Salman Khan's 'Veergati' co-star, Pooja Dadwal, struggling for work after fighting tuberculosis

By Justin Rao

Mumbai, Nov 15 (PTI) An hour before the interview, Pooja Dadwal made a call informing about the change in venue. She had to vacate her room in the dead of the night and had somehow managed to find a new roof. 'Why don't the hardships ever end?' the long-forgotten actor asks.

Pooja made her film debut with Salman Khan-starrer 'Veergati' in 1995 but faded into oblivion with her subsequent film choices. She returned to the limelight last year, after reports surfaced that Salman's Being Human was providing her financial help for fighting with tuberculosis.

A year after getting fully recovered, Pooja is back to the city, with renewed dreams and a hopeful heart.

'The past still lingers but I am trying to be stronger everyday. I keep telling myself I am not a survivor, I'm a winner,' she says.

In an interview with PTI, Pooja says all she needs right now is one film, a role, to prove that the actor in her is still alive and not buried under self-pity.

'I just need good work. I ask for nothing but a chance to be back. It will take time but that's okay. I now know what my life is worth of. The industry has taught me that you can leave on your own wish, but you come back on their wish,' she says.

Pooja, 42, decided to quit the industry after almost a decade of her debut with Zee TV's 'Gharana' marking her last screen appearance.

Her decision was partly due to the below-par work coming her way and her need to focus on her family and start a new chapter.

'I wanted a normal life but there were lots of family issues, personal things which came up. That started breaking me down and I kept questioning if I did the right thing by quitting. At one point, I thought I'd lose my mind. But I continued.' The craving for 'normalcy', however, threw Pooja in a whirlpool of emotions. She briefly went to the US and found herself working at a gas station and eventually moved to Goa, working as an assistant manager at a casino.

It was while working there, that Pooja saw everything crashing down when she threw up blood one night.

'My health deteriorated. My family didn't come for me and I was discarded once they found out I had tuberculosis. I called up Rajendra (Singh), my oldest industry friend, who decided to step in with help. From 52 kgs, I had come down to 29 kg.' She was admitted to a hospital in Sewri, Mumbai, in March 2018 for TB, where she spent six months.

'I saw nine deaths in front of me there, which left me shaken. Then Being Human stepped in. This is my second inning and it happened only because of Salman Khan. I just want to meet and touch his feet. If he wouldn't have stepped in, no one would have known about my existence or even cared about my death.' Once discharged, Pooja went back to Goa to rehabilitate herself, letting her body heal and taking tuitions to pay for her needs.

She is now slowly picking up her life again in the city, struggling to find a stable roof and landing a decent acting gig.

'I'm very sure I can overcome this phase but I break down at times. I didn't know in the industry taking a gap means out of sight and out of mind. But I had decided that I have to come back to what I had left. I had promised to continue to act when I was launched. I want to do that now till my last breath,' she added. PTI JUR RBRBRB