Pooja was born and brought up in Mumbai, Maharashtra, while her family's native place is Mangalore, Karnataka. During her time at college, she revealed she gained confidence by helping out with her mother's network marketing business, improving her networking skills. Furthermore, she regularly sought to enter in intercollegiate competitions, participating in dance and fashion shows. Pooja was crowned as the second runner-up at the Miss Universe India 2010 competition, while also being crowned Miss India South Glamorous Hair 2010 in the subsidiary competition. She made her acting debut in Mysskin's Tamil superhero film Mugamoodi in 2012. However, the film received mixed to negative reviews from critics, hampering its progress, and the film ended up becoming a surprise commercial failure. Her second film release, the Telugu film Oka Laila Kosam (2014), she was praised for her performance in the movie. In her second Telugu film, Mukunda, Hegde impressed many with her memorable performance in Gopikamma song. In July 2014, Hegde agreed terms to make her Bollywood debut opposite Hrithik Roshan in Ashutosh Gowariker's forthcoming period film Mohenjo Daro, due to that she would take a break from appearing in regional Indian movies until her Hindi film's release and rejected an opportunity to work in a film directed by Mani Ratnam.
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