Indian-Sri Lankan actress, Pooja Gauthami Umashankar has surged to prominence as Sri Lanka’s topmost actress. Literally put, the 37-year old is the current day sensation for her good looks and her appeal that has projected her image for her lead roles in Sinhalese films as well as Tamil, Malayalam and amateur films. Following a series of successful commercial ventures, saw Pooja’s performance as a blind beggar in Naan Kadavul praised by the critics, securing major awards, including the South Filmfare and Tamil Nadu State Film Awards. She simultaneously worked in Sinhalese cinema and was part of several successful films like Anjalika (2006), Asai Man Piyabanna (2007), Suwanda Denuna Jeewithe as the leading actresses of Sinhalese cinema.
Popularly known as Pooja, she has made it a point to give praise to God as a Christian, for her success. She is also roundly liked and admired for her outgoing approach to life ever willing to help others.
Pooja’s mother Sandhya is a Sri Lankan Sinhalese and her father H.R.Umashankar is an Indian Kannadigafrom Sringeri in Chikmagalur district, Karnataka. Pooja is proficient in Sinhala, Kannada, Tamil and English Languages. Following her pre-schooling in Sri Lanka, she moved to India and went to Poornapragnya in Aldur, Chikmagalur and then to Nirmala Convent in Mysurur after which she continued her education at Baldwin’s Girls High school in Bengaluru and did graduation (B.Com) and Post Graduation (MBA) at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.
In 2016, Pooja married a Sri Lankan Tamil business man Prashan D. Vethakan, in a low-key ceremony, with close family in attendance.
Pooja was introduced by a friend to cinematographer-turned-director Jeeva, who signed her for the role of Anglo-Indian girl in his Tamil film Ullam Ketkumae. At that time, Pooja said that she planned to finish that film and return to her original job and did not take an acting career into consideration. She stated: “I said to myself I’d act in just this film, see what it’s like, make good use of the money and get back to studying”. But she changed her decision following an offer to star opposite R. Madhavan which she could not decline. A massive delay in Ullam Ketkumae meant that her second film, the romantic comedy Jay Jay (2004), directed by Saran became her first official release. Pooja received favorable reviews for her performance in Jay Jay. G. Ulaganathan from Deccan Herald wrote: “Spirited, lively, Pooja’s sparkling eyes and smile do leave an impression”. Similarly a critic from nowrunning.com noted: “[A]mong the two new heroines, it is Pooja who scores with her good performance and dances…” She next played the romantic interest of Ajith Kumar in another Saran film, Attahasam, which, in spite of mixed critical response, went on to become a financial success.Pooja, too, met with criticism, with critics citing that she had “only limited role” and was “wasted in an insignificant and half-baked role”. Pooja’s subsequent release happened to be Ullam Ketkumae that featured her in one of the five leading roles alongside Shaam, Laila and Asin. It fetched positive remarks and emerged as a sleeper-hit. She went to appear in commercial Tamil films such as Thambi and Pori. In 2007, Pooja also appeared in a Malayalam film, Panthaya Kozhi, before landing the lead female role in Bala’s Naan Kadavil. Her portrayal of Hamshavalli, a blind beggar, was critically appreciated and earned her several accolades, including the Film fare Award for Best Actress – Tamil and Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Female Character Artiste. Following Naan Kadavul, Pooja went on a sabbatical, appearing in just cameo roles in TN-07 AL 4777, Drohi, and the Telugu film Orange.
She became a sensation in the Sri Lankan film industry and a household name after the success of Anjalika (2005) and Asai Man Piyambanna (2007). She then on went to appear in several blockbusters in Sinhalese cinema and rose to high popularity. Her big budget film Kusa Pabha released in early 2012 and became the highest grosser ever in the history of Sri Lankan film industry. Critics praised Pooja for her role of Pabawathi.
Pooja has been a part of a short film titled Mirage that was shot in September 2011. She says, her good friend Abhishek Venkteswar asked for her participation in this short film. The film was screened in various short film festivals in India and The West Midlands International film festival in UK, fetching accolades for the film and Pooja’s performance. When she was shooting for Mirage, she also starred in Smoking kills a short film made by University students as a student welfare initiative.
She was one of the judges in the popular reality dance show Aatam Paatam Kondatam opposite dance master Prasanna on Kalaignar TV, Sun TV.
AWARDS: IN INDIA
1. Amurtha Surabi Best Newcomer Award For Jay Jay 2003
2. All India Radio Awards Most Popular Newcomer Award For Attagasam 2004
- Filmfare Award Best Actress Award For Naan Kadavul 2009
- Tamil Nadu State Film Awards Best Actress For Naan Kadavul 2009
- Vijay Awards Best Actress Award For Naan Kadavul 2009
6. World Malayalee Council Awards Best Actress For Naan Kadavul 2009
7. Special Honour From Rajinikanth 2009
8. Norway Tamil Film Festival Best Actress For Vidiyum Mun 2013
9. Vikatan Awards Best Actress For Vidiyum Mun 2013
10. Behindwood Gold Medals Best Actress For Vidiyum Mun 2013
IN SRI LANKA
1. Derana Film Awards Most Popular Actress For Kusa Paba 2012
2. Slim Nealson People’s Awards Most Popular Actress Award 2016
3. Derana Film Awards Most Popular Actress Award For Paththini 2016
4. Social Media Awards Most Popular Social Media Icon Of the Year 2016
5. Signees Salutation Merit Award For Paththini And Sarigama 2016
6. Janabhimani Honour From Sri Lanka Government
7. Sarasaviya Awards Best Actress Award For Sarigama 2018
8. Hiru Golden Film Awards Most Popular Actress 2018 For Paththini
9. Slim nielsen people’s awards 2019 Youth Choice Actress Of the year