Titas Chowdhury talks to Shriya Pilgaonkar after the success of Mirzapur and lets us in on her upcoming films, her love for theatre and the potential of the digital space
Congratulations on the success of Mirzapur!
Thank you so much (Chuckles).
What kind of feedback have you been getting?
I am very overwhelmed by the response I am getting for Mirzapur. In fact, every character has been loved so much and, for me, that is the beauty of the show. It’s not just the leads who have been appreciated but every single character has been loved. People have caught on to the nuances. Credit goes to the writers, the directors and the actors as well.
I am extremely happy that people have enjoyed what I have done with Sweety, whether it’s the dialect or the charm of the character. Many people have have been writing to me about certain moments that I had created which I wasn’t completely sure would translate on screen. They have got into the layers of the character and I am very happy about that. Not many were aware that I am Maharashtrian and they were very happy with the way I portrayed Sweety. That makes me very happy.
How did Mirzapur happen?
Casting Bay was casting for it and I was asked to audition for the part. I did and I landed the part. It was as simple as that (Laughs). I remember enjoying performing the scenes used in the audition. Eventually, when I did read the episodes, I knew I had to be a part of it because the combination of Amazon (Prime), Excel (Entertainment) and the cast is something that doesn’t happen very often. At every stage and every level, we had the best people on board.
This year, we also saw you in Viu’s 13 Mussoorie. How do you look at the potential of the web space?
It is limitless right now. For the last four to five years in India, people were taking their time to understand the platform, to gauge the potential of the platform. As you now see, people are investing the same amount of time, passion and money in it that they would in films. As makers, we know that there is a lot of creativity and scope to tell different stories. The web is a space where people are experimenting. For us actors, there is that much more work and so many more opportunities.
I feel films and the web space are helping each other indirectly. There are so many subjects that are being tested almost every day on the web. The response is being gauged and then those stories are being picked up for films. There might also be a concept or a character in a film that might make it to the web. People shouldn’t be comparing the mediums because both are here to stay.
I am getting so many wonderful opportunities in the web space now that I am spoilt for choice sometimes, since there are so many different types of characters that are being written. There is space for characters to grow on the web, which is very difficult in our films. Writers, actors and filmmakers are going all out with their creative energy on the web. I feel it’s going to get better and better.
Coming to films, we last saw you in FAN. You are now doing Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai. Why do we not get to see a lot of you on the big screen?
Things are going change very soon. Some things take time to fall into place. There were projects that didn’t work out immediately. There were some projects that came my way which I wasn’t convinced about. Things take their own time but I wasn’t very nervous about it because I believe that things happen only when the time is right. Sometimes, you have to surrender and go with the flow. I’m glad I was patient. I believe that work brings in more work.
Of all the platforms you have explored, which do you prefer most?
I would say I love films most. But I can’t take away from the fact that in the web medium, your audience is able to communicate with you directly; they have a different kind of relationship with you when they are watching you on the small screen after a long day of work. Barriers break down when you are doing a web show as the relatability quotient is higher. On digital, they can watch you wherever they want to and when it is convenient for them.
But I am hungry to do many more films. I want to maintain a balance between doing films and the web. There are so many interesting stories being told and young filmmakers I would love to collaborate with. I’m also dying to an out-and-out masala film.
Amid all this, you continue to do theatre.
I really enjoy doing theatre but unfortunately because of films and my web work, it feels terrible when you give dates and are not able to see them through. I work with Akarsh Khurana’s production called Akvarious Productions. I’m working with Shikha Talsania, Priyanshu Painyuli and Hussain Dalal, who are doing multiple projects simultaneously and so it becomes difficult to assign dates to the shows.
But I want to continue doing theatre for the rest of my life because every experience on stage is different. That is where I feel I am truly polishing my craft. That is the one experience you cannot compare to any other medium. There is a joy of being on stage, getting that energy from the audience and giving that energy with every show. It is a very different kind of high. Every year, we keep performing in different cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Since I cannot commit to too many plays, unfortunately, I have only two plays on the floor right now.
What is next in the pipeline?
I am currently very excited because in 2019, I have Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai coming up, where I play a rookie journalist. I am very excited about my look in that. I am also excited about Beecham House, where I will be playing one of the principal characters. I have done a French film before but I wasn’t the lead in that one. It was a different experience shooting for that too. We just wrapped the shoot this week. It is the longest I have lived with a character because we shot for a long time. I went to London for a month for it and then shot it in India too. It is a period drama set in 1795. That experience itself was completely new in every way. From the scenes to the way we spoke, our body language… we had to be very aware that this was 1795.
Besides this, there is another film that is supposed to be happening but I cannot talk about it right now. Then there are a couple of web projects underway. I am very ambitious and am just focusing on doing a lot of work where I am able to show my versatility. Sometimes, I feel you need to spoon-feed filmmakers who might not imagine you in a certain character. I hope the web space does that for me. People should be able to imagine me being the simple girl-next-door and also a really badass character.