What does it take to break away from the familiar trail?
She strongly believes that ‘Bold’ is an adjective that has been callously used time and again to portray confident women – “Being confident about expressing one’s feelings or opinions must be the norm and not something that’s ‘extraordinary’…!” A champion of ‘Equal Rights for All’, she has fiercely stood by her beliefs even when they were termed ‘scandalous’. With no pedigree in Cinema, her struggles and battles have moulded her into an incredible actor who dares to think differently! RITZ has a candid conversation with Parvathy Thiruvoth Kottuvata, who is busy churning out back to back blockbuster hits across South Indian Cinema!
Interview: Riya Sonny Datson
Photography: Shaheen Taha
Venue: Casino Hotel, Willingdon Island
Wardrobe: Rouka by Sreejith Jeevan
Make up: Samson Lei
Fashion Accessory: Rare Rabbit – Lulu Mall
Footwear: Steve Madden – Lulu mall
Photography Assistants: Haseeb Hasi & Rahul Raj
How has life changed after a continuous reel of super hits?
It’s changed for the better. Commercial success comes with a lot of positive aspects – there is definitely more recognition and visibility now. But there is also this fear of being branded into a certain category of characters. I would like to portray characters that are from a variety
of societal contexts and not just different versions of ‘bold women’ as people tend to put it. I find growth as an actor only when I get to investigate each character and their background this way. Things that disturb me about commercial success is that you get put into an “image” or are seen as a star which leads to unnecessary and unrealistic expectations about the way you are expected to conduct yourself in public. You find it very very difficult to be the true unfiltered you!
Seven years into my career, though I won critical acclaim for my films, there was a period in my life when my phone never rang! But I always had this arrogant faith that if I did good work, it will come back to me – basic Karma. So when I didn’t have projects, I just stayed at home, studied and used the time to complete my educational courses. I was on the verge of bankruptcy when I got through the audition for Mariyaan. So when finally, movies turned out to be hits, I was terrified at the way my phone was ringing. Though I was thankful and overwhelmed, I was least prepared for it! After the initial shock of it, now I know that it is ok to take a break before I move on. You still have to plant your feet firmly into the ground or you can be plucked out easily and you would have nowhere to go. It is still the same process no matter how many “hits”, after Mariyaan, I took a break of seven months before signing up Bangalore days. Ten months after Charlie is when I started working on Take off. I am on that recharge period as we speak as well. I respect what commercial success can do for a project in terms of recognition and visibility. However, it will always remain secondary to the success that comes through in terms of hitting the right note with the audience.
No matter what the consequence, I will keep putting my best foot forward. When you start telling the truth, you start building skin made of Titanium
Of the 20 films you have done across Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and now Hindi film industry, the most challenging role would be…
Every single movie has taken a little life out of me but at the same time, that’s how I would like to burn my life. Travelling with each role and spending a little bit of me on it. It’s very hard but only through this do I reap the actual benefit of my craft. Understanding humanity. I want the way I engage in my craft to make a difference in the society. For the better. I wish for the way I live, to be a true reflection of what I believe in and have that reflect in the art I co-create.
What attracts you to a role?
The authenticity of the story and the way the role rolls out in the narrative. Most of the time, I instantly know when I don’t want to do a particular project! When I am unsure, I usually sleep on it. The next morning if I don’t remember the role or the story, it’s a clear answer. But if it’s unsettling, I ask more questions and try to understand the story better. Some roles don’t even let you sleep at night because I can’t wait to start getting to know her. I follow my gut feeling more than anything else. Of course, the chemistry between the team of director/writer and I is also very important in making the decision as well.
How do you rejuvenate yourself after doing an intense character?
I stay at home and try to get back to normal routine. I read, sleep in late, cook, make coffee in the evening after a nap, watch a lot of movies. That’s one way, the other is travelling. Backpacking as a mode of travel especially is a magical experience. It forces such unfiltered self-reflection! Travel to a different destination every day, read up, catch up on current affairs, participate in the society as a citizen, and basically take away all the focus from me. My battery fills up during this time, that’s when the real work happens. It prepares me for when I have to go back to the world of movies.
You are a Vegan, is it difficult to manage that way of life in between busy shooting schedules?
