Shriya Pilgaonkar on her latest thriller Crackdown, and how Mirazpur's success changed the momentum of her career
Shriya Pilgaonkar opens up on her latest espionage thriller from Voot Select, Crackdown, her strive to constantly explore her film choices, and why conversations around nepotism don't bother her craft.
Shriya Pilgaonkar is currently the most seen face on our laptop screens. Having made her digital debut with fan-favourite Amazon Prime Video series, Mirzapur, the actor has had an unconventional acting journey.
Daughter of veteran actors Supriya and Sachin Pilgaonkar, Shriya began her acting debut with the 2013 Marathi film Ekulti Ek. She then featured in the 2015 French comedy Un plus Une and was widely praised for her performance in Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan a year later.
In an interview to Firstpost, Pilgaonkar opens up on her latest espionage thriller from Voot Select, Crackdown, her strive to constantly explore her film choices, and why conversations around nepotism don't bother her craft.
Could you tell us how and why did you pick up the show?
I think as an actor, I constantly want to explore different genres because that is how I will evolve as an artist. And action is something I had never done before. I thought the script for Crackdown was really interesting even with respect to the fact that I was playing two different characters. Besides, the emotional graph of my characters was very well-written. And with director Apoorva Lakhia, whose forte lies in the action genre, the show felt an out-and-out entertaining prospect.
In Crackdown, you play two completely different characters. Was it easy to switch between the roles? How was the transition like?
It was all about finding a balance between strength and vulnerability. Divya was someone who was able to find strength in her most vulnerable moments and then could use that in an impressive manner, which is what I thought was interesting. With Mariyam, I derived empathy because of the way she led her life and yet put up a brave front. Yes, I think it was not easy with the transition, especially because I had to portray Mariyam through Divya, not as Shriya. So I had to rely a lot on the writing to guide me through. And of course thanks to the director who allowed me to explore it the way I wanted to do it. Honestly, I don't tend to judge the characters that I am playing. For me, I always try to find the truth of that particular role and even with Crackdown, every character is grey and flawed just like how most of us are in real lives. Hence, we have tried to show them in a most humane manner, as a combination of both strength and vulnerability.
Did you go through any special training for the action sequences?
Yes, I did. Because it was my first action piece, I had to start at the basics – right from a punch. And physically I had to get much fitter. Since I am doing a lot of hand-to-hand combat, the action gets very realistic and honestly, sometimes that is more difficult to pull off. So Javed sir (Javed Karim, stunt co-coordinator for Crackdown), Appu Sir (Lakhia), and even Saqib Saleem (her co-actor), everyone would help me in the process. I trained for a month and a half and although I have a lot to learn, as this is only the beginning, this show really helped me to understand what are my strengths, and the areas that I need to work on. I feel it is always exciting for an actor to physically transform yourself in a certain way for a role.
Do you think OTT content has come through over the years or there is still much to explore?
I personally never make a decision based on the medium that I am working on. So for me, the aim has always been to do a balance of films and streaming content, because both the mediums have their own charm. Nothing can replace the joy of watching a film or yourself on a big screen. But on the OTT space, there are such interesting scripts, with a lot of room for character development. You can live out a graph, show your skills. For me, the momentum of my career changed after Mirzapur and I was able to get more opportunities to show my skill as an actor.
I believe the screen time of a role never matters because irrespective of that, whether it is for 5 minutes or 5 hours, one has the ample opportunity to shine. The advantage of OTT is that today viewers appreciate the actors even if they are in a single scene. They are able to gauge good acting and somehow the traditional hero-heroine labels have been blurred out on the OTT space. So I think content-wise, it is evolving because the writers are still discovering their voice, figuring out what kind of stories work. I also want to add that as an actor, the scope of performing different characters is much more in the OTT platforms as opposed to films.
From a crime drama like Mirzapur, a coming-of-age film like Bhangra Paa Le to the recent cybercrime show The Gone Game, we have seen you perform across the board. Have you figured out a favourite genre so far?
I still want to explore more but I would also love to do a romantic-comedy now. Because I have done back-to-back thrillers, and even though I did do a lighthearted Bhangra Paa Le with Sunny Kaushal and House Arrest with Ali Fazal, I still feel rom-com remains an unexplored genre for me. I am really hoping some project like that comes my way.
The industry today is in the midst of a national conversation with regard to nepotism. How do you deal with it? Does it affect your craft?
Not at all. I have always been very much focused. To put it a very straightforward way, I don’t come from an entitled space. I have auditioned for every single project, I have worked on. My journey and graph have always been a step-to-step process which is why I think your talent speaks for yourself. And honestly, every person’s journey, even if you come from a film background or not, is different. There are some who get a grand lunch, whereas they are some who don’t and I have never played my family card to get work. I really want my work to speak for itself, which I why I think the audience has always been kind and never too negative to me when it came to these conversations.
Are there any more projects coming up?
Yeah, there are two more projects but they haven't been officially announced yet. Right now, I am really looking forward to my Telugu debut (Haathi Mere Saathi, also starring Rana Daggubati, Zoya Hussain) because I follow a lot of South films.
Crackdown is currently streaming on Voot Select.
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