Australian-Indian actor Pallavi Sharda on making her way to Hollywood while keeping her desi ties intact
Pallavi Sharda is the perfect example of what it means to be a global Indian. With interests ranging from musical productions (Shruti Merchant’s Taj Express) to beauty pageants, this 28-year-old lawyer-turned-actor is anything but dull. Since her spectacular entry to Bollywood with My Name is Khan, Pallavi has been noted for her eclectic mix of roles aimed at breaking the mould of ‘just another NRI girl’. With her breakthrough Hollywood film Lion set for its India release today, the Australian-Indian actor opens up about the perks of having a cross-cultural heritage.
Working on Lion was a great experience. Aside from the fabulous star cast and exceptional director, it is a truly cross-cultural story about a boy who is searching for his identity. The theme resonated very strongly with me as a person, being an Australian-Indian with dual heritage.
Hollywood vs Bollywood
Working in the West is a very egalitarian experience in which everyone has equal standing on set, be it the lead cast, supporting actors, director or crew. That’s not to say I don’t love Bollywood—it will always be the place that enabled me to start my career as an actor. I love its quirks.
Her role in Begum Jaan
I star in Srijit Mukherji’s Begum Jaan with a spectacular group of female actors, in particular, Vidya Balan. Being able to perform alongside her reminded me so much of why I chose to become an actor in the first place. It is a story of human triumph centred around women, which is unlike anything I have done before.
Women on screen
Taking on a role like the one I am portraying in Begum Jaan was a very conscious decision. I have always played very strong female characters who hold their own. I have previously shied away from overtly dealing with issues pertaining to sexuality, due to my own upbringing as a ‘good Indian girl’, but no more. Now I realise that if I didn’t explore the full spectrum of what it can mean to be a woman—both in Indian society and Western society—then I was only letting myself down, as well as my audience.
I believe in the power of movement meditation through dance and yoga. Yoga is a fool-proof way to maintain physical and mental fitness. It requires flexibility, balance and strength—a triumvirate which is a metaphor for leading a good life.
— Arya P Dinesh