‘Monstrepreneur’: Being a master of all

Pooja Sampath, Partner – Centrestage

A typical Bangalore girl, Pooja Sampath grew up in a family where she was always protected, yet allowed to explore the world around her. As a child, she was always encouraged to try new things. Right from regular hobbies such as dancing, singing, swimming, skating, acting to training for the district level Juniors “Go Kart” championship and learning new musical instruments.

It is this encouragement from her parents during her formative years that has led Pooja to achieve a lot of thing under the age of 25. Pooja is a Partner, Executive Producer, Casting Director and Actor at a media studio called Centerstage. She has written and directed scripts for ads and viral videos in the past 4 years. Currently she is exploring and experimenting with her writing, acting and filmmaking process with various production houses, travelling across cities and finding new experiences to learn from.

Through all the activities that Pooja was exposed to by her parents, the one that caught her attention the most at an early age, was performance — she started to love acting and dancing. This put her in her first south Indian commercial for a water heater at the age of 14. She got through an audition and within no time was put in front of a camera. “It was the worst performance of my life, but I learned so much from that one experience and glad I was put in that spot. For the first time I understood what practically goes on behind the scenes while making a film”, says Pooja. It was enlightening for her and it sparked many questions in her mind about filmmaking and the production.

Although Pooja loved films, acting and performance she also wanted to study History & Psychology. She studies in Mount Carmel College and was involved in the Drama club, Dance team, Community service through arts and academics. She was elected and was the youngest Rotaract District 3190 Secretary in Bangalore through organizing events and playing sports and so on. Pooja went onto to do her MBA in Media and Entertainment. “It is the encouragement from my parents and their attitude towards my all round development as a person that gave me the chance to explore myself and be good at more than just one skill”, says the young achiever.

High point in career

“I believe I am yet to hit my potential. Maybe, in the next 5 years by the time I’m 30J”

Most challenging assignment

“There are many, but the one that comes to mind now is my first casting assignment as a Casting Director. I was new, barely a few weeks old in the industry and had to single handedly manage 80 cast members, not just on the shoot day but during the auditions, before casting them, figuring their costumes, their refreshments for 3 shooting shifts, schedules, managing their payments. I was barely starting off and I had never done it before. All this, without any associates.”

Greatest inspiration

“My parents. Mum and Dad have always given me strength and support. They never made things black and white for me, instead allowed me to make my own decisions and have always been by my side. Filmmaker Saad Khan — the founder of Centerstage has been supportive through the years and has always looked out for my well-being. I have learned a lot from him and his infectious energy, whether on a set or generally in life.”

Most important milestone in life

“When I was able to handle many roles simultaneously, such as a Producer, Casting Director, Writer, filmmaker, Actor and performer. When people realized that the best way to sum up my designation was by calling me “Monstrepreneur”.  The Young Achiever in the under 25 club was a pleasant surprise. Herstory and Yourstory and many other publications thought that my work and my story was worth sharing with the world. All of this encouragement from people following my work so early in my life is definitely a privilege and pushes me to work harder and get better.”

“Women are the better halves”- What does it mean to you?

“Putting gender bias aside, women are more perceptive to emotional cues; this quirk helps in a working environment. Sure, there are a few preconceived notions about a woman’s “skillset” at first, but once you get on work and focus on doing work, and getting things done — woman, man, young, old? None of it makes a difference; your work will speak for itself eventually. I believe in that, so don’t really bother with this gender bias that may do the rounds once in a while.”

Experiences on being a woman entrepreneur

“It has been a very interesting journey and every experience has only made me stronger and push harder. There was a time when people seemed to find it hard to believe that a young “girl” just out of college can run a full fledged media company as a Producer. Something very challenging that I used to face on a regular basis was when people got in touch and ask to speak to the “producer”, and I’d say “that would be me” — they would find it hard to believe. The feminist in me used to get outraged. Once I even had someone tell me to stop joking and connect him to the Producer. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I just didn’t react and continued with business. It was a funny phase but that’s changed now.”

How do you / did you believe in making dreams come true?

“I completely believe in dressing for the part you want to play. Want to be a boss but you’re just an intern? No problem, act like a boss, talk like a boss, walk like a boss, you will be one. It’s easier said than done, but if you’re not committed 100% with what you’re doing, you won’t get anywhere. You have to honour the job you’ve taken up. Work is worship for me. I picked a career that I don’t need a vacation from.”

Setbacks faced and lessons learnt

“Don’t ever let anyone else do the thinking for you. You have a brain, use it. At the same time, don’t let anyone else speak for you. You can do that yourself.”