I don’t think actresses are airheaded: Parvathi TK

Parvathi TK has  just made a lingering impact with her  Bollywood debut in Qarib Qarib Singlle where the 29-year  old Malayalam actress plays  a 35-year old widow  on  a zany travel mission with a  man as contrary to her  personality as  humanly possible.In  an interview  with  Subhash K  Jha, Parvathidiscusses  the various stereotypes that she intends to break in  our cinema.

Congrats Parvathy,that is quite an impact you have made with your Hindi debut. What  took you so long?

Thank you. But I don’t see Qarib Qarib Singlle(QQS) as my Hindi debut. I see it as another stopover in the journey of my career which I  might add, started  9 years ago .Since then I’ve done the work I believe  in , and the language has  not  been the defining factor for my choices. If tomorrow I am offered a role in  Sanskrit  or Swahili  I’d gladly do them provided I  like my character.For  the record, I was offered a role by Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s production  house for a  Hindi film. That  didn’t work out . But I  got to know Gazal Dhaliwal who  was  to write that film.She wrote Qarib Qarib Singlle.

Interestingly you played another strong assertive wonan this year in the beautiful Malyalam film Take Off.Are you  disinclined  to play women who are not strong?

Not at all. In fact  the challenge of playing of role is  neither in the character being  strong or weak . But women whose inner world I am not familiar with  .Sometimes  it’s even difficult to understand how a  woman behaves in a given  situation. I remember when I  did Notebook(Malayalam, 2008)—I was only 18 then and emotionally far less empowered than  I am  today–I told my director Rosshan Andrews that I would  never behave the way my character Pooja Krishnan does in the situation she  was  put in.My director told me something that has  served me well as an actor, ‘Are  you sure  you wouldn’t behave the same way if put in the same situation? How are  you sure?’

That  experience  taught  you to never judge  your  characters?

Yes, exactly.You may ask , how can Jaya, my character  in Qarib Qarib Singlle take off on a journey with a  stranger?  But for me it it important to explore the unfathomable.I’d rather go into unfamiliar situations in  characters’ lives to see how and why they got there . Unless you penetrate  the darkness how can there be  light?  But coming back  to  your point about playing  strong women, the woman in Take Off was a challenge because she was put in an  extremely trying circumstance.

Yes,  the film was based on the kidnappings  of  nurses in Iraq?

Yes and I played a very grim surly nurse Sameera. She is not someone relatable or even likeable. In fact we all wondered will this character work, since she doesn’t even smile and  she even uses her feelings  towards a man to get her way out of  the crisis.

Your character  in Take Off reminded me on  Jessica Chastain  in  The Zoo Keeper’s Wife?

Yes, both being put into war zones from where they need to desperately escape . It is important  to explore characters  in crisis  for us to understand why the world has become the way it has.

 You are  29 and yet you make your Hindi debut as a 35-year old woman. Surely you were advised against it?

Oh yes. I  was also advised  to market myself and to ensure optimum  visibility. But sorry, I am not buying that.Or selling. As an actor  I only want to focus on what I am here for, acting. I know  a star’s name sells  any and everything from soaps  to appliances. And those who are  doing it are probably doing what is best for them. But that’s not the life  I’ve chosen for myself. I am here to act.And it doesn’t matter whether I’ve play some 29 or 35. I need to be as convincing as an 18 year old as we well as an 80-year old.

So you  have no problems playing older than  your age?

None whatsoever. And I’ve absolutely no problems  with  actreses who want to constantly play younger than their age. What I do have a problem with is, being a  part of blockbusteters that propagate outdated patriarchal values.Those are  dangerous  and  damaging to  our cause.

In an industry  dominated by airheardedness, you come across as extremely lucid . Would you have a  problem playing a  dumb woman?

Firstly,why is a woman  dumb? Because she is  not aware  of  the world around her, and buries her  head in  her phone all day long? But who made her the way she  is? I don’t think actresses are airheaded  as  a rule. A lot of them  are very intelligent. But have to constantly play down their  intelligence because that’s what this patriarchal film industry wants them to do. I am  sure Katrina  Kaif, Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone,Priyanka Chopra and Alia Bhatt are very intelligent actresses. But it’s the nature of the entertainment industry  to play down a woman’s intelligence. When I  was in Mumbai promoting my film I was  asked priceless questions like, ‘Which of the Khans would you like to work with.’

Which of  the Khans would like  to work with you after Qarib Qarib Singlle?

Ha ha .I’ve already worked with one(Irrfan) . But seriously , should that even be a question?

No, but I still want to know would you take  off on  a holiday with an obnoxious stranger like your character Jaya in Qarrib Qarrib Single?

Well, I  travel a lot.And I travel alone. I like to discover new places outside and within myself. In fact after I finished shooting earlier this year, I  just took on a long holiday abroad from  May to July traveling wandering backpacking and  hitchiking. I made friends during the  trip. I even took  a road trip to Iceland with a  female friend I made.

Are  you in touch with her  now ?

No. I don’t believe in clinging on  to  relationships. While travelling  you make friends . You share  wonderful times with them. Then  why  prolong  the kinship and risk spoling  it by exchanging numbers and promising to  keep in touch? Move on. Life has  so much to offer. Treat every  human encounter as an opportunity to enrich your life.

You  sound like  you don’t believe  in permanent  relationships? Are  you single?

I am in  love with love  constantly. But I  don’t believe  in  carrying the baggage of  relationships on  my head constantly.

So much is being said and written  about sexual harassment after Weinstein. But before him your Malayalam film industry has superstar Dileep  to deal with?

I’d like to  give him the benefit  of the  doubt until proven guilty  by the courts.  As an active member  of  the WCC(Women In  Cinema  Collective) we are constantly addressing issues related to women’s space at the work place. I am glad we are finally addressing an issue that has troubled women forever.

But why were all these women keeping quiet all these years?

When  you ask that , you do them a disservice for bravely  coming out, finally. I’ve been victim of this(harassment) many times over. And I can tell you it’s not easy to be a woman working in a patriarchal industry. You are constantly reminded  of your gender and how you need to use your gender  to make something  of your career. Then we  have  our cinema which for decades has shown stalking and heckling to be  permissible  behaviour. Which is why when an Alia Bhattcomes out of her comfort zone  and  does a Highway or  an Udta Punjab it makes a helluva difference to the(predatory) male gaze.

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