From playing a minor role in her father Sachin Pilgaonkar’s 1996 television production Tu Tu Main Main to making her Bollywood debut opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Fan (2016), 26-year-old Shriya Pilgaonkar has come a long way.
Not surprisingly, Shriya’s primary influence in the world of showbiz has been her parents, Supriya and Sachin Pilgaonkar, both popular actors.
Having them around ensured that she grew up watching all genres of cinema, although she says her early film-viewing was mostly confined to animation. “I love how with animation as a medium you can tell the most honest tales with simplicity. It is a very powerful medium.” Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) is her current favourite and her big aim is to eventually produce an animation film.
Penchant for storytelling
Shriya wanted to “tell stories” even when she was a child, something that eventually led her on to the world of films. She also thinks of herself as a traveller, feels that it is travelling that has given her most of her story ideas. Donning many hats, the vivacious actor has been both behind and in front of the camera. While her initial tryst with filmmaking was primarily in the form of assisting, directing, and producing short films, Shriya eventually took to acting, performing in several plays. She attributes her ability to perform confidently for an audience, to her early training in Kathak.
Shriya made her stage-debut in a 10-minute role in Karan Shetty’s 2012 short play Freedom to Love , which was a part of the NCPA’s Short and Sweet festival. She had to act, sing, and dance, and it was during this play that she realized her true love for stage. “I felt more alive than ever. I knew I was doing something right,” she says. This was also the first time that her father saw her performing on stage.
Soon after, while writing the script for Marathi feature Ekulti Ek (2013), Sachin asked his daughter if she would like to act in it. Initially, she was hesitant about acting in a film based on a father-daughter relationship, which Shriya feared could get too predictable. It was the beauty of the story that finally won her over. Her screen debut won her six awards, the Maharashtra State Government Award for Best Debut being one among them. “The film not only taught me a lot, it also helped me connect with my father at a deeper level,” she says.
Acting with heart-throb
It was the role of an Indian dancer and actor in Oscar-winning French director Claude Lelouche’s Une Plus Une (2015) that got her to act alongside her heart-throb, French actor Jean Dujardin. She likens Dujardin to SRK: “Both of them bring so much energy into a room. They are wonderful co-actors, and are both charismatic.” Shriya remembers that time in her life as a particularly exciting one as she was simultaneously working on Fan .
Sharing screen space with SRK was a major breakthrough for Shriya, in spite of her role being a minor one. “It is more difficult to make an impact in a short role, as opposed to longer screen time, and I feel I have successfully managed that.” She ventured into Fan with no expectations, which is why “everything turned out to be a bonus.”
It’s the versatility of her father, who has been in the industry for 54 years that inspires Shriya. “He is the main reason for my wanting to dabble in all aspects of filmmaking,” she says. Even though she has stepped into mainstream cinema, the bubbly actor refuses to be get labelled, and wants to experiment with roles. Calling Fan a bridge to success she wants to only focus on her acting right now despite her many interests, and hopes to become a global figure some day.
The writer is an intern with The Hindu