While the makeup artiste dabbed a dash of rouge to her pale cheeks, Shriya muses, “I was passionate about dance and so, I was learning kathak under Guru Shobhna Narayan. She was not just my dance teacher but also an inspiration in life. Films happened when I did a music video which was shot in the ghats of Benaras. The directors of the music video were looking for a girl who could dance and my dance teacher told them about me. After that music video, my first Telegu film happened which was directed by Raj Kumar. Then, one thing led to another and I found myself in the industry”.
“We lived very close to the mountains and we had a good time despite not having Café Coffee Day or Mochas and Baristas near our place.”
Shriya goes back in time as a wistful look accentuates her chiseled features. She says nostalgically, “Back then, it was a simple life where my friends and I would go cycling and swimming every day, spend time with friends, read in the library and study together. We used to relax with our friends and generally, have a good time. When we were hungry, we’d just ask our friend’s mother to make something nice for us to eat. We did not have Café Coffee Day or Mochas and Baristas back then. In fact, I don’t think I even tasted coffee till I was in my 10th grade. Now, it is tough for children to imaging living a life like that.”
“I went to Lady Sriram College in Delhi which was one among the best.”
While college generally means friends, fun and camaraderie, Shriya says that her academic life was a blur of dance rehearsals and studies. “College was fun though I was a pretty well behaved child. But, it was really hectic because I was a part of the college dance team apart from my Kathak rehearsals every day. So, I used to get up in the morning, rehearse my Kathak, go to college and then, there would be the college team practices followed by long hours at the library to finish my assignments. We had regular dance workshops which I would participate in and well, I used to just sleep once I got back home every day. I don’t think I have ever worked so hard in life. And, films happened when I was in my second year and a lot of people thought that I was working too hard. But then, college was more hectic, any day”, she laughs.
“My first reaction on watching myself onscreen – I just couldn’t look at myself as it was very hard for me to believe that I was on screen.”
Shriya debuted with the Telegu film, Ishtam, produced by Ramoji Films and directed by Raj Kumar and Vikram Kumar. “My first reaction to watching myself on the big screen was actually funny. I was trying to figure out how I could have done better and I was just finding faults with my performance. I just couldn’t look at myself as it was very hard for me to believe that I was on screen”.
“It was a tough journey for me. It wasn’t that easy. And, I’m glad it was like that. It was a lot of excitement and fun watching my career grow. “
An interesting mix of films in her career, Shriya has done films in Bollywood and Hollywood, charming the global audiences. The Other End of the Line and Cooking with Stella saw her breaking into the international film scene and she already has her third project in the pipeline, Midnight’s Children with renowned director, Deepa Mehta. ““It was a tough journey for me. It wasn’t that easy. It was one step after another. And, I’m glad it was like that. It was a lot of excitement and fun watching my career grow. I’m very grateful to people for appreciating my work. I am what I am because of people and if it wasn’t for their support, it would have been impossible”, she adds.
“Because of Rajni Sir, I’ve understood that fame comes and goes. It’s the attitude which you have towards others, the respect you give others and the love that you give to others which comes back to you.”
Sivaji – The Boss was a landmark film in her career which catapulted her to fame. The inevitable question about her experience of working with Rajnikanth, the industry’s colossal superstar arises. She gushes, “Rajni Sir is an honest human being! Simplicity and honesty are the two pillars on which he balances his life. I haven’t seen any one so grounded. As an actor, he’s a complete pleasure to work with. He believes in what he is and that is so nice! He’s a beautiful human being with a good sense of humour, happy-go-lucky and very passionate about cinema. I feel blessed to work with someone who is so driven. I have learnt a lot from him – to give my best in every shot and it was a great learning experience. Because of him, I’ve understood that fame comes and goes. It’s the attitude which you have towards others, the respect you give others and the love that you give to others. What comes back to you is all this love and nothing can replace that. When people are really powerful, you get respect. But when people love for who you are, I think that’s real love”.
“It is a beautiful feeling when the audience claps and appreciates the performance. That’s what makes us artists get up every day in the morning, put on the makeup and go to work. I owe everything to them.”
The adulation is a part and parcel of stardom and is the reality of any actor’s life. Shriya agrees, “It feels really good because an actor is nothing if people don’t like you. Even when I perform on stage, it is a beautiful feeling when the audience claps and appreciates the performance. As artistes, we work on appreciation and the audience applause drives us to perform better and keep us going. That, for me, is the biggest motivation and a great feeling. Honestly speaking, that’s what makes us get up every day in the morning, put on the makeup and go to work. Yes, I love it when people like me or want to see more of my films. I owe everything to them”.
“About myself? That’s a mystery and I really don’t know. I would like to believe that I am moving towards success, which for me, means being a better human being every day.”
Going beyond the greasepaint, we try to discover the myriad layers of her personality. “If you ask me to describe myself, I’d say that I am a mystery. We human beings are always trying to explore ourselves and it’s a continuous learning experience. I think maturity is not about growing up but preserving the child in you yet understand and balance life. It’s all about learning, evolving and growing. So, as a person who I am, I don’t know. And where I am heading to, I only hope that it’s something more positive and beautiful. I would like to believe that I am moving towards success, which for me, means being a better human being every day”, she says, philosophically.
“I never diet. I think yoga is an investment which you do on your body forever.”
A fitness aficionado, Shriya surprises us by stating that she never does believe in dieting. “I never diet. I believe in yoga. I think yoga is an investment which you do on your body forever. When I am stressed out, I usually read or go for long walks or listen to music. And, yes I swim a lot. I eat whatever I want and do my regular workouts”, she smiles.
“I’m pretty much clueless about style. I can’t even match a dress with footwear. I’m so bad!”
The conversation veers towards fashion and Shriya has us aghast by her blatant confession. “I’m pretty much clueless about style. I never go out shopping much and I’m really pathetic. I am not even well dressed. I just get up in the morning and wear whatever I feel like. I don’t really pay that much attention. If I have to go ethnic, I wear one of my mum’s saris. Honestly speaking, I can’t even match a dress with footwear. I’m so bad”.
“I’m more of an explorer. Like they say, some of the most interesting people I’ve met don’t know what they wanted to do. And, some of the most interesting people still don’t know what they want to do”.
Shriya tells us about the basic premise which guides her life. “Like my favourite Sunscreen song goes, I believe that some of the most interesting people I’ve met don’t know what they wanted to do. And, some of them most interesting people still don’t know what they want to do. I am an explorer and there is so much to learn and understand in the world. Life is a journey and there would be many experiences – never say never! I’ve learnt that success and failure might come and go but the real freedom lies in your mind. The most important thing is to be grounded and make myself and others happy in the process. And well, let’s see where life has to take”, she adds with a flourish.
“I definitely want to go back and dance and perform once again. Go back to where I came from”.
Talking about the future, Shriya gives us the bigger picture. “I definitely want to go back and dance once again. I want to go back to the stage and be a dancer and performer where I came from. I want to work for blind, deaf and dumb children. I want to read more books, travel a lot and definitely want to live in other countries and experience their lifestyle. I want to learn and maybe, even go back to college and make new friends. I want to keep moving in life and live every moment”, she says on a parting note.