When she begs Aryan, the superstar in Fan, not to harm his stalker, Gaurav, while saying three simple words, “banda accha hai”, Shriya Pilgaonkar brings just the right note of poignancy to the moment.
It’s this dream moment when Pilgaonkar as Neha, performs opposite Shah Rukh Khan in both his avatars.
One would think that being an actor comes naturally to her, being the daughter of talented actors-- Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar. But she quickly banishes the notion. The young lady hates anything predictable and never consciously planned on being an actor.
But here she is, with the most amazing debut in three movies in three different languages: Marathi, French and Hindi; each with the best of actors: Sachin Pilgaonkar, Jean Dujardin and Shah Rukh Khan.
She blushes and grins when she admits to a crush on her French co-star, Jean. And of course, now she is recognised by one and all as the “Fan girl” opposite the Bollywood baadshah.
Pilgaonkar talks to Firstpost about her Bollywood debut below:
So your film journey took off really well this year.
There was that one day in January when I shot both with Jean and Shah Rukh Khan. I felt so grateful and lucky that day. I got to shoot with two actors I absolutely love and respect. I have marked that day in my diary. Gosh, so much has come together to make this moment happen and I was filled with so much gratitude.
Any specific memory of that day?
It was a surreal moment. It was so much fun. It was also the first night shoot on the sets of Fan. I just knew that I had to also enjoy myself and make the most of every microsecond.
What was the first shot with Shah Rukh Khan?
The mela shot in the beginning. We had met once earlier. It was early morning. He had just finished shooting. It felt like we had known each other for a long time. There was so much warmth. We discussed the scenes and did a reading. It was not scary or intimidating at all. All the credit goes to Shah Rukh. He is so normal and such a professional co-actor. I can’t even explain it.
Since he is so open to having conversations about the script- ‘achcha chalo lines karte hai’ -- he made me feel important, as to what I say, also matters. In spite of being a superstar, he was not selfish about his acting. He would even give me cues. He made me so comfortable that there was no nervousness at all.
Fan is your first Bollywood film. How did you feel when you first saw yourself on screen?
My general tendency is that I go without expectations. This was a film with two Shah Rukh Khans. But when I saw myself, it was so exciting. The whole thing for me was in slow motion. It hadn’t hit me how big this opportunity is until I actually saw myself and I realized this had actually happened.
It was lovely to see how he was giving me love in the film and I was like-- why am I not able to give him that love back? Now, I want to do another film with him where I also to get to give him the love he has given me in the film.
Did you watch the film with your parents?
Yes, I wanted to see it again, more relaxed. I went the next day with my parents and my mother was just holding my hand. Dad was very proud. He knows what a good person Shah Rukh is to work with. My father was happy that I was able to experience that.
The qualities that make a star, are not just talent, opportunity or destiny. It’s so much of how you are as a person. Shah Rukh gets that much love because he gives so much love. My father has always said, whatever you do, do it with conviction and enjoy yourself while doing it. So my parents were relieved once they saw my work.
Are you happy with the overall response?
For me, the audience reaction is the most important. And the critics also have been very kind. It is a challenge to be noticed when you are working with a superstar and have less screen time. I was more happy when the audience cheered and whistled when I came on screen. That was very special. It was nice to be told by people that they want to see more of me.
Today, you have the example of Nawazuddin (Siddiqui) who started from scratch or Parineeti (Chopra) who started as a character. Screen time has nothing to do with how much impact you can make. That is very reassuring as an actor. On Twitter too, I got so much love from people. People just showered me with compliments, quoting my lines. I didn’t see this coming at all. Even Shah Rukh said some wonderful things about me on a Marathi channel. He said “woh alag kisam ki hai”. That was a big compliment.
Any difference between pre-Fan and post-Fan days?
I am not anxious anymore about the film. Now the real challenge begins: I don’t want to settle for less. Since I have made a debut in three language films, the path is not common or predictable. My journey has been interesting so far and now I would love to do a lead for sure. I would love to work with Ranveer Singh, Vicky Kaushal, Nawazuddin and of course, Shah Rukh again. The experience with Shah Rukh is incomplete because I have not done a song.
You are more famous now and have your own fans. Thoughts?
Since my parents have always been famous, I am not lured by fame. For me, success is true work. People call me the Fan girl now . For that, I am very grateful and happy.