It has not been an easy journey. For a year and a half I was in the best state possible health wise as a vegan. Until I fell sick during an outdoor shoot due to stress. I was asked to take dairy products and egg whites for speedy recovery. It became tougher while shooting in North India to avoid dairy so I had to become a vegetarian for a few months. I am now on the road to being a full vegan again. It is definitely very difficult but I am educating myself on nutrition now. Reading books on it and having discussions with doctors and nutritionists. I consider eating as a sacred process. Due to the “image-conscious”, fat-shaming society we live in where everyone has an opinion on what you eat, my study each day now is to renegotiate the internal dialogue I have with myself on what is good for me. You are feeding your body and you need to own up to it because this is the instrument I use to perform. This comes from someone who has had an eating disorder, battled depression and I am a kick ass survivor at that!! My nutritionist, Sonali Jajodia from Mumbai, has changed my entire perspective on food/nutrition. It’s a mindful act full of love. I started eating alone happily to steer clear of negative energies. When I perform, I go through difficult intense emotions and it takes a toll on me physically as well. I need to really take care of my body to be able to go through that
process. I exercise, go for dance classes and very importantly, I choose my eating partners wisely. To me, it’s more important to feel healthy and strong than to look “pretty” or lean. It is an every day job to be this conscious but I am committed to it.
You have openly talked about the most taboo things like the casting couch and gender inequality at work, don’t you feel it would affect you negatively?
I don’t have any inhibitions because nobody is indispensable. Cinema will continue even without me and I will find some other form of work. Power play and politics will only go so far. No matter what the consequence, I will keep putting my best foot forward. When you start telling the truth, you start building skin made of titanium. At the end of the day, it is impossible for me to stay within rigid walls and not do anything about it. I create my own work, in the sense, those who choose to work with me, will be coming to me for the right
reasons now. It is a good filtering mechanism.
Relationships matter in the industry and lot of actors have said that they have lost roles because of animosity or rivalry among actors. Has that happened to you?
Of course it has happened. By not having managers, I would offend agents/managers and lose good roles. It’s a waste of my energy to get to the bottom of that. But how far will these negative elements go? I am still here! It’s important to create trust, trust is an exploited word in the industry today. People don’t know how to build a brand and stay true to it. Relationships matter but it doesn’t mean that you have to go to every party and keep in touch every single day. I am not a party person and I want people to accept me as I am. Like I said, those who choose to work with me, will be coming to me for the right reasons, for who I am and for my work. And those who don’t, I guess it’s good for them and I, that we are not collaborating!
What inspires you to make that noise and ‘rebel’? Have you ever felt that it would have been better to stay quiet and have peace of mind?
There is a difference between talking ‘to’ someone and talking ‘at’ someone. I don’t engage in a conversation with someone who doesn’t listen to me or if I feel I am not listening to them. There are several people like me, who believe in ‘Live and Let Live’. I would like to
quote Albert Camus, “Sometimes your very existence is an act of rebellion!” Being true to yourself, is the biggest revolution you can spearhead. You are creating your own path despite having a society that would much rather conform you into categories that is comforting for a majority. If it were not for those wonderful artists of the bygone era who created art and made a statement with their life, I wouldn’t be here in my profession now. Who defines ‘normal’? Who defines ‘crazy’? It’s us and it’s my responsibility to posterity that I stay true, that I
create noise when there is injustice. Being quiet just adds to the chaos, it’s a much bigger problem than people who voice their opinion. The quiet ones live their entire life living off other’s enslavement and blaming others. I can’t sleep at night seeing myself as that kind of a
parasite in the society. I may never benefit from any of these fights but I know years from now, the future generation will benefit from it. Just like how a Mathura or a Bhanwari Devi who never benefited from the rape law at their time, but we are enjoying the fruits of their struggles and persistence.
Being confident about expressing one’s feelings or opinions must be the norm and not something that’s ‘extraordinary’ or ‘bold’!
After the recent shocking incident of sexual abuse of an actress in Kerala, do you think things have changed for the better in the industry?
It is changing. Things will definitely not remain the same. People have started talking and educating themselves a lot more about it and there are active campaigns. It’s a slow process and it might take years before any visible change is felt. We are up against of decades of hard
core patriarchy, which will not change overnight. What people need to understand is that we are not against anybody, we are just asking for equal existence. We just wish to start the process and pass on the baton to the future generation.
