He's only 22, but sounds quite seasoned. And where every second guy you bump into in a Bandra or Juhu bylane is a regular 'I-am-sexy-and-I-know-it' bloke, Shiva Pillai is a refreshing contrast. There's much more to sophisticate and columnist Nina Pillai's son than the current standard – six-pack abs! Sharp, articulate and witty, he is totally rooted in the game – be it commenting on Narendra Modi's frenzy-inducing Republic Day speech or discussing seminal films. One can easily credit his well-rounded upbringing to his promising persona which should take him ahead by leaps and bounds in Bollywood.
Passion for acting
Ever since Shiva was a child, he enjoyed mimicking and entertaining people. He would take on different personas. Coming from a corporate family, he thought he should get into the family business, but he kept coming back to acting. "Mom thoroughly supported me. She said, 'Get out there and do what you want to do and what you are passionate about.'"
'I was probably six or seven and saw Salman Khan in the song O O Jaane Jaana and got really inspired. Seeing this guy with a great body, playing the guitar and people going bananas over him, was the highpoint of my childhood. Now, I know how to play the guitar, I have built my physique and I want to be onscreen," he smiles.
Mom's my hero
"Mom was ecstatic about my decision. It's interesting especially when she's had a glamorous and difficult life and she's conquered it all. And I want to give it back to her. Today, I am known as Nina Pillai's son. Tomorrow, I want to be known as Shiva Pillai and Nina Pillai as my mother."
After his father's death, his mother single-handedly raised him and his brother, Krishna. The fortitude with which she conducted herself inspired him. He calls her his hero. "Anyone coming from even a normal family see their moms as hero figures. She's been the most incredible human being so I credit her a lot. She is a source of inspiration and she's in my blood."
"I have worked with Jeff Goldberg (faculty member at Lee Strasberg). I am trained in dance and martial arts. Right now, I am at a point when I'm thoroughly prepped to jump into some work. A lot of AD offers have come my way so it's the deciding time but I'm open to anything – acting or direction. I haven't made a decision yet, but if anything comes my way, I'm going to take it."
When I ask him if he has a dream production house in mind, he says, "I don't like the word 'dream'. I think I'll end up working with people I'm destined to work with. I'm a thorough believer in destiny. Of course it'll be great to work with Dharma, Yash Raj, Nadiadwala Grandson, Salman Khan Productions and the like. It'll be a huge honour to work under them and let's see where it goes. I am a huge fan of Anurag Kashyap – the depth he has in his films moves me, Imtiaz Ali is fantastic... the list goes on and on. Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhanshali have done phenomenal work. I don't have a favourite."
Big bad Bollywood
"Every industry has its good and bad sides. My father was a businessman and that industry is pretty ugly too. You could be in music, technology or an artiste – at the end of the day, they are all ugly. But Bollywood is an art at the end of the day. If you love what you do it doesn't matter. I'm lucky to have my mother's contacts. But this is my own journey and it's a bumpy road. I cannot say I have had a bad experience, but it's too early to say. I embrace every experience," he says.
Want to work with Alia
"Alia is phenomenal, she is my age and what she is doing is out of this world. I would love to work with Kangana too. Shraddha is doing a great job. There's something incredible in each one of them."
"I watch a lot of movies. It's mandatory to watch a lot of movies to be an actor, but I feel it's also your job to do your homework. I am extremely athletic and I love martial arts. I like to read a lot of autobiographies and biographies because real-life experiences teach you a lot. It helps you develop as a human being. Even as an actor the persona you carry off screen helps you be a better actor. I love stories of underdogs, stories of hard work and how it pays off. I see myself inspiring others. Who doesn't want to be inspired?"
Delhi vs Mumbai
"I did grow up in Delhi and did my schooling and college there, but we also lived in Mumbai. I know that a majority of Mumbai doesn't like Delhi and a majority of Delhi doesn't like Mumbai. Each place has its own charm and attitude. As a city, Delhi is huge, politically run, very money-hungry while Mumbai is power-hungry. Personally. I like Mumbai and it feels more like home."
Five years down the line…
"I do see myself pretty established and out there as an actor. I want to make my mom proud and spread a positive message. I want to work harder as each day goes by and my definition of busy only expands as each day goes by."
"I am single and at this point, I am focused on work and making things happen. I don't want to invest time in a relationship right now."