Shriya Pilgaonkar Opens Up on Gurinder Chadha’s Beecham House

Shriya Pilgaonkar is a name that exudes talent and beauty.

Being the daughter of talented actors Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar, Shriya has paved her own unconventional path to pursue her passion for acting.

She began your journey with a Marathi film (also starring both her parents) and then a French film prior to her Bollywood debut in Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan.

Last year, she left an impact in the Excel Entertainment series Mirzapur on Amazon Prime and now is set to make her television debut in Gurinder Chadha’s series Beecham House.

The drama follows the fortunes of the residents of an imposing and beautiful mansion called Beecham House at the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi, India.

A former soldier called John Beecham (Bateman) owns the mansion.

He is determined to begin a new life with his family but is haunted by his past.

He is reportedly troubled by “dangerous enemies in high places, rival suitors competing for his heart and discord with family members,” and his plan for a new life will not run smoothly.

His family include “interfering” mum Henrietta (Nicol), alongside her friend Violet (Carter).

They’re joined by John’s old pal Samuel Parker (Warren), who leaves the East India Company with John’s long-lost brother Daniel (Suter) to join him at Beecham House.

There’s also mercenary General Castillon (Fitoussi), as well as John’s neighbour Murad Beg (Ray) and English governess, Margaret Osborne (Richards).

On top of that, John is caring for a baby called August – but nobody’s sure who’s the father or mother.

In a special interview with Filme Shilmy, Shriya reflects on her experience of working on the show.

Beecham House is your first ever Television series. How did this show come about for you?

The subject of Beecham House is universal as it is about love, loss and courage.

As for getting the show, I simply auditioned for it.

Even during that process, I kept thinking to myself that ‘it would be so wonderful to play this part’ because I really wanted to work with Gurinder and thought it would be so interesting to do a period drama.

It’s a genre which I had never done before so as an actor, I thought it would be great for me to do, which it was.

I’ve always visualised my career as something that is not just limited to India, but internationally as well. So I always thought about it like that.

This was also the first time I worked and shot abroad so the experience of shooting in Ealing Studios, an iconic studio for a month, with the British crew there and with them in Jaipur was really nice.

We were taken care of and looked after when we were there.

We also got the opportunity to look after them and show the cast and crew around when we shot in Rajasthan.

In that sense, Beecham House I think is a wonderful step for me to do more work internationally.

I would love to strike a balance between working in India and abroad.

We even have actors doing that now so I hope this opens more doors for me.

You play Chanchal. What role does your character play in this multi-cast period drama?

The character of Chanchal is very intriguing because she is this young girl who has the responsibilities of taking care of John Beecham’s child.

Although she is a nursemaid, she wants to still explore the world and there is still so much she wants to do.

She wants to experience everything in life and there is this vivaciousness to her which is very attractive.

She has shades and layers to her personality.

At times she is innocent, charming and flirtatious. Let’s just say that there is an interesting love-triangle on the show, revolving my character.

Through the journey of the show, she grows up and becomes a woman from being a girl.

Chanchal is discovering herself through the show and it’s a wonderful character.

It is beautifully written and is very entertaining.

There is a lot I’ve learnt from playing Chanchal especially the strength and the courage that she displays is something which I can learn from.

I love how Gurinder describes Chanchal as ‘saucy’ (laughs).

The character is so unpredictable and that’s what I enjoyed the most about playing her.

She is not manipulative at all. She is innocent but is very adventurous.

Gurinder Chadha is a powerhouse filmmaker. What did you learn from Gurinder as an actor?

That’s the right word for her – Powerhouse.

This has been a passion project for Paul and her and I feel grateful to have been part of it.

She kept the entire team together and it was just so much fun to work with her.

We bonded over our love for films, food and Bhangra.

She never settles for anything short of what she has envisioned and I love that.

Gurinder really helped me develop my character and made me comfortable from the get-go.

We will be seeing you alongside some international actors like Tom Bateman. Did that add pressure on you?

I was thrilled to know that Beecham House had actors like Tom Bateman, Marc Warren, Lesley Nicol and I had followed some of their works. I was very excited to meet them.

Honestly, we all hit it off the first day we met, even though we are at different stages of our career, we just got along very well.

