HOW I MAKE IT WORK...

TOLD SHE WOULD NEVER MAKE IT ON AUS­TRALIAN TV, THE PERTH-BORN AC­TOR, 27, TOOK MAT­TERS INTO HER OWN HANDS AND BROKE THROUGH IN BOL­LY­WOOD. SPEAK­ING UP, SHE SAYS, WAS KEY TO FIND­ING SUC­CESS

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Pallavi Sharda on mak­ing it big in Bol­ly­wood.

Grow­ing up in Perth and Melbourne, I was al­ways sur­rounded by a very vi­brant In­dian com­mu­nity. I learnt to speak Hindi and took clas­si­cal In­dian dance classes from the age of three. I was in­tro­duced to Bol­ly­wood as a lit­tle girl, and fell in love with the movies – they en­chanted me. I de­cided I wanted to be a Bol­ly­wood ac­tress.

But as the daugh­ter of two pro­fes­sors, I was ex­pected to do some­thing that was aca­demic. I stud­ied law at The Univer­sity of Melbourne, but also en­rolled in drama school. I had a lot of self-be­lief and was re­ally sup­ported at high school, but was told by one teacher that it would be very dif­fi­cult for me to get a job on a com­mer­cial net­work be­cause of the colour of my skin. Their com­ments didn’t make me an­gry. They just val­i­dated my fas­ci­na­tion with Bol­ly­wood, as I re­alised there was an in­dus­try where women who look like me, and spoke the same lan­guage as I did at home, would be wel­comed.

At the tail end of my law de­gree, I found my­self email­ing pro­duc­tion houses in Mum­bai ask­ing about op­por­tu­ni­ties. One day, some­body re­sponded. In 2010, I packed my bags and flew to Mum­bai to try to crack into the no­to­ri­ously nepo­tis­tic Bol­ly­wood in­dus­try. I had no con­tacts or sense of what I was go­ing to do over there.

Seven years later, I’ve ap­peared in al­most a dozen films. Some­thing I have be­come more pas­sion­ate about since liv­ing in In­dia is the role of women in so­ci­ety. I work across a few dif­fer­ent char­i­ties that help un­der­priv­i­leged women, and re­cently played a sex worker in a fem­i­nist Bol­ly­wood block­buster. I at­tribute my Aus­tralian up­bring­ing for my strong val­ues and my abil­ity to speak up. When I ar­rived in In­dia and spoke like this as a young woman, it was very con­fronting for peo­ple. Now I just have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing out­spo­ken.

I was in Melbourne to film a small role in Lion and for my lat­est project, the ABC drama Pulse, I have been film­ing in Syd­ney. It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me to come home and con­trib­ute to di­ver­sity on screens here. I’m pas­sion­ate about it; it’s some­thing I’d like to help pi­o­neer. There’s still a sense the pro­tag­o­nist can’t be brown, but I think we are mov­ing away from that. I count my­self lucky to be able to work in two coun­tries.

Pulse pre­mieres 8.30pm Thurs­day, on ABC TV.

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