You don’t seem to be very active on Facebook. Instagram seems to be your choice. Why?
The virtual world of social media is a dangerous space. After years of exposure to it as well as participating in it I have realised that one must very carefully choose what they expose themselves to. I am active on Instagram. I thorougly enjoy the space although I make sure I
filter it to what I choose to feed myself with. For example the “explore” section on Instagram is an algorithm decided by the app for you based on what you like and what your followers like. So there are times I am exposed to silly/offensive posts. I make sure that opt out of
seeing them as it is an option given on each post you see. Thereby, cleaning up my feed. I do have a facebook page and I choose very carefully when to write there. I think the comment section of Facebook has mostly sewage there and there is a lot of cyber-bullying that I will not stand for. It is a space where people have no accountability for their words and actions. I am sure there are many positive encouraging comments as well, but I don’t read the comments section anymore since it can get very nasty. I have a tender heart I must protect it.
Best Compliment you have received: Being unrecognisable from one movie to another. That is always a pleasure to hear!
A Meaningful Criticism: In the movie, ‘Take Off’, the character has a mother tongue influence in her English language. No matter how much I tried during dubbing, people felt that there was a Parvathy coming into Sameera’s character. I must pay more attention!
Your Bollywood Outing…Qareeb Qareeb Single!
It didn’t feel like the typical Bollywood type cinema at all! I don’t think I am cut out for the space of candy floss love stories in general let alone the kind you see in bollywood. I would have to change a lot of things about myself to fit in and I wouldn’t want to do that. QQS is
romantic comedy directed by Tanuja Chandra. She has always portrayed strong female characters in her films and for me, to do a female lead in her movie with Irfaan Khan was a big challenge. The experience was a roller-coaster ride but was very rewarding.
Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum is a Tamil film by Vasanth. It is basically three short stories written by Tamil writers. I finished my part of the story in five days with a crew of 15 people but it’s still under production. The Mollywood movie titled ‘My Story’ with Prithviraj is also under production.
You don’t seem to be very active on Facebook. Instagram seems to be your choice. Why?
The virtual world of social media is a dangerous space. After years of exposure to it as well as participating in it I have realised that one must very carefully choose what they expose themselves to. I am active on Instagram. I thoroughly enjoy the space although I make sure I filter it to what I choose to feed myself with. For example the “explore” section on Instagram is an algorithm decided by the app for you based on what you like and what your followers like. So there are times I am exposed to silly/offensive posts. I make sure that opt out of
seeing them as it is an option given on each post you see. Thereby, cleaning up my feed. I do have a facebook page and I choose very carefully when to write there. I think the comment section of Facebook has mostly sewage there and there is a lot of cyber-bullying that I will
not stand for. It is a space where people have no accountability for their words and actions. I am sure there are many positive encouraging comments as well, but I don’t read the comments section anymore since it can get very nasty. I have a tender heart I must protect it.
You don’t do any endorsements….
There hasn’t been an offer from a company that produces a product that I use, which is also economical for people. I don’t want to influence people to buy material products only to validate their lifestyle akin to a “star” they love or to hold up a particular status in the society.
For example, I absolutely admire and look upto Cate Blanchett. She endorses skin products but I simply can’t afford those products nor do I think I need to use them to have healthy skin. I choose to be inspired by her work and consciously step away from things she does that
don’t relate to the craft itself. I don’t judge anyone who chooses to endorse anything, it is their choice. I simply don’t wish to add to the crowd. I do not wish to participate in the mass consumerism that is being perpetrated by companies.
Every single movie has taken a little life out of me but at the same time, that’s how I would like to burn my life
On My Bucket List:
I want to start taking dance lessons more steadily. Everyday I want to dance a little…!
One Actor you want to work with…
Currently,the Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany! I am awestruck by her work. I admire international actors because I feel they talk and share their thoughts about their craft a lot more generously than in our country (on social media and interview channels). I would like to build that kind of a community here for actors. We would benefit so much from it.
The One Thing:
- People don’t know about me: I hate taking showers!
- I adore: The scent of a new born baby!
- I detest: Manipulation
- I Fear: Mediocrity
- I hate about myself: Procrastination
- I love about myself: My ability to cry