get a punch of the meanest comedy you have seen when Delhi Belly hits theaters this Friday. Be sure to check out our interview with Imran and stay tuned for our review from the world premiere in London!

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