She is the daughter of two talented artists, Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar. We can say that Shriya Pilgaonkar was born to act. Like his father Sachin, who made a name for himself as a child artist in both Hindi and Marathi cinema and then extended that streak into adulthood, Shriya it also started when I was very young. He appeared on the hit series Tu Tu Main Main, playing a character named Bittu, when he was just five years old. He made his big screen debut with the Marathi film Ekulti Ek (2013), which was directed by Sachin. That’s why she won the Maharashtra State Film Award in the Best Debut Actress category. He then landed a French film called Un plus une (2015), which was widely celebrated on the festival circuit. Her Hindi film debut occurred with Fan (2016), where she was paired with Shah Rukh Khan. It’s to her credit that she stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the movie and didn’t give off any rookie vibe. OTT drew attention in the form of Mirzapur (2018), which was hugely successful, even being part of Gurinder Chaddha’s period piece, Beecham House (2019). Its latest release was the multilingual Kaadan (2021), whose Hindi version Haathi Mere Saathi has been suspended due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and a partial shutdown in Maharashtra. Excerpts from a fluid interview with the actress who likes to work in different genres, platforms and languages …
Fan recently completed five years of its release. What memories do you have of your Hindi film debut?
Fan will always have a special place in my heart. Sharing screen space with Shah Rukh Khan feels surreal even now. He tried to tell a different story in a different way. Kudos to Shah Rukh Khan for taking that risk and playing a double role in the film. The two characters he played were polar opposites. It taught me that one should never be afraid of taking risks. I am proud of the movie and proud of my work on the movie.
Did Shah Rukh Khan give you any acting advice?
I loved interacting with him because he is a smart man. He’s insightful and we had a lot of interesting conversations. I told him that I was not only interested in being an actor, but that I also wanted to be a filmmaker someday. I told him that I already made a short film and a documentary. He was very supportive of that and recommended a book on screenwriting called Save The Cat, which I bought later.
What things have you learned from your parents that make you a better professional?
I have seen the grace with which my parents have always been and that is what I aspire to be. The goodwill they have is the result not only of their contribution and talent, but also of their behavior as people. I’ve always been told that no job is too big or too small and that the best way to be different is to be yourself. The legacy I want to leave is that of being a solid human being, kind to people and good at his craft.
Do you ever get impatient if work is slow?
Patience is a virtue that actors must have. There is no way out. I don’t see that my career lasts only 10 years, I want it to last 50 years or even more. So the quality of the work I do is more important to me. There will be a good phase and a not so good one, but the important thing is to be consistent and keep moving forward. When
I feel like I have some free time, I go out and travel or learn something and prepare for what is to come.
You are a swimmer, a kathak dancer, a stage actor … what is something new that you have indulged in in the last year?
I am an explorer at heart and there are so many things that interest me. The best part about being an actor is that you can use all kinds of skills and experiences to build your characters. I also love the process of making movies and this past year I started writing a lot. When I feel ready and more prepared for it, I would love to direct. But I will never stop acting. I love him too much.
What lessons did you learn in 2020, when the whole world was locked up?
To truly appreciate and live in the present moment, as simple as that. I believe that I have learned to live a better life and not just let myself be carried away by my desires. We spend too much time living in the past or the future. In 2020, I personally felt a great sense of gratitude for existence and life in general with everything the world was going through. I definitely got to know myself better and a lot of things were put into perspective. It’s the little everyday things that bring me joy that I value much more now. Everything else is fleeting.
Did you reflect a lot on your life during the confinement?
I have come to realize that, as an actor, the only thing I have under control is the filming process. The journey is what I can hold onto. At the confinement, I had the opportunity to be part of a virtual play called Lockdown Love that we did online. And I also filmed a thriller series at home called The Gone Game, which all the actors filmed themselves, and we were directed through Zoom. People really enjoyed watching it and it was a way for them to be able to do everything on their own.
Have the pandemic and the confinement changed things for the actors?
Today is the best time to be an actor, as there are many more ways to tell stories. Good writing is getting its due, and various characters are being written as a result, especially strong female parts. The feminine look is being noticed. The traditional star system is gradually changing. It doesn’t matter anymore if you’re not leading parts. If you stand out in a scene, people will notice. The seriousness of the character and the story is important. I have built a strong sense of myself that is not easily beaten. Having a strong EQ is important and mental well-being is always a priority, which helps me overall as a person and makes my journey even more enjoyable.
What are your expectations from 2021?
I just hope the pandemic is under control and that things don’t get worse. I have work prepared and some trips that I am looking forward to. But as we all learned from last year, being in the present moment and making the most of it seems like a better plan than over planning things.
What are some new things you want to try as an actor?
I haven’t had a chance to make a Bollywood masala movie as we call it. I would love to do that. I recently did action for the first time, which was great to test. I want to be able to surprise myself and the audience with the parts I play and the stories.
I chose to be a part of. I am looking forward to working with Zoya Akhtar, Sriram Raghavan, Anurag Basu, Shoojit Sircar, to name a few.
Tell us a little about your next projects …
My next projects have yet to be officially announced, but I am very excited about what lies ahead. There are two series and a movie in preparation. They’re in genres that I haven’t done before so I’m insanely excited. I am currently finishing a session for one of them. I want to maintain a balance between film work and series, as both mediums are fun and satisfying in their own right.
Name an actor whose career chart you admire.
One is difficult to choose. Different aspects of different actors’ careers have been inspiring, but Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Radhika Apte come to mind. These wonderful actors have managed to make films of different genres and have surprised audiences with their variety and versatility with each character. I like that they have not been stereotyped and have made solid decisions. Also, Priyanka Chopra is a powerhouse and has definitely paved the way for Indian actors internationally.