Late last year, actor Parvathy went where no young female actor is supposed to go - She expressed an opinion.
At the IFFK, Parvathy made a point about the glorification of misogynistic dialogues in Malayalam films. All hell broke loose and fans of Superstar Mammootty hurled physical threats, slurs and vile abuse at her.
Through it all, Parvathy never lost her nerve. She focussed on work, and was away shooting for Anjali Menon's Koode. "No matter what goes off balance, there is one thing I can always turn to. That’s work," says Parvathy.
"... As long as I stay loyal at work I am certain those who come to the cinemas to experience the art form it is will take away the best of it despite anything else.... At the same time, neither can I go against my conscience and stop evolving nor can I stay silent in a political climate where non-participation is a serious enabler of crimes and a roadblock to progress," the actor says in an exclusive conversation with Sify.com ahead of Koode, her latest movie.
In the interview, she tells us how she pulls off her magical transformations on screen and how "being liked" is not a criterion for her actions.
Excerpts from the interview:
Maryan, Bangalore Days, Ennu Ninte Moideen, Qarib Qarib Single... You're an actress who looks so different in each film to the point of being unrecognisable. A lot of thought and effort seem to go into these physical transformations. Do you enjoy the process of creating the look for a character?
I absolutely love the process of creating a character. The physical and emotional landscape of a character is not unrelated at all. We must, however, find a correct sync based on the basic core of a character and keep in mind how fluidly the part grows as the screenplay progresses. This is a process that involves everyone - the director, the writer, the actor, the DOP (Director of Photography), the makeup artist, the costume designer and many more! It’s only together that we can get a layered texture for each character.
What did your stylist and you keep in mind while planning the look for Sophie in Koode?
Anjali (Menon), Pampa (Biswas) and I met prior to the shoot and discussed things ranging from Sophie's childhood, her economic background to her teenage years and varied influences. They had a very clear idea with regards to Sophie's distinct attire, which has its own arc in the movie and is entirely based on her journey as a person too.
Anjali also had very interesting and subtle changes made to my skin tone. It may not sound like a big change so to speak but it makes a big difference whenever you see Sophie on screen.
Pampa and I also worked together in Bangalore Days. I adore her and love her style of work. She considers an artist's input very crucial, which makes her an absolute joy to collaborate with.
What drew you to the character of Sophie?
Well, let me establish one thing before I begin to answer this - When Anjali calls me for a movie, the answer will always be a YES.
Even though she insisted that I listen to the full character thread and story, I was in. I was all the way in!
And not surprisingly at all, I was smoothly transported into the world of Sophie. Apart from how crucial I find Sophie to be for this story, I feel that she embodies the delicate balance I strive for in life; that of surviving many brutalities and still staying soft. Still being capable of love and tenderness. To be able to portray that, Anjali and I shared as many notes as we could as the shoot progressed.
This is your fourth movie with Prithviraj. In your view, how has he changed as an artiste over the years?
I never got a chance to speak or collaborate with Prithvi during the shoot of City of God. Even in Ennu Ninte Moideen, we barely had 10-15 days of shoot as for most part of the movie our characters were kept away from one another.
However, during My Story and Koode, I got a chance to observe closely what makes him a really good co-actor.
Apart from his insane photographic memory and passion for everything related to filmmaking, he is an equal player and that's extremely important at work for me. There is this synergy when we share the screen space that causes absolutely no friction despite our very different performance techniques.
We heard you hoped to assist Anjali Menon in Koode. Would we see you as a director anytime soon?
Soon is a very relative term here. I am fully invested in acting for now. But yes, for sure. I want to write and direct!
What is the best thing about working in an Anjali Menon film?
Everything! No, not an exaggeration. I feel the safest as an actor, placing my physical and emotional being in her workspace because she has such respect and admiration for an actor's work; she takes care of them!
The way she works with you from day one till the end, making you a part of each process, adding nuances and traits that you organically bring to the movie and the character, being absolutely invested in keeping everything on set that is artistic absolutely free flowing while knowing the core structure it needs to cater to; these are things I crave for in a filmmaker.
During the shoot of Koode, you came under attack on social media for your opinion on a film. How did you keep your spirits up?
No matter what goes off balance, there is one thing I can always turn to. That’s work. It prompts me to study, investigate and be patient with what’s happening around me. Being Sophie and being with my Koode team helped me a great deal. They did a spectacular job on set so I had full support from them too!
Much as you're trolled, you're equally loved for your talent, courage and your ability to stand your ground. Do these extreme reactions surprise you?
Not really. My work is the most sacred relationship I share with my audience and as long as I stay loyal at work I am certain those who come to the cinemas to experience the art form as it is will take away the best of it despite anything else. I will always hold this relationship in high regard. At the same time, neither can I go against my conscience and stop evolving nor can I stay silent in a political climate where non-participation is a serious enabler of crimes and a roadblock to progress.
I choose to remain an active participant as a citizen and for this reason I cannot place 'being liked' as a criterion for my actions in that space. I only hope for respectful conversations and debates from which we can all learn a thing or two from each other.
Koode is the story of a journey. What are your favourite journeys (physical or symbolic) as an actor?
My favourite journey as an artiste is the one I get to take after I am done with a movie. The character and my time with her stays on and becomes organically something new altogether. It changes me and I look forward to that. I am a sum total of my life experiences like anyone else and all the women I have portrayed are a huge part of me now.
As shown in cinema, I get a high watching characters evolve seamlessly. Of course there is a plan and script to it, but I would like to be taken into the journey so deep that I am absolutely unaware of it. Koode is a really good example of this!
At what point in your childhood did you decide you would be an actress? Your earliest inspirations?
I was always interested in performance. Be it acting or dancing or drama. However, my love for cinema and the craft of acting was instilled during Notebook. I started reading up on and watching movies a lot.
I remember being struck by the ease with which a Smita Patil performed and I studied her work intricately. Especially her work in Ardh Sathya. Cate Blanchett was and continues to be one of the biggest inspirations too.
You had a path-breaking year in 2017. With Qarib Qarib Single, you reached out to a pan-Indian audience. And your role in Take Off has already won you more than ten awards. What do you wish would happen next in your career?
I simply wish to keep working! That is all. I have never been able to draw out specifics. I don't want to stay limited. Be it in cinema or any form of art I choose to invest in.
Finally, do you think actors in Malalayam or Hindi film industries will ever come out in the open and talk about the Harvey Wesinteins of their respective industries?
In time, yes. We cannot undo patterns and practices that have been going on for generations quickly but through consistent talks and participation we can ensure everyone re-educate themselves. It takes time to unlearn, it is a very painful process but we have to remind ourselves that the goal is to reach a better, safer space that everyone deserves.
Prithviraj on 'baby sister' Nazriya and that van in Koode