The Belly Button
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When Imran Khan leaps into a moving car for a lustful lip-lock with the smouldering Poorna Jagannathan — Delhi Belly audiences across India, both men and women, did not quarrel with the suicidal act. For, the sexy and slim Poorna Jagannathan, 39, has redefined cool (and hot) in Bollywood.
While everyone cracked up at the crass jokes in the film, Jagannathan made hearts pound faster every time she strode in. In the film, she plays a journalist, Menaka, who talks casually about eloping with her childhood sweetheart, a sour marriage and an impending divorce as well as her intention to "loosen up" Imran Khan's character, Tashi. Menaka makes bold sound breezy — and Jagannathan says that this is exactly how she is in real life too.
"I played the character pretty close to who I am. Menaka is a woman who doesn't panic when she gets into any situation — she knows how to handle what's thrown at her. So my instinct was to play her very chilled out," says Jagannathan, who also featured in the May 2009 issue of Vogue, India.
Jagannathan was born in Tunis, Tunisia, to a diplomat father and spent most of her childhood travelling through Ireland, Argentina, Pakistan and Brazil. Now based in Los Angeles, she says that bagging a role in Delhi Belly came through a series of pleasant coincidences. She was visiting India for a cousin's wedding in 2009, when a friend from New York urged her to audition for Menaka's character. After four-five auditions, Jagannathan was convinced. "The script was brilliant, the character sounded like a breakthrough and it was an Aamir Khan production. They had me at 'heeello!'" she says.
Jagannathan is not a novice actor. A popular face on American TV shows such as Royal Pains, Numb3rs, The Game and Law & Order, she recently shot for director Bruce Beresford's, Peace, Love and Misunderstanding, releasing later this year. And films isn't all she does. Jagannathan runs a brand consulting firm in New York called Cowgirls and Indians. In fact, it was while working in advertising that she decided to take up acting classes. "I began to dislike my job and was looking for a shift," she explains, "Delhi Belly was completely aligned with my sensibilities. As for my brand consulting firm, it pays the bills."