The actor, all set to turn director, talks about her new releases and being vocal about things in her life and career
This year will add another feather in the cap of actor Parvathy Thiruvothu; having compiled a script during lockdown, Parvathy is now set to make her début as director. “If everything goes well, I will begin shooting towards the middle of 2021. The script is done, [pre-] production is done and things are going well,” she says, adding, “But I also have back-to-back [acting] projects, and I am balancing it.”
The actor intended to take an eight-month break after finishing Varthamanam (her most recent film) and Rachiyamma (in the anthology Aanum Pennum) when the pandemic struck. “In 2019, I had done Uyare and Virus and although 2020 was a period of lull, these works were out there. Now, with several projects getting released in the space of a few weeks I get to showcase diverse characters. There is nothing more I want in my resume,” she says.
She has already signed Puzhu with Mammootty, her first project with the actor, and produced by Dulquer Salmaan. Screenplay is by Harshad (writer of Unda) and Sharfu-Suhas duo (writers of Virus and Varathan), and is directed by débutante Ratheena Sharshad.
“Puzhu’s storyline captivated me. Harshad ikka called me and mentioned there is this story and wanted to know if I would like to be a part of it. As a heads up, he told me that Mammootty would be acting in it. I was over the moon when I listened to the script. It is so intense and on point with everything I stand for. I was enthused that Mammootty had agreed to be a part of the film. And what an interesting title! It will keep everyone guessing what the puzhu (worm) is all about,” she says.
Reflection of society
What makes Parvathy one of the best actors in Indian cinema at the moment is her ability to live the character she plays on screen. It is no different with Faiza Sufiya, her character in Varthamanam. As the wide-eyed bright student from Malabar who is forged into a leader and speaker in the crucible of campus politics in Delhi, Faiza reflects the trajectory of recent events on college campuses.
“It is strange that a film which was written in 2017 (by Aryadan Shoukath) is relevant now too. Unfortunately, the events in the film predict the incidents that we saw unfold in 2019. The violence in Jamia Milia Islamia University, the CAA protests, the arrests… I was in shock. I had just acted all these things in a film and then this was happening around me. So, clearly, there were reasons for me to be vocal about this,” she says. Parvathy explains that a lot of people are trying to understand the timeline of when the film was written. “I remember when Sidhartha Siva, the director, came and met me for the project. It was a time when the lynching was going out of hand. So when I heard the story, I knew it was relevant and we had to do the film at the earliest. Everything that it predicted and even worse is happening now.”
To prepare for the role, Parvathy spoke to Siddarth,a former JNU student, and others who were active in campus politics. “I relied on them to understand campus politics and the kind of awakening in university campuses like the one shown in the film. We shot in Jamia Milia and I ended up meeting a lot of students. It was nice, just to be able to follow their lives and understand why they are so vocal. There is nothing that stops them from being vocal and exercising their right as a citizen and as a student,” she elaborates.
As a student of All Saints College in Thiruvananthapuram, Parvathy recalls that she was never politically active and there were no student uprising although the campus was a vibrant one. Moreover, being a part of cinema meant she could only pursue her studies through distance education.
“I knew I had to do a lot of reading up on feminism and gender politics to face challenges in the workplace and daily life. When you are faced with challenges, oppression, exploitation and abuse, you can choose how to react and respond to it with fully informed decisions that you make, and whether you are going to be part of the revolution. And I have had to go through that myself a while ago. I made a major decision that I was going to be vocal about things in my life and my career. I will explain why things are going wrong in my work place, why I will be invested in changing things and why I won’t accept things as they are. When it comes to that space, when you have to physically act on it, you can make a choice: you can actually continue being a virtual activist or actually be there on ground zero,” she remarks. Parvathy says that Faiza is met with such a challenge and she makes her choice. Although she comes from a minority community, she has an extremely well-endowed family. She is supported by her grandfather and family and shines under his tutelage.
In the film, there are scenes where she disagrees with certain students of her community who profess an insular approach. But she also hangs out with them for her disagreements do not mean cancelling people out. “So those are aspects and values about Faiza that I could relate to. Faiza dissents but it is a respectful dissent. I believe dissent promotes growth. That is one area that we worked on, the arc of her evolution and her friendship, what pushes her into understanding what is happening around her, her friends and the rest of the gang and she realises the value of protest. I have gone through a certain version of it on my own. So it was interesting for me to relate to it and live it through Faiza,” Parvathy asserts.
No non-sense company
Her next release is Sanu John Varghese’s Aarkkariyam. Calling it an “extraordinarily ordinary film or an ordinarily extraordinarily film”, she says it is difficult to slot it into a genre. “There is nothing about the movie that is pretentious. It is as real as it can get. At the same time, you will feel the thud on your head somewhere in between, you won’t see the twist coming. So, I feel, it will create a new genre,” she insists.
She says that in her head, she plays characters and not wives, girlfriends and daughters. In Aarkkariyam, she is Shirly, wife of a businessman named Roy who is the backbone of their venture. “Shirly and Roy have a phenomenal partnership; you see a healthy, beautiful marriage. There is a lot of backstory to it, why they are the way they are and why as a couple they click the way they do. Honestly, I aspire to have a partnership like Shirly and Roy in my life. I hope I can find a companion like that; it is no-nonsense, and there are no grey areas and complications,” Parvathy says.
The one aspect that stuck with her is that Shirly is a believer. She believes that God will give nothing on her plate that she cannot eat. So there are no challenges that she cannot handle.“I am not a believer. The lack of belief makes me exactly as confident as Shirly that there is no one issuing challenges, so there is nothing that I cannot overcome. So we are on two ends of the spectrum and weirdly, I could relate to her,” says Parvathy before signing off.