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Pallavi Sharda


As a child, Perth-born actress and classical dancer, Pallavi Sharda, was mad about Bollywood. At 21, the Melbourne University law graduate packed her bags and headed to the home of Hindi cinema to pursue her passion. 

How did you start? What made you choose this career path?

I always wanted to be an actress. When I was younger this seemed impossible. I was a girl of Indian background living in Australia and the daughter of two academics. Though I was a creative person I veered towards academic life and went on to do a double degree in Law/Arts (Media & Comms) and a Diploma in French at the University of Melbourne when I was 16. As my degree came to an end and the time came to choose a ‘traditional’ career path, with nothing but a whim and some gumption to back me up, I took off for India in search of my childhood aspiration. 

How did your Australian experience contribute to your success, or your approach to your work? 

Australia provided an environment for me to understand the culture of my heritage in an intimate way. I am a classical Indian dancer, speak fluent Hindi and also have a sense of self and belief in possibility. My scholastic life empowered me to believe that I could take hold of my destiny.

What made you take the leap overseas and why India? 

I was always inspired by Bollywood and the cultural phenomena surrounding it. As a dancer, I was drawn to the idea that the medium of Bollywood films provided a stage for both dance and drama and I could explore many facets of the performing arts through it. 

What do you think is the single most influential factor in your success? 

Perseverance and self-belief. I have had to be self-reliant and pick myself up at every fall. The resilience to naysayers and setbacks is the only reason I have been able to continuously move forward. 

"...there is no question of relaxing and taking things for granted" – Pallavi Sharda

Is there something particular about the Australian character/culture that drives people to search out international experiences? 

I think there is an inherent sense of adventure in the Australian people, and the sense of exploration that stems from the knowledge that our histories are varied and dispersed. Our geographical isolation also contributes to a desire to move beyond what we have. 

What’s one of your most favourite things about living and working in India? 

The pulse of the country is relentless, it is built on a visceral desire and need to survive. In a country of a billion people, there is never enough space, so there is no question of relaxing and taking things for granted. This keeps me grounded and humble in the face of opportunity. 


Have you been inspired by the achievements of any particular expat Australians living and working overseas? 

I have been inspired by all Australians I have met overseas. It is very easy to enjoy the pleasures that being Australian allows for, but growth comes from intercultural experiences and in Australia, a country built by migrants in its modern avatar, cultural connections and communications are vital to its progress. 

"I was always inspired by Bollywood and the cultural phenomena surrounding it" – Pallavi Sharda

What do you know today that you wished you had known when you first started?  

That a 21 year old girl with two suitcases and a law degree in a Mumbai arrivals lounge ready to take on Bollywood is not something that many people are going to understand… thick skin should have been the first thing I packed! 

What makes you proud to be Australian? 

There are so many elements of my Aussie heritage that make me proud. Most recently, the Yes vote to Marriage Equality made me proud to be Australian. It was emblematic about the things I love about this country – living with a sense of egalitarianism and security.


More on Pallavi Sharda: Sharda has starred in Bollywood and international films including "Besharam" (2013), "Save Your Legs" (2013), "Hawaizaada" (2015), the Academy Award-nominated film "Lion" (2016) and "Begum Jaan" (2017), as well as ABC Australia's drama series "Pulse". An honours graduate from the University of Melbourne Law, Arts and Languages schools, Sharda is an advocate for India-Australia relations and strengthening intercultural links between the two. 

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