‘Part of that moment in history’: Pitt film student presents at Oscars


Image courtesy of Aditi Sridhar

Aditi Sridhar presented at the Oscars on March 12.

By Carissa Canzona, Staff Writer

Aditi Sridhar, a senior film and psychology major, made her debut in Hollywood last Sunday when she presented trophies at the 95th Academy Awards. 

Sridhar said she presented the awards along with three other students at the Oscars through her internships with Warner Brothers and the academy last summer. After initially filling out an application to be a seat filler at the show, she got a call two weeks later asking if she would present trophies at the ceremony. 

“[The Academy] sent out an application for all of us to be seat fillers, which basically means you take the seats of the celebrities when they go to the bathroom,” Sridhar said. “Instead of getting chosen to be a seat filler, I got a call, like two weeks later, and they said, ‘We want you to be a trophy presenter.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t even know what that means, but, yes, that’s going to be so awesome.”

Sridhar recently produced her first short film “Pivot,” a romantic drama and dance film centering on South Asian American representation. She’s also the president of SCENE@Pitt, a club dedicated to students with aspirations of working in the entertainment industry. She was featured on “Good Morning America,” along with the other students who presented at the Oscars, last week. 

Sridhar said one of her favorite moments at the Oscars was witnessing Ke Huy Quan’s acceptance speech for best supporting actor. 

“His speech was so emotional and he was so grounded,” she said. “Actually, I forgot I was supposed to grab an envelope from Ariana DeBose 一 who I admire so much 一 but I was so emotional during Ke’s speech that I almost forgot to grab the envelope. I got to walk him offstage and say congratulations, that was amazing.”

She said she was glad to be on stage and be “part of that moment in history” when “Naatu Naatu,” a song featured in the film “RRR,” made Oscars history by becoming the first song from an Indian film to win best original song. 

“An Indian song hasn’t been nominated before in that category, and to win in that same year was incredible. People don’t realize how big the Oscars are in a place like India, even though India has the biggest film industry ever, people still regard the Oscars as the ultimate thing,” Sridhar said. “So for them to win was huge for India and huge for South Asians.”

Sridhar also said she was happy to see “Everything Everywhere All At Once” receive the best picture award. She said congratulating the cast was one of her favorite moments of the night.

“And then the last one was best picture, because I love Everything Everywhere All At Once. I was 100% hoping they’d win, and then they did, they were so gracious and celebrated the moment with everyone,” Sridhar said. “Michelle Yeoh came up to me and hugged me, like I was like, Michelle I’m a nobody. Why are you hugging me?”

The Academy also selected Sridhar as a member of their Academy Gold Rising Program because of her notable work on her own films at Pitt and her extracurricular activities.

Sridhar said she learned the ropes of film sets thanks to 2019 Pitt alum Sam McCoy, who she shadowed on the set of their feature film “Thanks to Her.” 

McCoy said Sridhar came highly recommended before the interview process and was incredibly crucial to the set. 

‘I’m always delighted and excited to hear about Aditi’s projects and accomplishments, but I am absolutely never surprised. She is incredibly talented, motivated, and focused,” McCoy said.  “Her exceptional voice and vision are going to take her so far in this industry 一 I can’t wait to watch her career take off.” 

Sridhar is currently working on her senior thesis film titled “Aloo Poori,” which earned its name from a dish that her grandmother made for her growing up at her house in India. 

“She would pack it for us and we’d eat it on the plane home, when going back to the U.S. And then [when] she passed away, my mom would also do it,” Sridhar said. “It kind of became like ‘You’re leaving, you’re going on a far journey, here’s the aloo poori, so that you remember us, and so you have something good to eat to remind you of home.’ So I wanted to take that and then contextualize it within a mother-daughter relationship.”

Sridhar said she grew up watching Bollywood movies with her family, and making films centered around the South Asian experience is important to her as a filmmaker. 

“I’d say my favorite kind of movies are ones that center around, just because they’re slowly coming up, that center on the South Asian experience, and that are very, specific to the culture, but not necessarily like an identity crisis story,” Sridhar said. 

After graduation, Sridhar plans on staying in Pittsburgh to finish a documentary she is currently working on alongside Pitt film and media studies professor Carl Kulander. The two have worked on multiple projects together and their upcoming documentary is on August Wilson, a Pittsburgh playwright. 

“People often look at Hollywood and see the glamor, and not the incredible work ethic that it takes,” Kulander said. “She is so natural about that which is so unique about her and it becomes infectious… She couldn’t represent the future of filmmaking better, if you ask me.”  

Sridhar said witnessing a historic event like the Oscars was an honor and something she will never forget. 

“Everyone was so gracious and welcoming,” Sridhar said.