Women's Day 2021! Shriya Pilgaonkar: Women are natural leaders and it excites me to see a film set run by them

Despite being the daughter of ace actors Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar, Shriya Pilgaonkar is actively carving her own path. Today, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, ETimes got in touch with the young and talented actress. In an exclusive chat, she got candid on women empowerment moment that inspired her, pay disparity and surge in female-oriented content in Bollywood. Excerpts…

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I think of it as another occasion to celebrate women and womanhood in all spheres of life. But more importantly, it’s to highlight more conversations to collectively work towards gender equality in everyday life.

What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?

There has definitely been progress with respect to the stories being told. Better parts are being written for women and it’s high time the female gaze is also given its due importance in our stories on screen. Women are natural leaders and it excites me to see a film set run by women. I did a project recently which was a majority female crew and that felt really empowering. It’s not about overthrowing but simply extending better opportunities and we’re seeing that happening in the film industry albeit slowly.

Share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired you.

I was very moved and inspired by Frances Mcdormand’s Oscar acceptance speech where she spoke about the inclusion rider in films that calls for diversity. It was a really powerful moment that stayed with me. For me, any moment when a woman fearlessly chooses to take a stand and voice it out is inspiring.

One woman you look up to in your personal life and in your professional life?

It is undoubtedly my mother, Supriya Pilgaonkar. I have tremendous respect for her not just as my mother but as an artist who successfully balanced her work life with her family life. She has always been supportive and encouraged me to find my own path without any fear. She taught me the value of working on my inner strength which I think is the most important. In general, I aspire to have the grace that she does.

What is the most sexist question you have been asked in your career?

I hate that the question of marriage and working after marriage is constantly brought up with women. Especially as an actress, it’s almost assumed that there will be some sort of shift in your career once you get married which is terribly sexist.

Do you think there is a surge in female-oriented content in Bollywood, especially on OTT? How do you look at it?

I’m glad writers have felt the responsibility to write better parts for women and we’re seeing that shift globally. In fact, a lot of female writers are leading the way. There was a time when women were only written into films as objects of desire, either the good lover or the vamp. But now they are headlining parts in films and shows where so many layers are written into the characters. I make sure that even when it comes to my work, I pick characters that have a voice and not merely presence

We are still not quite there when it comes to equal pay at work place. Your opinion on the same…

I agree, we are far from it. Pay parity does exist and I feel like being vocal about it at a personal level is the only way to slowly and steadily make a difference. Those in power need to pave the way by taking a stand. We aren’t even close to solving that issue though.

Any message that you would like to give your fans on the occasion…

Irrespective of your gender, celebrate the women in your life more often and let them know why and how much they mean to you.