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'It isn't even normal to talk about the casting couch'

By Patcy N
Last updated on: November 08, 2017 19:31 IST
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‘Making the casting couch about the south Indian industry is very infuriating. It is there everywhere.’ 

‘I don't believe in concepts like the import and export of actors from different places making their debuts many times.’

‘I cannot provide stardom anything and stardom doesn't provide me with anything, so we are not in the same car.’

Qarib Qarib Singlle actress Parvathy is refreshingly different.


Photograph: Kind courtesy Parvathy/Instagram

Actress Parvathy, who makes her Bollywood debut with Qarib Qarib Singlle, has unusual views about acting, Bollywood debuts and movies in general.

Fiercely individualistic, she feels very strongly about the casting couch syndrome that exists in the film industry and, like she says, "everywhere". She takes great pride in the #MeToo campaign that went viral recently.

Parvathy voices her thoughts about this age-old phenomenon and suggests a solution.

Patcy N/ chats with the confident actress, who also has the nicest things to say about her co-star, Irrfan Khan.

How excited are you about Qarib Qarib Single? 

At the moment, I am pretty tired. But yes, I am as excited as I am for any of the films I do.

I only do few films so when one comes out, it is a big deal for me.

Strangely, I am nervous about not feeling nervous. I have always been arrogantly confident about the work I have done.

Actually, it is not about my work but about how good the movie is.

The same applies here.

But this is your big Bollywood debut. 

As an artist, I feel you can have a debut just once. That happened to me about 11 years ago when I did my first film or, probably even before that, when I was doing theatre in school.

I don't believe in concepts like the import and export of actors from different places making their debuts many times.

I never planned it. I don't plan my movies in Malayalam (cinema). 


IMAGE: Parvathy and Irrfan Khan on the sets of Qarib Qarib Singlle.

Malayalam films are quite realistic. Was it difficult doing a Hindi film? 

It is not easy for me.

I am very pampered and spoilt because of how it is back home in Kerala. It is very straightforward. Even talking to the media is very straightforward. There isn't any need to buff news up. What you are giving is enough.

I am wary of how things are here because everybody has their own obligations.

I feel the media and the actors are in the same boat; they are not fighting against each other. So as long as we are cordial, I think I will cope well.

What was working with Irrfan like? 

Words are not enough. 

When you find the best partner in doing your craft, half your work is done. You just need to meet them halfway and you are set. 

I was there 100 per cent and he was there 100 per cent. We were not thinking about the result. We were taking each day as it came, challenging each other with questions, making it team work and not about just one person or a star. 

Have you watched any Irrfan Khan movie? 

I have seen The Namesake and Life Of Pi.

I really enjoyed The Namesake; his performance was phenomenal. I did not expect him to be so refreshing.

I haven't watched Hindi Medium and feel pretty bad about it. I haven't been able to watch a lot of movies in the last year and am not proud of it. I hope to catch up on Hindi Medium

IMAGE: Parvathy and Irrfan Khan in Qarib Qarib Singlle.

Any particular genre that you find fascinating? 

I don't feel genres have helped me as an actor. Movies can be of any genre. But if you give me slapstick, I may not do it. 

My way of working or researching the character remains the same, so I would still start from the bottom and work my way up and understand the character.

The way it will be envisioned by the director can change. I will fit accordingly and find my rhythm. But whichever genre it is, my craft will remain the same, so I don't feel out of place. 

I have never done a romantic comedy. I did Charlie but you can't call it a romantic comedy. It's a light film and there is a lot of fantasy in it. Still, it's a realistic portrayal.

Qarib Qarib Singlle is exactly like that. We have kept the story and performances real. 

What is the best and worst part of being an actor? 

There is no worst part of being an actor but there are worst parts about being a star. They are two very different things.

I don't consider myself a star. I cannot conform to the idea of a star. I cannot provide stardom anything and stardom doesn't provide me with anything, so we are not in the same car. 

Being an actor provides me with everything. It provides me with a reason to understand people, so I get to play people like you. As a result, I may be less judgemental about you. Which is why I would want to do my craft well.

