Shriya Pilgaonkar, daughter of veteran actors Supriya and Sachin Pilgaonkar, began her acting journey with a Marathi film Ekulti Ek in 2013. Following this, Shriya featured in a French movie titled Un Plus Une, and was widely noticed for her performance in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan in 2016. After that there was no looking back for Shriya. She proved her acting versatility in the digital space with her performances in the Amazon Prime Video series Mirzapur and Netflix film House Arrest. And, now, she is all set to woo the audience with her role as a reporter in the multilingual film, Haathi Mere Saathi. In an interaction with the Cinema Journal, Shriya sheds light on her character, and the OTT boom. Excerpts:
Tell us about your character in Haathi Mere Saathi.
I am playing a reporter. Against all the odds she decides to support Rana Daggubati’s character, Baldev, in his fight for justice for elephants. She is in the place where she is pressured to report in a certain way, and I love the fact that she is a brave girl and decides to not to be intimidated and helps this man in his fight for justice.
What is your takeaway from the character?
The beauty of being an actor is every character you play makes you learn something and ask certain questions to yourself. In this case, I learnt when you are starting off in any field you don’t feel that you are in a position to change things. However, when you find the courage you feel empowered that you can be the one to make the first step to change. Sometimes it is your own determination that enables you to take the decision.
What inspired you say as journalist roles are clichéd in Hindi cinema?
I really wanted to be a part of this film. The subject of the film is very close to my heart. I am a strong believer and vocal about animal rights. I believe in development, but development along with sustainability is important too. When I realised the film was made on this subject with all the entertainment elements, which can convey the message in a simpler manner, I was up for it. I have seen Prabu [Solomon] sir’s films and I love his work. I wanted to collaborate with Rana as I have watched him in Baahubali, and the fact that the film will be in Tamil and Telugu.
What were the challenges of doing a multilingual film?
It was challenging. I didn’t have time to prepare because I got on-board at the last minute. Prabu sir improvises a lot. Several times the dialogues will be changed and reconstructed on the set so I prepared myself to not worry. I was clear that I want to enjoy speaking the language and I don’t want to speak gibberish. I have seen many actors doing that. I wanted to understand the meaning of the words. Things would have been simpler if it was some other language, but Tamil and Telugu came with a challenge. But, I was happy to take that up. It was an exciting experience.
Will you be interested taking up more Tollywood and Kollywood films?
I take it as it comes. For me the priority has always been a story. The medium and language are secondary. I don’t think of myself as an actor only from the Hindi film industry. I think of myself as a global actor. I have done a few international projects and some Marathi as well. So, if I like the story I would definitely like to be a part of it. There are no full and final decisions of transition I have made.
You have done a lot of OTT projects, do you fear being tagged and typecast?
I don’t want these labels of OTT actor or short film actor. I don’t believe in those things. Today, the lines are blurring and there are a lot of opportunities. I have done relatively more work on OTT, people say I am an OTT actor, I don’t really understand this. So, I think to change people’s mind we need to do different work, which gets people to see your calibre, and what kind of work you like to do and stand for.
Your parents have had a flourishing acting career for decades. Does that come with a sense of responsibility and pressure?
I have never been brought up to feel any pressure. My parents have encouraged me to carve my own path, and fortunately, I feel that the audience has followed my journey. People weren’t even aware of who my parents are. I never played that card and because of that I have not seen that negativity. Rather than getting into any discussion, I let my work speak for myself. I am here to learn to take the right feedback and knock out people who are not adding value to my growth. The responsibility I feel is to carry myself with the grace that my parents have. Ups and downs are part of life, but what stays intact is how I am as a person and how I treat other people.
Do you discuss your work with your parents?
Sometimes, when I feel I am not sure of something I do discuss with them because I know they are going to have a conversation with me as an artiste and not as parents. Many times, I want them to feel surprised with the character I am playing. So, we don’t overly discuss my work until I need that, but I definitely feel nice to have them around to have a discussion on my films whenever I want to. They empower me and let me take my decisions. They want me to make my own mistakes and learn. At the end of the day, I know they are proud of me and the film choices that I am making. What I want for myself will be unique in my own way.