Diversity is Parvathy TK’s middle name. The Malayalam actress who entered the industry with ‘Out of Syllabus’ and played a school girl in her sophomore film ‘Notebook’ has been winning accolades every year since 2013.
Apart from intense performances in love stories such as ‘Poo’, ‘Maryan’ (Tamil) and Malayalam film ‘Ennum Ninte Moideen’, Parvathy revealed another facet of her acting prowess with roles in ‘Charlie’ and ‘Bangalore Days.’
Still riding a wave of success, she slipped into a mother’s shoes as a nurse in ‘Take Off’ (Malayalam) and won her first Special Jury Mention at the Indian National Film Awards.
Foraying into Bollywood, Parvathy impressed again with a mature performance alongside the versatile Irrfan Khan in ‘Qarib Qarib Single.’ With new film ‘Uyare’ she raises the bar once again, playing Pallavi Raveendran, an acid attack survivor who finds meaning in life once again.
Gulf News tabloid! caught up with Parvathy to discuss the new film.
Q: For this role you interacted with acid attack survivors at Sheroes Hangout [a cafe in Agra run by them]. What were the emotional aspects that you made a note of?
They have this beaming sense of why it’s important for them to be in Sheroes. Whenever anyone walks in, they are prepared to speak to them and make it normal and ensure that at the end of the conversation the other person has begun ignoring the physical aspects of how different they look. I saw their determination and also realised how exhausting it can get on some days. Yet, they put on a brave face, repeating their stories many times, reliving their trauma and going through the discomfort so that they make a difference to others. That is the strength I saw in them.
Q: As Pallavi, you have essayed two phases from her life — one before the acid attack and one after. Juggling between her two frames of mind must have been quite a challenge. How did you work on them?
Quite a painful process! There were days when we would shoot in the second half of the day, the first part of the story that is before Pallavi’s attack.
Every day, the first thing began with prosthetics and later without prosthetics but with normal make-up. It took hours for the make-up and then its removal.
With body language changing from one to the other, I was very insecure for a while till it became second nature after constant practice. The production allowed for a more lenient schedule in the second part because they and the director understood that it was tough on the artist.
Q: Which was the most difficult scene in ‘Uyare’?
There is a scene where Asif [Ali, actor who plays Pallavi’s boyfriend] and I have a big argument that happens at night. It was a well-written scene. I was eager to do it well. I kept reading it again and again despite knowing the lines well by heart. It seemed to me that if I read it more times something else will come up. And it did when Asif and I performed the scene. It was a transcending experience. I loved it. There was no facade. There was not even the awareness that I was performing. Such moments are rare. That was a scary yet liberating experience.
Q: You have played many intense roles — Kanchanamala (‘Ennum Ninte Moideen’), Panimalar (‘Maryan’), Sameera (‘Take Off’) and now Pallavi. Do you rely only on the director’s inputs or also supplement with your homework?
Honestly there is no formula. It differs from character to character.
For ‘Uyare’ it was the initial meetings to understand where Pallavi comes from. In the space of toxic relationships it was easier to tap into experiences from my life and of my friends — what they have gone through — and then create Pallavi’s.
Usually, it’s a collaboration with writers. I pick what they are giving me. If I have questions I talk to the makers. I create my own answers when I don’t get any. I thoroughly enjoy the process. It takes a lot of effort and pain.
Q: Playing different roles, did any of the characters change your perspective about things and understanding about life?
There are so many things each one of them is still continuing to teach me. Sameera from ‘Take Off’ wanted to make sure that she is secure and safe and can take care of her family. There is a sense of urgency in her. I feel that sense of urgency sort of translated in my sense of urgency during the entire controversy period [referring to last year when she was threatened for questioning misogyny and sexism in the industry]. There was the single-minded focus that I had for months with which I continued the fight along with those who supported me.
I learnt to smile from my heart by playing Sarah [‘Bangalore Days’] with her full and blooming smile. After ‘Bangalore Days’ people remarked on my smile. I realised that as Parvathy I had not allowed myself a wide full smile before.
Panimalar [‘Maryan’] was brave, soft and vulnerable. For her it’s not the validation of her love’ for her the love itself is the journey and the destination.
In upcoming film ‘Virus’ I realised that there are so many similarities between this woman I play and me. Having played it out in a different setting has started to heal a lot of issues that she and I have in common. I don’t know how much sense this makes to others. But this is my process and my relationship with my characters.
Q: Once a film is done, what do you do to slip out of the character?
