Shriya Pilgaonkar & Her Myriad Avtars

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She sits down for a freewheeling chat on her journey in the film industry. Shriya Pilgaonkar is one of the rare actors whose celebrity status extrapolates beyond the reach of the film industry. She is a story-teller, a theatre artist and a filmmaker. Her answers convey the requisite emotions and her passion for film-making perfectly. Shriya has a serendipitous journey. She truly knows what she wants.

Her first vice, which is acting is what planted her in the hearts of audiences with her first movie ‘Fan’- her debut flick in Bollywood along with superstar Shahrukh Khan. It is safe to say that she is a fiercely talented actor and a fearless filmmaker.

“The film (her first Marathi film) chose me. For me, a good script will always be a priority over and above anything else and I loved the story of ‘Ekulti Ek’. I had always wanted to work in different film industries and not just in India but internationally as well. My parents have had an enormous contribution to the growth of the Marathi film industry so I am proud to have started off with a Marathi film. It was a lovely story and I had a strong part in it. I’m grateful for that opportunity because it also got me my first set of awards for best debut,” says Shriya on being asked about her debut in a Marathi film.

So what brought her to showbiz? “It was a very organic process and had nothing to do with my parents being actors. I started making short films, started doing theatre and I gradually knew that this is what comes most naturally to me. I have always had a performer’s instinct but acting is something I never took for granted. Training in Kathak also led me to it,” she quips.

Her theatrical work has been much appreciated and has made her what she is today. “I have been doing theatre with Akvarious Productions for about 5-6 years now and have been part of five productions. We have performed at several venues across India and abroad too. Currently, I am part of 2 plays, Bayan and Internal Affairs. It’s difficult to give time to the theatre now with film work happening but I hope to always do it as much as I can. My first film was a Marathi film Ekulti Ek, followed by a French film with Oscar winner Jean Dujardin which was an incredibly special experience. ‘Fan’ opposite Shahrukh khan was my Hindi film debut and it still feels surreal to have got that opportunity to work with him. Currently, I am doing films and series so I hope to maintain that balance as much as I can. The success of Mirzapur changed the momentum of my career and so did doing Beecham House my first British series directed by Gurinder Chaddha. I have always wanted to work not just in India but internationally too,” says Shriya.

What is it about film making that inspires her the most? And pat comes the reply. “I love stories and the art of storytelling. Films have that power to move you, entertain you, and make you a better person. It’s such a grand, magical process if you think about how from a script a movie is made going through different stages and I truly love that. Although being in front of the camera comes most naturally to me, I would love to direct in the future when I have more experience and feel ready,” she adds.

Her love for film making does not end here. She has also made collaborative documentaries with friends and they were well received at international festivals.

On being asked about formal training in acting she replies, “Being on set is the best sort of learning. I haven’t formally learnt acting. Acting is a spiritual experience of sorts for me and I truly love it. It is what challenges me and motivates me in life which is why I know it’s meant for me.”

Interestingly Shriya never stuck to one particular genre in films. So was this a conscious decision? “I want to explore different genres constantly. I don’t want to get stereotyped and want to discover what all I am capable off.

Her take on preparations for a role is more about enjoying the ‘whole process’. “It really depends on what the character is but I enjoy the process of developing the instincts of the character, the body language, the diction. I don’t mind a physical transformation also if needed.”

Daughter of two accomplished actors of the industry – Sachin Pilgaonkar and Supriya Pilgaonkar. So how her parents react to her decision of acting and film-making. “I look up to my parents as actors and their experience and contribution is invaluable. They were happy that I discovered my love for acting by actually making the efforts to do it and not coming from an entitled space. The only thing they always told me was that no work is too big and small and the best way to be different is to be yourself. So don’t compare your journey to anyone else. Just cherish your path and don’t stress about it.”

Talking about her work in ‘Mirzapur’ (a web series) and its preparation, she says, “ It was a mind-blowing script and I instinctively knew it would be something special. I wanted to get the dialect right so I worked hard on that.” Her role as Sweety Gupta from Mirzapur will always be special to her because of the layers she had to her personality.

The biggest influences of her life are ‘her parents’! “There are so many influences every single day. But my parents undoubtedly are my biggest influence,” she says.

“I get to live many different lives in one lifetime as an actor and I can be so many people. It has made me a better person and more empathetic,” she shares.

Shriya opines that there are no failures but only learnings! “All you need to do is just use the learnings and evolve as a person.”

“I want to do a good action film and an out and out Bollywood masala film too where I get to dance. If a biopic on PV Sindhu is ever made, I would love to do it since I also play Badminton,” she shares.

“I have felt part of the industry even before I started acting because I come from a family of actors and filmmakers. No actor ever feels settled but yes, I feel the love and that’s important to me. There’s so much I want to do as an actor and now that there are so many more opportunities, it’s an exciting time to be part of the industry.”

For Shriya, just relaxing at home with her dog and family or reading and watching something is definition of unwinding. Taking trips with her grandparents and spending time in the pool are her favourite childhood memories.

Shriya has her hands full when it comes to her future projects. “In November I have 2 releases coming up, ‘House Arrest’ which is a fun, interesting film on Netflix where I am reuniting with Ali Fazal after Mirzapur in a completely different Avataar. The film also stars Jim Sarbh .
Besides that, I have ‘Bhangra Paa Le’ with Sunny Kaushal which is produced by RSVP. I play a Punjabi girl from the 1940’s in that film who loves music. Next Year ,I have my Tamil Telugu debut releasing with Rana Daggubati called ‘Haathi Mere Saathi ‘ and another Hindi film called
‘Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai’ by Anubhav Sinha. There are more projects that I can’t talk about just yet!”

A co-star in your wishlist

Vicky Kaushal, Ranveer Singh, Tabu, Alia Bhat

Directors you’d like to work with

The list is endless but Zoya Akhtar, Soojit Sircar, Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali, Neeraj Ghaywan definitely top the list

Define yourself as an individual

I am a seeker. I am curious and in general positive about life and people.

One fun thing about Shriya

That I am always up for an adventure and impromptu plans. If you tell me that you want to go on 3-hour drive to eat amazing food somewhere, I’ll say yes let’s do it!

One thing you love the most about yourself

That I see the best in people and am not judgmental

Your makeup routine

Just some tinted lip balm, mascara and lots of moisturizer on my face

Your workout routine

Pilates and Surya Namaskar

Favourite scent

Issey Miyake. I like men’s perfumes better

Who all are on your speed dial list

Mom, Dad, Manager, driver and 2 close friends

Favourite food

Home-cooked Maharahstrain ‘Varan Bhat and potato ki sabzi’ and fried fish on the side, street food like chaat. Chinese and Japanese is my favourites!

Your spirit animal

It keeps changing but maybe a Koala Bear because I love to cuddle, take naps and love trees.

A book character would you like to play if it was turned into a movie?

The world of Alice in Wonderful is very fascinating and has scope for all kinds of interpretation!

Favourite place in the world and why

Landour in Mussoorie and Japan

The first thing you bought with your own paycheck

My first paycheck was for a voice-over the job I did in school and I spent all that money buying stationery which I love.

Favourite Disney princess

I love the ocean and I’m fascinated by all that’s under the ocean so Ariel

TV shows you binge-watch

Recently, I binge-watched Succession on Hotstar, Modern love on Amazon and Queer Eye on Netflix. But from the recent shows, I am obsessed with Fleabag.

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