We continued to stay in touch. Even when we were not shooting, we made it a point to hang out whenever possible.

I hope that camaraderie comes across because the show, at the end of the day, is about relationships and that’s the most important part of the show.

It is also nice that the different characters in Beecham House (English and Indian) have their own path/graph.

Equal weight has been given to both so in that sense Gurinder has handled all the characters in a very nice way and sensitively.

Was there anyone, in particular, you were excited to work with?

Yes, I was very excited to work with them, especially Lesley.

I absolutely adore her not only as an actor but also as a person.

I’ve had so many conversations with her that will stay with me all my life.

She is amazing.

I also spent a lot of time observing them (the international actors) and their way of working.

For me, that was a big learning.

I didn’t feel any pressure in that sense. The only pressure I faced was to do well and do justice to my part.

There have been so many films about the British in India. What new does the series convey about the country’s history?

It’s set on the cusp of the British rule in India which is really interesting about I don’t think too many films have been made in this time frame.

Having said that, I took the opportunity to read a little more about that time period to get a sense of the socio-cultural, political landscape just to get a sense of things.

I love history and knowing that we had people like William Dalrymple on board was super exciting. Also, Beecham house isn’t a political drama.

The way the show establishes the evolving dynamics between the Indian and English residents of Beecham House is beautifully handled.

How satisfied are you with the way your career is going?

I don’t think any artist will ever say that he or she is completely satisfied but yes last year has been wonderful!

The response to the web-series Mirzapur has been overwhelming and I’m so grateful for all the love and appreciation that came my way after the show.

It felt like a whole new debut.

I feel like my journey has just begun and gained momentum.

I don’t want to limit myself to a particular industry, genre, language or platform.

I started with Marathi, French and then Hindi. Now I’m doing some work down South as well as a British series and I want to continue to do all kinds of work.

I’ll go wherever there is a fabulous story.

I have learnt to be patient and trust myself and don’t feel the pressure that people often like to put on young actresses that ‘Time is running out’.

I think big and always have.

I’m happy that interesting projects are coming my way and it only pushes me to work harder.

You wanted to originally become a swimmer or translator. Did being Sachin and Supriya’s daughter contribute towards choosing acting as a career path?

I wanted to be many things at once but I’m an explorer at heart.

I was a competitive swimmer growing up but I never saw that as a career.

I love languages so I started learning basic French and Japanese.

But I have always been a performer and have been very comfortable in front of the camera and on stage but being part of the movies just felt predictable so maybe that’s why I stayed away from it.

I never took it for granted.

It happened organically when I started doing theatre and I’m glad I took that time.

I starting directing before acting and it’s something I am passionate about too.

When I am on set, I’m trying to learn all aspects of filmmaking.

Right now, though, acting has my 100% focus.

How (if at all) have your parents advised or guided you in your journey so far?

They have guided me just by their day to day demeanour and attitude towards life.

They have worked in the industry for more than 50 years and their experiences are invaluable.

But they’ve never sat me down and had that big conversation about how I should be approaching my career.

They let me explore and take chances and are always there when I need to talk about things that are stressing me out.

Time and again they have told me that the best way to be different is to be yourself and to really cherish my own path and enjoy it completely rather than comparing my journey.

That’s ingrained in me strongly.

So I basically get into projects doing my best and enjoying myself without expecting too much.

It’s hard but I try to surrender and that’s what works best for me.

Post Beecham House, what’s next for you?

The year 2019 is looking super exciting as I have three films releasing this year.

One is Haathi Mere Saathi with Rana Dagubatti.

It’s a trilingual film and my Tamil and Telugu debut which I’m very excited and nervous about.

I’m also doing RSVP’s film directed by Sneha Taurani called Bhangra Paa le which stars Sunny Kaushal.

There’s Anubhav Sinha’s film Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai which I finished shooting in Lucknow.

Another film that hasn’t been officially announced yet so I can’t talk about it but I’m currently shooting for it in Delhi.

Here’s wishing Shriya all the best for her current and future projects.

Beecham House will air on ITV in the Spring in the UK.

An official date is yet to be confirmed.

About Anuj Radia 562 Articles
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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