When the movie comes out and you watch it, you might either relate to my character or actually meet such people in life. You may be a little less harsh with them while judging them. You may understand why they are doing what they are doing. 

I feel it gives me a reason to study people. It gives me a venue to study different things like dance, music or new languages. There is no better school for me. 

IMAGE: Parvathy and Irrfan Khan in Qarib Qarib Singlle.

Was it difficult to speak in Hindi? 

Main Hindi Kendriya Vidyalaya main padhi hoon (I studied Hindi in Kendriya Vidyalaya), so the first 17 years of my life were spent speaking Hindi.

Obviously, it has been 11 years now, so I haven't spoken to a fluent Hindi-speaking person.

There is a mother tongue influence, which I am not ashamed of. We all have it.

I am proud of all the languages I can speak like Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, English and a little bit of French. 

You mostly play the girl-next-door. Why don't you play glamorous parts? 

Parvathy the person does not matter in my craft.

Who Parvathy is has to invisible and every character that I have done, and the clothes that I wear in that film, the body I have -- fat or thin, freckles or no freckles, make-up or not -- is to serve the character and to make it believable.

When you watch a film, you know it is an actor playing the part. But, within the first five minutes, you start believing and empathising with the character.

I should do a good job of selling that to you. 

Photograph: Kind courtesy Parvathy/Instagram 

You have been vocal about the fact that the casting couch exists in the south film industry.

First of all, I would like to apologise about the fact that I have been requested not to speak about anything else other than my film, Qarib Qarib Singlle. But since this is something that is so close to my heart -- and it should be close to the heart of anybody who has any integrity -- I will... 

In our society, it isn't even normal to talk about having gone through something like that. Naming the culprit is the next step and the biggest one.

Even as a child or teenager, whenever we have been groped or molested or pinched, the first thing our closest family or friends say is, 'Chod yaar, it's okay, hota hai (Forget it, these kind of things happen).'

We need to change that first. 

In Hollywood, an army -- of those who have had enough -- has risen now.

If I speak up, our society is such that I will be the only one who will be speaking up.  

We have actors whom I know have been used and who still say, 'I am decent, this has not happened to me.'  

We are talking about being there for each other -- men and women alike. But first, we must build on that.

We have to work together; we cannot be alone in this. This is not a battle. It's just a plain need to live with dignity. 

I want to make sure that you change this with this interview. Please don't say it's a problem of the south Indian film industry. This issue exists everywhere. 

Just making it about the south Indian industry is not comfortable, it is very infuriating. It is there everywhere, in other fields too. 

Assault, abuse and exploitation in the name of gender happens everywhere, in any industry. This is the state of affairs.

I do not believe in jumping the gun and naming people. Then, everyone will have a field day and the point would be lost. 

You have to go by the law. You need to have evidence to name a person. We are living in a country where domestic rape is not illegal. 

What is the solution to this problem? 

Education and awareness. It is about talking more about it and normalising the fact that it happened to me but it isn't my fault.

I am a survivor, not a victim. 

Writer Kamala Surayya (who went by the pen name Madhavikutty) said there is nothing that can be done to a woman that will stay; it will go away after one bath. So it is not going to scar me as a person. 

Man, woman, transgender, homosexual -- all the gender binaries have their own experiences of being abused just because they are of a certain gender. 

So we really have to work hard on our law structure. We are still atavistic with our rape laws but at least it's there.

Secondly, we have to raise awareness and not make it superficial. Let's not stab one another but co-exist. It's about respect and love. 

When we do speak up, we are not bashing another person. We are asking that person to live his life and let us live ours.  

When the #MeToo campaign came out, it was mind-boggling to see so many people write to me personally, saying, 'I put it up (the post) but my boyfriend made me take it off' or 'I put it up but my family is threatening me.' 

Sadly, everybody's prestige and value in society 'log kya kahenge, family kya kahegi (what will society say, or what will the family say)' --  is way bigger than our own existence. 

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Patcy N / in Mumbai