‘I never felt the need to have a one-word answer for my career’: Shriya Pilgaonkar
An explorer at heart, Shriya Pilgaonkar, daughter of veteran actors Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar, first thought of becoming a professional swimmer and learnt swimming, then becoming a linguist and learnt the Japanese language. Perhaps unconvinced, she then pursued her Bachelors in Sociology, but eventually ended up becoming an actress and made her acting debut with her father’s Marathi film Ekulti Ek, which won her several awards, including Maharashtra State Government Award for Best Debut Actress. Subsequently, she made her Bollywood debut with Fan and was recently seen in Amazon Prime’s Mirzapur. As she returns to the web with a Netflix original film, House Arrest, we speak to the actress about her journey so far, why acting wasn’t the obvious choice considering her background and her upcoming projects. Excerpts:
Q: What made you explore so many options? And at what point did you decide to become an actor?
I am an explorer at heart and was genuinely interested in a lot of things while I was growing up. After college, I started directing short films and eventually, I got an opportunity to be a part of a play (Karan Shetty’s short play Freedom Of Love). The rehearsal process made me realise that I feel most comfortable when I am on stage or before the camera. So acting happened organically.
Q: Being the daughter of veteran actors Sachin and Supriya, why wasn’t acting your first choice?
It just seemed too predictable back then, and I loved a lot of things. I wanted to do something different. Although my father would always tell me how my mind has always thought like a filmmaker. And, then my father is an actor, director, producer, singer, writer and the list goes on, so I never felt the need to have a one-word answer for my career.
Q: Your debut film, Ekulti Ek, was directed and written by him. How did it happen?
He really liked my performance in Freedom to Love, which was a 10-minute play where I was singing, dancing and acting. At that point, he was already working on a script which was a father-daughter story. So, he asked me if I would like to read it. Neither of us took it for granted and I really respect him for that. I loved the script and knew it was a huge challenge to pull it off. Besides, I knew being on set with dad would teach me a lot… my first film for me was like attending a film school.
Q: And what brought you on board for House Arrest?
The script and my character. A script like this is hard to come by because of the scope it has for performance. I enjoyed reading it. Plus, the characters and their dynamics were fleshed out beautifully by the writer and co-director, Samit Basu. And, of course, it was a Netflix Original so I knew the reach it would have.
Q: Tell us about your character?
She’s a writer. She gets very intrigued when she finds out that a guy named Karan (played by Ali Fazal), who hasn’t left his home in many months, even when he watched his car getting stolen. And, she had been researching the concept of hikikomori, a condition where people become recluse and confine themselves to their homes. So, she claws her way into his home to meet him. And, that’s when she realises that she has some surprises in the store because he is not what she had expected him to be. And her world is very different from his in a way that she engages with the world as a distraction from her life as opposed to Karan who prefers shutting out the world.
Q: And how do you prepare for a character?
It depends on what the character is… But, yes, the conversation with the director and writer is very important to me and for some odd reasons, I end up associating my character with a song.
What do you mean…
Throughout the project, there will be one song going on in my mind, which might not have any connection to the character that I am doing and I don’t know how it started but it always happens. For House Arrest, it was Hawayein from Jab Harry Met Sejal. I would hear this song at least once every day on my way to shoot,
Q: You have also directed and produced short films. Also, do you intend to become the director?
In the past, I have made documentaries, one of them is environmental titled Panchgavya and another is on Maganlal Dresswala, which was screened at MAMI under Mumbai Dimensions in 2012. Right now, I am completely focused on acting but yes, when I will feel that I am ready, I would love to direct a feature.
Q: You started with a Marathi film, then you did British series Beecham House and now you are making your Tamil and Telugu debut. What’s your vision?
I am very ambitious and have always wanted to work in different film industries and be a part of films in different languages, not just in India but globally. I have always wanted to be known as global artist/actor so I am happy that I am getting to explore and hopefully more will come my way. I am greedy to do it all.
Lastly, take us through your upcoming projects.
I have Bhangra Paa Le directed by Sneha Taurani. Here, I play a Punjabi girl from the 1940s who loves music. Then there’s Haathi Mere Saathi with Rana Dagubatti, which is a Trilingual and then I am doing Anubhav Sinha’s film Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai. Next year, I will start shooting for a web-series... I want to maintain that balance of doing film and web.
A beauty secret you swear by: Using Coconut oil to remove my makeup
If not an actor, you would be: A director
Your morning routine: A spoonful of ghee, 5 Almonds, and cuddles with my dog Jack
Shoes or bags: Shoes
You last splurged on: Trip to Turkey. It was my mother’s birthday present from me
Two wardrobe essentials: Well-fitted Jeans and white sneakers
Your favourite restaurant: In Mumbai I love Yauatcha
Your favourite street food: I love all kinds of chaat
A piece of advice that shaped you: Give your best and surrender. Don’t be attached to the outcome