Actress Parvathy is a household name in Mollywood. She debuted in the Tamil industry with an award-winning performance in Poo, directed by Sasi. After the film’s success, she was fondly known as ‘Poo Parvathy’. She handpicked her roles, and surpassed herself with every new film. As Panimalar in Maryan and Manonmani in Uttama Villain, she delivered realistic performances, and whetted the audience’s appetite for more.
We gather in a corner room at the Prasad Labs for the interview. Dressed in a neat, blue kurta, Parvathy greets everyone individually with a warm smile. Something about her makes you feel you’re talking to a like-minded friend, not a glamorous actress. Perhaps she wants to be different from the others. Or perhaps, that’s just who she really is.
At the press meet of Bangalore Naatkal, Parvathy had said, “I don’t like to be called Parvathy Menon. Menon is a name that was added by a journalist because I am a Keralite. My family name is Parvathy Thiruvoth Kottuvata. Personally, I feel that caste names don’t define a person.” Parvathy echoes those opinions here. She feels that it’s not caste names of any religion, but a person’s upbringing and character that matters. “I realised that and I wanted to practice that in real life,” she says.
Parvathy believes that the world would change if the way people think changed. She’s no atheist, but she routinely refuses to fill in the caste or religion column in government forms. She says, “If I believe it’s not necessary, I don’t fill the gender as well. If mentioning my caste or religion, would get me differential treatment, I wouldn’t mention it.”
And skin colour. From comic books to television commercials, black is a bad omen and white defines purity. The same concept infuses character descriptions. Parvathy says, “I’ve seen my close friend’s daughter becoming confused about why she doesn’t look fair. Children are like a clean slate. These kind of thoughts shouldn’t be incorporated in their minds. It will only [negatively] affect our future generation.”
Malayalam cinema has been churning out realist films, while Tamil cinema concentrates on producing commercial films. What does she feel about these trends? Parvathy agrees, “It’s the reality.” But her focus while picking roles is simple: what is she going to learn from the film? She says, “I go through the character. I transform myself and incorporate the best of that character. Every film helps me relate better to my fellow human beings.” Storytelling shapes our society. Parvathy has immense belief in this idea.
Cinema isn’t a business for her. It’s an art.
Unlike other heroines, Parvathy isn’t interested in playing a hero’s ‘love interest’. “I was so happy to play Kamal Haasan’s daughter in Uttama Villain. I’m bored of clichéd roles. I would love to do more experimental films.” For example, in Bangalore Naatkal, she plays a paraplegic. What inspires Parvathy is how Sara adapts to that situation, and how she finds a way to live.
Parvathy’s films may have a social message, but there’s little moralising. Instead, it’s weaved into the story subtly. “We all want cinema to entertain us. Be it music, or cinema or dance. But art also has to improve the quality of life. I watch films and I cry. Or I’m entertained and I sleep well that night. And be hopeful when I wake up tomorrow. It’s a mystery how art does it,” she added.
Actresses across industries hike their salaries if any of their films becomes a hit. Parvathy is different. She says, “It’s not that I don’t need money. When I spend 70 days with people I don’t know, for a film, I ask for money according to my workload. But buying an Audi car isn’t my goal. That’s not why I do a movie. I do it because I want the experience. For me, I have to find what interests me, and invest my time in that.”
She admits that several actresses work so they can live luxurious lives. She explains, “Some actresses are like that because the industry is like that. It is not because they are wrong. After my debut movie, Poo, I received several endorsement offers. They came with their agenda and strategies. But that’s not my job. My only job is to play a character and my responsibility is to represent a particular character. If I do such endorsements and inaugurations, people wouldn’t believe that I can pull off a Maari or Panimalar. They’ll get used to seeing a brand ambassador. They wouldn’t be able to experience Maari’s pain. So, I would never do that.”
Cinema is a suspension of disbelief. Parvathy feels that if she endorses any brand, the audience would begin to relate to her as an individual.
She says, “Parvathy is not important. The character she portrays is important.”
Parvathy firmly believes that an actor’s life need not be open to the public. She says, “I don’t think questions about my personal life are necessary. I don’t go around asking people about their husband or wife. I don’t want people to know about me. I want them to understand my characters. Actors are not public property.” She adds, “At the end of the day, I want everyone to be happy, and smile.”