A tête-à-tête with Shriya Pilgaonkar
With a voice sweet as honey, a background in professional kathak, and an acting career that celebrates her roots and heritage in a unique way, Shriya Pilgaokar is a creative powerhouse we love. Wearing her favourite Misho pieces, the actor tells us about her love for languages and establishing a career that straddles screens beyond borders.
Straddling the worlds of regional cinema, foreign films and mainstream Bollywood, Shriya Pilgaonkar’s CV is not one many can boast of. Over an intimate conversation, the actor tells us the backdrop that painted her path in films. “I started with a Marathi film, after which I did Fan, my first Hindi film with Shah Rukh Khan. I also did a French film. I love languages, so I’ve always wanted to act not just in India but internationally as well. Beecham House, which is a period drama released in the UK directed by Gurinder Chadha, was such a thrilling project to work on because when I look at women like Priyanka Chopra and Radhika Apte, they’ve been able to do great work on a global scale. I had decided no matter what career path I choose to take, I want to do it at a global level.”
Acting runs in the family— her parents are Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar. Her first Bollywood film, Fan, released the same year streaming giant Netflix came to India. “Initially, I think actors had a very set way of looking at work in terms of wanting to play just the ‘hero’ or the ‘heroine’. But today, we don’t have those labels anymore. I think the value of playing a good character very much exists and that has only come about now. Good writing is now being appreciated, content is truly king.”
What are her goals as an actor, we ask. A personal challenge that she’s taken up: “I’ve made a conscious effort to pick different parts so that I’m not stereotyped because it’s no fun to keep playing the same thing over and over again.” And with a varied playlist of characters on-screen comes a roster of costumes and styles she patches into her style off-line. “In Beecham House,
which is set in the 1790s in India, the costumes of the entire cast were very well researched and beautiful based on authentic references. Although I had two looks in that show which continued through the season, it was a new experience for me and I loved the jewellery, the way my hair was designed - very vintage and Indian in its own way,” she explains. Another look on the contrary is more sophisticated and based on the role of an empowered modern woman who is a lawyer, is reflected in a wardrobe of beautiful kurtis styles in varied ways.
Pilgaonkar’s knowledge of Indian fashion and style comes entirely from observing her mother and grandmothers. “I’ve always thought it’s important to have the knowledge of saris and weaves, and traditionally what Maharashtrian saris have been like. When it comes to traditional jewellery, the collection that my mother and grandmothers have is priceless, nothing comes close to that. I feel most graceful when I wear Indian,” says Pilgaonkar. If you follow her on Instagram, you would’ve noticed she often incorporates Indian designs in her daily life. “Vintage excites me. I gravitate towards androgynous silhouettes. It depends. Things that make me feel graceful and allow me to move around,” she says.
There’s more the actor inherits from her mother. As a child, she would admire her mother’s nath and wait for the opportunity to wear one. “When I go out wearing a sari, I sometimes add a Maharashtrian Nath in it, I’ll put flowers in my hair the way my mother always does. These are little things, but I think they’re very important as they’re things passed down from generation to generation - so I feel a sense of responsibility to keep it going,” she explains while talking about staying true to her roots.
Her jewellery drawers are populated with statement pieces: earrings mainly. “Jewellery always brings out your personality in a strong way, which is why I’m very careful with what I pick. I rely completely on my mother for Indian jewellery. I like classics such as pearl earrings, diamond studs, golden hoops - sometimes that’s all it takes. I really enjoy wearing chokers, since I have a long neck. Chokers make me feel incredibly sexy. Once in a while, I do enjoy stacking and going overboard, mixing and matching. I’ve realised there’s no right way to do things.”
What does the future hold for this talent powerhouse? With a legal drama and a rom-com series already in the pipeline, she is dabbling in different genres and is also working on writing and directing a project soon. “As an actor, you have to keep evolving and working on yourself. As they say, you’re only as good as your last project. Although a show like Mirzapur really pushed things for me, I’m not complacent. I’m ambitious and I don’t want to settle. I’m constantly striving to make more interesting things happen for myself all the time.” We hear you!