MUMBAI—She’s mainly done Malayalam films, and a few Kannada and Tamil movies have been thrown in. Parvathy (known as Parvathy Menon as well, with her real name being Parvathy Thiruvoth Kottuvata) made her debut in 2006 with “Out Of Syllabus.” Her first lead role was in the 2007 Kannada film “Milana.” She has never been prolific and never considers herself a star.
India-West met the feisty actress, very sure of what she wants out of life and movies, on the eve of her maiden Hindi release, “Qarib Qarib Singlle” for a short but no-holds-barred conversation that often ends with a “Yeah!” or a decisive “Yes.”
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Is there any excitement or anxiety about your Hindi debut film? And was it planned or it just happened?
A: I am extremely tired after all this activity but very excited. At the time of every release, and I have never done too many films, I get this feeling of pride and nervousness. And do you understand how someone can be nervous about NOT being nervous? I always think arrogantly about my films as a whole, about how good they are, and then about how much work I have put in! Yeah.
As for my debut, sorry, brother, you can debut only once as an artist. For me, that was 11 years ago with my first film. Or probably even before that when I did theater for the first time. Concepts like import and export don’t interest me!
Q: So how are Malayalam and Hindi cinemas different?
A: I have been so pampered back home that I cannot do something totally different from what I do there. Back home, even talking to the media is pretty straightforward and there is no need to buff up any film. Over here, I am a bit wary, been already misquoted once, but I think I can cope well once I understand things as they happen here.
Q: Have you watched Irrfan’s films?
A: Of course I have! I have watched “The Namesake,’ in which I think he was phenomenal, and “Life of Pi.” In “Piku,” I had not expected him to be so refreshing. I have been busy and not been watching films of late, but I intend to catch up on “Hindi Medium” first.
Q: What about him as a co-star?
A: My brain is a bit atrophied right now, but when you get the best partner in doing your craft, then half your work is done, because you just have to meet him halfway and that’s enough.
Q: Was there an ice-breaking moment with him?
A: Funnily, there actually was, but years earlier! I was receiving an award from him on stage in Dubai for one of my films. I was wearing this big nose-ring as a part of my character from my award-winning film, and it slipped off on stage. And he picked it up and handed it over to me!
Q: How do you look at a romantic comedy vis-à-vis the serious cinema that Malayalam movies offer?
A: To be very honest, genres have never helped me understand a role. In the comedy or anything else, my way of working and researching ANY character remains the same. I also must fit according to the director’s rhythm. So, on the whole, I did not feel out of place here. I have never done a rom-com earlier. “Charlie” was a lighter film, a fantasy, but still realistic. At the end of the day, any story should be relatable.
Q: Why are you so against stardom?
A: There is no worst part about being an actor, but there are so many worse things about being a star! I am just not in sync with stardom, which can never provide me anything – and vice-versa. I can never conform to the idea. As an actor, I can play so many characters, like I can play a journalist, understand them and their motivations better, and be less judgmental of you guys. Acting gives me a lot of reason to study people, new languages, dance and music. Yeah.
Q: But Kerala does have its superstars and the craze for them.
A: Yes, we do have Mohanlal, Mammootty and Prithviraj. Look, I don’t want to judge anyone. Stardom works for whom it works, which is great and I don’t find any fault with that. But with all due respect, it does not interest me at all! I must say it gives me no food for thought and no excitement and I find it extremely boring! I reserve the right to lead my life as a normal human being. I do my sweeping of my home, my groceries. What I do outside my films is nobody’s business! Yes?
You see, Parvathy the person does not matter at all in my craft. My clothes, make- up, or freckles serve the character and help me in my job of creating a suspension of disbelief, and I will do all it takes for that. It is my job to sell a character with my abhinaya (performance) and alankar (the physical attributes like costumes and make-up). All else are frills. Yeah.
Q: How do you speak Hindi so fluently?
A: It’s my 17 years of Kendriya Vidyalaya! I do have a slight accent of my mother-tongue, but I am proud of all the languages I speak, and that gives better brain capacity!
Q: Finally, though we have been told to restrict our questions to this film, what is your take on the Weinstein imbroglio and casting couches?
A: Let me answer that as it is close to my heart! In our society, where even domestic rape is not yet illegal, it is not even normal to talk about something like that, and naming the culprit is the next step. In Hollywood now, there is an army, but here I will be the only one if I speak up! We can’t be alone in this struggle to live in dignity.
Recently, a journalist here stated that I said this was a problem with the South Indian industry. He should have shown some integrity about writing something I had said. The casting couch is not there everywhere in cinema but in every field! We have to educate, make people aware and change the legal structure. We have to say that what happened to a girl was not her fault and that family prestige or that of friends will not be affected and are never more important than the self-respect of the person who has gone through it.