PALLAVI SHARDA [BEECHAM HOUSE]
Pallavi Sharda’s breakthrough role was in the Oscar nominated film LION opposite Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara.
The Australian-Indian beauty now leads the cast of Gurinder Chadha’s epic new series BEECHAM HOUSE, which is set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi, the drama depicts the fortunes of the residents of Beecham House.
Get to know more about Pallavi in our exclusive interview as she talks about her story, acting and Beecham House.
Hi Pallavi, what’s your story? Where are you originally from and how did you end up to where you are right now?
I was born and brought up in Australia to parents who had migrated from New Delhi, India. It was a colourful upbringing, filled with the idiosyncrasies of dual heritage, bizarre Indianisms, Aussie "larikin” humour and a healthy dose of ambition. I wanted to be an actor since I was a young girl. I ended up studying Media & Communications, French and Law as a young undergrad at the University of Melbourne before packing it all in to become an actor in Bollywood…. Now, I am working on some pretty cool stuff internationally. It's been a wild journey, to say the least.
What ignited your passion for acting?
My father introduced me to Hindi films when I was a young girl. He had been a film buff himself and was inspired by the lyrical poetry of yesteryear Bollywood. To me, it was sheer magic – I was hooked and inspired. I always loved performing and was introduced to the world of stage and screen through dance. I trained as a classical Indian (Bharatha Natyam) dancer in Melbourne from the age of 3 and my foundations in performing arts are allowed to that tradition of performing art.
Do you remember your first audition? How was it?
It was appalling. For many reasons. I think it was in a tin shed sort of place in the backstreets of a laneway in Mumbai. I lined up with so many people in the sweltering heat, I had only been in Mumbai a few days at the time and had no idea what I was getting into. For better or worse, I got the job… I was sucked down the rabbit hole straight away.
Who are your acting heroes?
Every actor I see is a hero in my eyes, it’s a job filled with vulnerability and hope – to choose a vocation steeped in those two things is utterly human and heroic to me.
(a good cop-out right – there are too many to name and from so many different places).
Can you walk us through your approach in playing the roles that you portray?
It’s all about surrender. I try to understand the director’s vision for a character and then go through a process of merging the character’s arc with my own experiences to bring authenticity. In dramatic roles, I love being directed and working with directors who create an environment where I turn into putty, not having a sense of reality or place – just sensing my way through. I also try not to overthink it. I love my line of work because I get to be unashamedly human and emotional, and sometimes the less you plan the better.
To those who haven’t seen it yet, Can you Introduce Beecham House to them?
Beecham House is a period drama set in India in 1795 when the country (as it existed then) is at the cusp of radical political change due to the incoming British East India Company. Against this backdrop, an Englishman who disagrees with the ways of the company and defects sets up a home in New Delhi where he brings his English family to live amongst the cultural richness of India.
Tell us more about your character Chandrika in Beecham House.
Chandrika is a mysterious and unexpected visitor to Beecham House, replete with attitude and entourage. She is the only Indian character to enter the ‘upstairs’ of Beecham House and gets into a tussle with the English ladies almost immediately. She is biting in her disdain for John’s family and is fiercely protective of his son, Baby August, and her identity is constantly the source of much intrigue.
What’s the best part about playing her character?
Chandrika is a symbol of the India that is fighting to stay alive. She is fervently passionate about her history and family and the need to protect it against the onslaught of invasion at all angles. The family dynamics serve as a metaphor for what is happening at a broader, political level. She is determined and forthright yet possesses the empathy of a woman who has seen loss, hardship and has had to be selfless in her personal life.
Do you have a favourite role out of every character that you’ve ever played?
I have loved so many of my characters dearly and always find it tough to let them go. I am so fortunate that I have always played women with strength, resolve and a touch of rebellion.
I just completed filming a TV show in Australia called Les Norton which is set in Sydney’s Kings Cross of 1985. I play a character called Georgie Burman who is the bookkeeper of an underground casino looks like she’s straight out of the set of Dynasty. She runs shop like a boss and keeps things under control in what is otherwise very much a Boys Club. It was fabulous to work alongside and spar with David Wenham on set every day.
What else keeps you busy if you’re not acting?
I am a bit of a hippie and love yoga whenever I get a chance to practice. I have been shooting back to back so haven’t had the chance recently but generally, I love to escape to a beach or mountain shack for a yoga and writing break.
Can you tell us about your advocacies being an ambassador for multicultural relations in Australia?
Having studied the law and lived in a country like India through my early twenties, I have always intended for my work to take on a social justice stance. That is one of the reasons I chose to work in India over the rest of the world when I began my career. I wanted to experience the nuances of a country so heavily stratified to understand what role I might be able to play in its broader development goals. Obviously, it was an idealistic outlook but it’s one that I have held onto. Working with social enterprises that concentrate on base-of-pyramid models, giving entrepreneurship power to those from lower socio-economic backgrounds has been fascinating.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
The Sun Also Rises – life for me is a meandering, beautiful road trip - dotted with pit stops at familiar and romantic existential crossroads.
See Pallavi as Chandrika in the new British drama, Beecham House on ITV.