Parvathy’s name is always read alongside the word ‘boldness’. Even while she was adorned with laurels for her incredible acting skills, the actress was on the receiving end of scathing cyber attack for openly voicing her opinions and stands. She faced both with equal confidence and strength. To those who ask whether all these were necessary, Parvathy, without doubting herself, answers in the affirmative; that too by clearly realizing the challenges it may pose. There is a unique identity of her own in all the characters that Parvathy chooses. Pallavi from the latest movie Uyare is no different. She continues to amaze as Pallavi, an acid attack victim in Uyare. Parvathy, in a candid chat, talks about her latest movie and also the various challenges that she faces as an actress.
How challenging was Pallavi for you?
Uyare is about a woman pilot’s struggles for survival after being a victim of acid attack. The story has been developed from those who face such challenges in real life. This movie is the directorial debut of Manu Asokan who was the associate of late film maker Rajesh Pillai. Though all the characters that I played so far are dear to me, Pallavi was definitely the most physically challenging.
In most scenes, I had to emote with a façade on my face. The facial features of an acid attack victim were crafted in a mould and fixed onto my face. The prosthetic makeup itself took 4 hours to complete. My eyes and mouths were shut using cello tapes and I spent hours filming with the prosthetic mould on my face. I acted suffering many discomforts and severe sweating.
What were your preparations for playing Pallavi?
All the nuances of the character were well defined in the screenplay written by Bobby and Sanjay. However, to know more about the lives of such people, I visited the restaurant called Sheroes which is run by women who are acid attack victims. Those women do not get tired, repeating their harrowing experiences to the visitors in the restaurant. They may seem like bold and brimming with confidence. But each day they are struggling to retain that impeccable strength. They frequently face many difficulties including the negative attitudes of people, discrimination and health problems as well. When they narrate those ordeals, they are actually using their sufferings and pain as a weapon to fight for survival. They wish that no one goes through those severe experiences like they have. All these experiences helped me understand Pallavi in a better way.
From RJ Serah in Bangalore Days and Kanjanamala to every other character that you have essayed were unique personalities than being mere female leads. Do you intentionally choose such roles?
I do not commit any project which doesn’t excite me. There are many films which I rejected because of that. Being the female lead is not the issue here. Even if it is a small role, I should have some scope to perform. The character called Manonmani in Tamil movie Uthama Villain appears in just three scenes. But the audience still talks about that character whenever they talk about me. In Malayalam, though I didn’t play major roles in Vinodayatra and City of God, those were noticeable. In the films directed by Anjali Menon, every character would possess unique personality and significance as well. I have just acted in 22 – 23 movies in 14 years. Some may think that it is not enough. But from the beginning of my career I have maintained that I would do only one movie at a time. I would be exhausted after a movie. A break is a necessary to overcome that. I begin the next movie only after that.
Did the controversies affect your opportunities in the movies?
Until I did Anjali Menon’s Koode, all the breaks that happened between my movies were voluntarily chosen by me. Plenty of offers were coming my way. However, the eight month long gap that happened after Koode was not like that. The offers to act became less. It was the time when the controversies surrounding Malayalam cinema had reached its height. It was quite unnatural for an artist who has been part of blockbuster movies since Bangalore Days. If my situation is like this despite being a privileged artist who has been part of hit movies, has had opportunities to play amazing roles and also being likely to do such roles, I wonder what would be the plight of those artists and technicians who aren’t. But do not refrain from speaking out fearing for your job. There are lots of people who are still scared. It will take a few more years to change. However, a spark has been ignited.
The situation where a particular group can stifle and oust others is changing. Even if it happens, there exist other groups which can overcome it by creating movies and opportunities of their own. I too am someone who has great confidence in that even if am trolled severely. WCC, the women’s organization in the movies, motivates and inspires us amazingly in this matter as well.
Has WCC been able to interfere in such issues within 2 years of its inception?
It indeed is a great achievement of the WCC that many issues, which weren’t opened up earlier, have become topics of discussions now. From the beginning itself, the WCC hasn’t tried to confront other cinema organizations, instead it has invited them for dialogues to solve the various issues. However, it took 2 years for the people to realize even that. It was for our rights and justice that we, as a minority, have raised our voices both within and outside the actors’ association. It was never intended for our personal gains or agendas. WCC is fighting to develop a work culture that ensures situations for everyone to work decently.
Didn’t the cyber attacks mentally affect you?
I was subjected to severe cyber attacks on all the social media platforms following an opinion that I expressed at the open forum of the International Film Festival of Kerala in 2017. It was a planned attack. But the identities of those who were behind it were disclosed in the due course. Lots of people supported me as well. Moreover, what I said had become the talking point everywhere including in the families. These were all lessons which helped me understand myself better. These attacks definitely affected me mentally. But the support and trust of lots of people including my family gave me strength.
I am someone who has been called ‘feminichi’ quite often. I don’t take it as an insult. The bag on which the word ‘feminichi’ is embroidered is my favorite. There would always be an observation book in it. I note down my thoughts, observations and funny incidents in that book. I have kept many such books which contain my thoughts, safely in a box under lock and key.
Many believe that being bold is having no emotions at all. That is not true. I am an extremely sensitive person. I would lose my sleep if I fight with someone very close. The thought that they misunderstood me makes me deeply sad.
Were some of your responses, including saying ‘OMKV’ to a statement made by a director, impulsive? Do you regret mouthing any opinion or reacting in a particular way?
No. Whatever I said, including the statements that I made at the venue of Thiruvananthapuram Film Festival, were expressed on the basis of my own beliefs. But many misinterpreted it and blew it into a controversy. The ‘OMKV’ response too was posted after thinking about it. His words deserved such a reaction.
What are your new projects?
I am currently actig in the movie titled 'Varthmanam' directed by Sidharth Siva. Discussions of two projects are underway.
Do you have any plans to direct a movie?
I have been seriously thinking about directing a movie for the last 2 years. I am working on a subject. I will definitely be a director too.