Tamil Interviews

Hard-Hitting Truths: Interview With Parvathy Nair On How South Cinema Treats Actresses

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I’d last seen Parvathy Nair in Koditta Idangalai Nirappuga – a Pongal release that was just as unconventional as its name. She was the docile Malayali wife of a man who was visibly older than her. It was quite the …sultry look, typical of a Parthiepan film. Mohini, spurned in bed, and generally out of league with her husband, finds favour with a young man who boards with them. Until the climax, that is.

“The movie demanded the look of a busty Mallu wife,” says Parvathy during our half-hour conversation soon after the press meet of her upcoming film, Enkitta Modhathey. “I’ll never repeat the role, though.

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I want to experiment. When Yennai Arindhaal happened, I was offered an important role in a film, but I had to turn that down because it was negative. I don’t want to be chosen for what I’d done in the past.”

In Enkitta Modhathey, Parvathy plays a village girl. And to essay the role, she had to learn how to make the dosa batter – the traditional way. She also had to walk the fields with practiced ease, balancing an earthen pot on her waist. And for someone who grew up in Abu Dhabi, it was challenging indeed. But the actress declares, quite candidly, that she wishes there was more to the role. “It’s set in the 80s, and I really wish I could do a role set in a different era, and understand a typical Tirunelveli girl’s mannerisms and body language.” Also, it’s not hard to see that it’s a hero-dominated film, she says. “I couldn’t have done anything more.”

And just like that, Parvathy sets the tone for our interview.

We talk a lot. There’s no sickly sweet response from her, but she does begin with a disclaimer.

“I know there will be many who might take umbrage at what I’m going to say,” Parvathy says, “but in South cinema, men have a strong footing. The actresses have little to do.” It has made her picky with her roles; that and the fact that she doesn’t repeat a character that she’s already essayed. The actress has a few movies coming up in Tamil and in Malayalam – a steady-yet-slow growth spurt, but she isn’t too worried. “There’s a lot to an actress than just the success of her previous films, who she was paired with earlier, or the kind of roles she always does,” Parvathi rues.

Sanchita Shetty and Parvathy Nair in ‘Engitta Modhathey’

Also, the heroes always have a lot of say in the industry, the actress reveals. They make suggestions for and against the female leads, and even have some bizarre conditions. “If the actress has acted in a hit movie with another actor, the chosen hero gets apprehensive. He’d wonder whether the current pairing will work at all, and the actress won’t become a part of the film.” The reverse is true, too, but with little to no suggestions from the actresses themselves. “They don’t really care if the actress has done a terrible job in the previous movies; but if the movies were a hit, they’d want to continue with the successful pairing.”

Parvathy narrates an instance: “The hero in the Telugu movie I’m currently working on was initially against the producers’ decision to cast me as he thought I won’t fit in.” The actor had apparently been skeptical about her casting because she’s known for her ‘serious and intense roles’. “But after watching the film’s rushes, he apologised to me,” Parvathy says. The actress will be seen as a medical student in the movie; “a normal girl-next-door role” that she’s been “dying to play” for a while. This role, Parvathy, declares, is quite close to her original self.

She can actually relate with it.

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There were also other instances, Parvathy recalls, when the hero had chosen the female lead just based on the actresses’s looks. “That’s the wrong way to cast. There’s a lot of objectification here. There is a lot of glamour in Bollywood too, but it’s on a more respectable scale. If you can have glamorous actresses like Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra or Alia Bhatt performing amazingly in women-oriented roles, then why can’t we have the same here?”

Of course, Parvathy has had some offers for movies that were seemingly women-oriented, “but the scripts did not fascinate me,” she reveals, “It’s risky for me to do such roles with a flimsy script. Until a good one comes along, I’ll stick to ‘normal’ movies.”

Parvathy Nair’s upcoming film – Enkitta Modhathey – releases next week.

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The Parvathy Nair interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.

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