Diversity is strength: Parvathy

Parvathy on her work in Koode, about the significance of WCC and how she views trolls and online bullies

Parvathy and film director Anjali Menon come together in Koode, which releases today. Their last film, Bangalore Days, has become a modern classic that was remade in other South Indian languages.

Much water has flowed in between the two releases. The Women in Cinema Collective, a gathering of women workers in cinema, a first in India, was born in Malayalam cinema, and social media witnessed the rise of ugly, malevolent fans who went on the rampage if they felt that their favourite star was criticised.

However, Parvathy has refused to be intimidated by these social media bullies, even when they viciously attacked her films. In an e-mail interview, the vivacious actor talks about Sophie, her character in Koode and how she goes about her work without being perturbed by the online mobs.

Excerpts from the interview.

Tell us a little about who your character is in Koode?

I play Sophie in Koode. A very strong and soft woman who has been through many atrocities yet holds herself together through conviction in herself. Like many women I have met, she doesn’t quite realise her strength fully but in this story you see her blossom to understand that; along with that her ability to love. Her relationship with Joshua [Prithviraj] is, well, one of the purest I have witnessed on screen.

What, if any, is the USP of working with film director Anjali Menon, who also helmed Bangalore Days?

It is very difficult to point out just one of the many things that make working with Anjali a unique experience. But if I had to talk about one, I would say it is the way she invites her team members to create along with her. From day one, she makes sure that your creative inputs are an investment to the project and respects them. She invites suggestions and incorporates them in a manner that doesn’t affect the core that is created solely by her.

Parvathy in a scene from Koode

Parvathy in a scene from Koode
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

You are working with a team that produced an evergreen hit like Bangalore Days. So is there a feeling of déjà vu, a comfort zone?

Oh yes! Absolutely. Apart from Anjali of course we had many in the team who had associated with Bangalore Days. I would definitely say that gave me an extra comfort zone. However, every single person, whether old or new, added to this experience in beautiful ways. I owe it to each one of them for helping me maintain my focus and energy for Sophie.

Malayalam cinema is seeing a new crop of female characters on screen. Your remarks…

Diversity is strength. Our cinema and our art forms need to diversify so that it tells all stories, all perspectives. That is the only way we can ensure empathy and growth! So I am very excited to see this change happen in Malayalam cinema.

That said, we also need different kinds of men on screen. We must be way more inclusive in placing characters in our stories.

Is there a character in your films that you would like to go for a sequel or re-interpret?

I would not say re-interpret, but I have thought of how the characters I have played would continue their lives after the point the film ends. It is a bit of a routine I do after each movie, but I have never considered a sequel seriously for any. That is a very interesting thought though. Maybe something should be developed on those lines!

The strongest among your characters on screen?

Oh, this is akin to being asked which would be my favourite character! In that it’s impossible to compare their strengths. From Gayatri in Out of Syllabus [her first feature film] to Sophie in Koode, these women have taught me how being strong does not mean one doesn’t break. It is in the process of rebuilding oneself that the strength is cemented and each one of them has taught me how to stay resilient and strong in the face of challenges.

Do the negative remarks and trolls bother you? How do you tackle them?

What bothers me is the pattern that emerges. That when there is a discussion or debate on something that is wrong and must be corrected, the very first response is to not shut down and not listen. All kinds of shaming and character assassination begin. How I tackle them is by studying this pattern. I know that this isn’t about me. This is much bigger. A dear friend once told me that you cannot reason with a mob. You can only do the right thing consistently with full vigour. Slowly but surely, change will happen.

As women in media all over India raise their voice in support of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), what is the direction you see for WCC?

I see WCC as a very strengthening entity and a space where healthy discussions to alter and correct workspace issues can thrive. There is a lot to learn in this process and all the members of WCC are invested in reflection and study; what are the practices that have conditioned us this way and what we could all do together to change it. We need to activate an equal ground for dialogues and that will be the stepping stone to progress.

Will more women directors behind the camera be the engine of change in Malayalam cinema?

Inclusivity in all areas of workplace. Inclusivity with properly drawn out workplace practices. Women need to tell their stories from their experiences and that may not mean that it would be all stories with women as protagonists. We need storytelling from all angles. We need men, women and transpeople participating in all aspects of filmmaking; this is the only way we can depolarise the age-old standard of singular perspective.

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