Until last year, I travelled a lot. It was an antidote to snap out of something. Once the physical surroundings are changed, the pattern of thoughts also did.
This year I decided not to travel much. It will be more of an internal travel.
I indulge in art activities like reading a book or visiting a museum basically giving the body a break and pampering. My body is my equipment. I meet my friends. It’s not just about great rapport and friendly banter. We have debates that are high voltage nourishment for my soul. I spend lots of time with my family.
MEET THE ‘UYARE’ TEAM
Director Manu Ashokan
Manu Ashokan’s debut with ‘Uyare’ takes him to new heights.
When tabloid! reached out to the former assistant of late Malayalam filmmaker Rajesh Pillai, he was in the studio with the post production work of ‘Uyare.’ It stirred up memories of another day when he assisted his mentor with the mixing of ‘Vettai’, Pillai’s last project.
After Pillai’s demise, he got acquainted with duo Bobby and Sanjay — the writers of ‘Traffic,’ a trendsetter in Malayalam cinema.
“I was listening to many stories but was particular on directing a story that will remain a hangover in the viewers’ minds,” said Ashokan, who took the plunge with Bobby and Sanjay’s script of ‘Uyare.’ “‘Uyare’ traces Pallavi’s journey, from her childhood when she aspires to become a pilot someday to her adulthood.”
The film’s challenges came from learning about the aviation industry to understanding the mind of acid attack survivors.
Asif Ali plays Pallavi’s boyfriend and Tovino Thomas enters her life during a later phase.
Producer trio Shenuga, Shegna and Sherga
Well-known Malayalam producer PV Gangadharan’s three daughters — Shenuga, Shegna and Sherga — followed their father’s trail when they produced ‘Uyare’ under the name SCube Films.
Gangadharan’s Grihalakshmi productions has produced hits including ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragaadha’, ‘Adwaitham’, ‘Ekalavyan’ and ‘Achuvinte Amma’, to mention some.
“We have grown up seeing the making of films. It was natural for us to dream of film production as a profession,” said Sherga, the youngest of the trio. “It was not an overnight or a one-moment decision, but this is something that happened over years. Our parents’ advice was to wait for a good story — one that will appeal to all class of audience. We liked the Bobby-Sanjay story.”
Scenarists Bobby and Sanjay
These two brothers — the sons of Malayalam actor and Kerala state awardee Prem Prakash — bond over films and music. While older sibling Bobby is a practicing doctor from Kottayam, younger brother Sanjay is a full-time writer living in Kochi.
Journeying from writing television serials to cinema, this duo has been reaping awards except for one flop, ‘Casanova.’ Exploring different stories, Bobby and Sanjay have connected well with the family audience right from their debut film, ‘Ente Veedu Appuvinteyum.’ While their sophomore film ‘Notebook’ touched on teenage pregnancy, their third film ‘Traffic’ gently emphasised the importance of organ donation.
‘Mumbai Police’ was an intriguing police thriller at a time when Malayalam cinema was not ready for new experiments. ‘How Old Are You?’ brought back Manju Warrier to the screen while questioning if age determine a woman’s worth?
In that same vein comes ‘Uyare’, a story developed from an idea about a woman bouncing back to life after a crisis.
“‘Uyare’ redefines the concept of beauty,” said Bobby. “Women are judged by their external features. ‘Uyare’ points out to a good heart and right attitude.”
Sanjay added: “This is not just about Pallavi’s journey and her overcoming a situation in her life, but also talks about relationships and gender violence. We had faith in Manu. Rajesh often remarked that he will make it big one day.”
Casting Parvathy in the lead was the first choice.
Bobby remembers his first meeting with Parvathy during the auditions of ‘Notebook.’
“She was very confident unlike other participants. Parvathy has evolved a good deal,” he said.
Her hard work and constant questions about her character in ‘Uyare’ left them amazed.
Prosthetic make-up artist Zuby Johal
Parvathy’s prosthetic make-up was done by Dirty Hands Studio, a Bengaluru-based company providing prosthetics for films and television. More than a decade old, DHS has worked for 33 Hindi films. ‘Uyare’ marks its first in Malayalam cinema.
Johal, one of the partners, said that working with Parvathy was a joy. The prosthetic covered one side of her face and she wore it from 6am to 8pm, shooting continuously for days.
The challenge was to show the change of the skin following the acid attack from day one, said Johal. “We also positioned a nerve that juts out from the nose to the neck. This had to be replicated every day.”
Praising Parvathy for her one-shot takes, Johal added that no other actor could have carried Pallavi better in ‘Uyare.’