Shriya Pilgaonkar, daughter of actors Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar acted for a lark as a boy Bittu in the TV serial Tu Tu Main Main. Later, she made a splash with the web series Mirzapur as Sweety Gupta opposite Ali Fazal and has now excelled in the first show which she had to shoulder – Guilty Minds.
"I feel like this is a whole new phase for me as an actor. The opportunity to play a role like Kashaf Kaze does not come very often and it was the first time I got an opportunity to carry a show on my shoulders. The range of the character was interesting and I explored a lot and could sink my teeth into it completely. The credit goes to writing and the director. Till now everyone knew me as Sweety Gupta from Mirzapur and now Kashaf has been equally loved. For any actor to be known by character name is very important and the unanimous critical acclaim that came was heartening. When I read the reviews I realized that people observed what I had put into the series as an actor. You can work hard but it is not received well every time. But this felt like a complete experience and I got a lot of messages from young lawyers saying that they are inspired by Kashaf and that makes me happy," she says.
The show made her illustrious parents happy too. "Normally as an actor I am detached as you don’t know what the destiny will be. You do your work and carry on and don’t sit and obsess over it. But I was strongly attached to this show and much in love with the character because the experience was so fulfilling. My father saw the show and was very happy because I got my body language and diction right. I am very happy that my parents approved of it," beams Shriya who was also seen in the Telugu-Tamil-Hindi film Aranya alias Haathi Mere Saathi.
However, many people did not recognise her as the same actress from Guilty Minds. "I take it as a compliment. I like to take up parts where I can express my versatility. And people are not able to recognize me. I have another show with a different one called Broken News coming up which has Sonali Bendre, Jaideep Ahlawat and me and it again has me in a different role. I am playing a news producer Radha Bhargav in it. Like Kashaf, my character there is that of a girl who wants to side with the truth but the character dimensions are very different and that is something I always aspire to do. I want my character to stand for something, not necessarily good, I love to do a dark role too, but I want people to know why she stands for what she is doing," she adds.
Not an easy journey
It has not been easy for Shriya despite being a star kid. "I have got all my roles through auditions. It was with Fan as well. I was thrilled to be working opposite Shah Rukh Khan. But I have taken no other route other than auditions. The film had a mixed response, but my character was appreciated. But a couple of films I was to do did not work out and things didn’t exactly pan out the way it could have," she sighs.
Having said that, she had always laid down a few ground rules. "Back then I did not follow the trappings of a newcomer. No cover pages of magazines, no hype and hoopla with PR. I wanted my work to speak up first. I did not want to work out of fear. But today we live in an Instagram world and things are very different. I have spent 8 years now in the industry and I am happy and how my career is moving now because I have four more releases this year including a film," she says.
Open to films in different languages
Shriya is also doing theatre now. "I love to act and do various things. My series’ work has helped my film work too and I am getting a lot of offers regularly. I want to explore more films and more stories in other languages also. I started off with a Marathi film and even did a French film apart from Aranya and Kaadan in Telugu and Tamil. There are some wonderful filmmakers who are sending great scripts in other languages and I am feeling successful as an actor. While I don’t mind doing a shorter role, I would love to continue headlining films. I am now also playing a butcher, a sex worker and doing action in other projects," she says.
Next step, to be a director
Will we see her directing, like her father? "Absolutely, yes. Even when I am in front of the camera, I am always asking questions about the script, the direction, the production and the marketing and I will direct when I feel I am ready. You don’t need a one-word answer to define you anymore. Look at Anushka Sharma and Priyanka Chopra. Women are taking control of their narrative today. If you feel like there are not enough parts, I want to write films for myself if need be. But, for the moment, I am enjoying this new phase in my acting career."