Shriyam Bhagnani on her passion, career and inspiration

Interviews OTT

Shriyam Bhagnani is known for her characters in movies like Baaghi 2 (2018) and Batti Gul Meter Chalu (2018). Shriyam was noted for her latest show where she played the role of Tanya Mehta in Hotstar + Disney’s City Of Dreams S2 directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. Shriyam is trained under Barry John Acting Studio, earning a diploma and thereafter moving to jobs within the film industry related to production, editing and assisting directors so as to get a holistic understanding of the craft and technical details. Despite being associated with a family that is well entrenched in Bollywood, Shriyam has had a modest self-made journey thus far, marked with gradual progress over the last few years. 
In an interview with Riddhiman Ghosh for ottwatcher.com, Shriyam dwells at length on her career and other aspects. Excerpts:

You have been involved in a huge variety of roles in the entertainment world. Do you enjoy acting the most? Which experience of yours has been the most fulfilling?

I do love my profession to bits. Sometimes, it’s like explaining why you love someone or something, you can’t really explain it, you just do. Acting for me is that love. Now since love doesn’t have a reason, it doesn’t have a season for me either. As in, I don’t think any experience has been more fulfilling than the other. Each one of them was special in its own unique way and added to the journey that I’m on. 

Tell us about your latest project City of Dreams. Did you play a part in influencing your character arc? What was your mindset in bringing Tanya Mehta’s character to life?

Tanya Mehta’s character was already very beautifully written by Nagesh sir and Rohit Banawlikar sir. After I got on to the project, me along with the team worked on creating Tanya. 

With how each department of filmmaking provides to add more character to the script, as an actor I tried to do the same to the best of my ability. We do have similarities, Tanya’s character and me, but we have our own differentiating factors that I had to work upon. 

You and Ankur Rathee seem to be extremely supportive and appreciative of each other. What was your highlight of working with a person of his background and nature?

Ankur Rathee is an absolute pleasure to work with. He is intelligent, funny and a wise man, and on top all of that – a fabulous actor. I remember between shots we’d just sit down and talk about life and he would say such inspiring things and sometimes he’d just make fun banter with people on set. He’s always smiling, making people smile and comes with such a positive energy that literally lights up the space. The fact that he truly is an entertainer on and off screen was a huge takeaway for me. 

Has the pandemic influenced your decision-making process from a professional standpoint? Have you thought about shifting your focus onto OTT productions exclusively, or would you prefer a balance between Bollywood and the OTT sector?

I am at a very nascent stage in my career, even though I have been working for the past five years, out of which one and half years so far have been spent with the pandemic. The pandemic has taught me that the entertainment industry is a very dedicated and hardworking one. Our work doesn’t fall under the essential category, so there’s constant gaps between shoots because of the lockdowns whenever there is a peak. This has brought a lot of instability in the industry; but I’m sure we will soon bounce back, since most artists have also been home-preparing. As of now there is an influx of content on OTT. But all I’m concerned about is shooting with safety, be it for films or OTT, or any other project. As a performer, the platform wouldn’t matter much to me as much as the subject/script and the director I am working with.

What was your experience working with Hotstar? Do you have any ongoing projects in the pipeline?

City of Dreams 2 is actually my second project on Hotstar. My first project ever, Baaghi 2, also is on Hotstar. I just realised they’re both sequels! So, the channel always was very special to me; now I have two reasons. Their social media team is very cool too. They post some really sweet things about me (my character). I am testing for a few projects currently. Inshallah, you’ll be seeing me in another character soon!

You have a lot of experience in a variety of filmmaking roles. Does that multi-faceted approach give you more creative viewpoints while working? Do you analyse a script from multiple perspectives? Tell us more about your approach to your craft.

First of all, I want to say, I love your questions. I did get a few opportunities in the last few years to assist people from different departments in the filmmaking process. I took up as many opportunities as I could to be on set, because one, I genuinely feel happiest on a set, and second, it helped me fill all the blanks I had in understanding the step-by-step process of filmmaking. It also taught me how important each and every person present on the set really is. Of course, the more departments you work in, the more clarity you get in terms of what really needs to be done and how. But those are all technical know-hows, unless you really get to apply in a script, as an actor. So, for that, I keep working on my craft by enrolling in different workshops.

What do you do in your downtime? Do you have any passions or hobbies?

Whenever I’m not working, I’m always enrolled in some class, learning something or the other. I also love travelling and have been waiting for the situation to get better to be able to explore another city soon. 

Who was your biggest inspiration growing up? Did you ever look up to someone in the world of entertainment and think “I want to be just like him/her/them”?

While growing up, I wanted to be a tennis player. My idol along with every aspiring female tennis player in India was Sania Mirza! You know how coaches encourage kids? Mine used to tell me, “Yeh bade hokar Sania Mirza banegi”. But then life evolved and so did I and I happen to have become an actor! So now, I feel if I get to play her biopic someday, that dream also might come true! 

What are your thoughts on potentially producing/directing your own project? Is that a personal goal of yours?

Like I said, I’m at a very nascent stage in my career. I don’t think I have the know-how to produce or direct a project as of now. But, never say never. Five years ago, I had no idea Tanya Mehta would happen to me, either. 

Do you have any immediate short-term goals?

The only goal is to work more and to learn more.