Actor Parvathy is standing tall. In the Kerala State Film Awards announced on Thursday, Parvathy picked up 'Best Actor (Female)' for her film Take Off.
This is the second time that she has won but the honour is still special.
Speaking to TNM, a happy Parvathy says, "I'm beyond cloud nine. I feel very comforted winning it. Because it is multi-fold important. It's a movie we made for Rajesh (Pillai) and this award has come two years after his demise. I got my first State Award three days after he passed away and I couldn't exult at all. It was right in those days that Take Off started in our discussions and we didn't want to let him go. And two years later, just after his second death anniversary, his movie is being celebrated at the state level and recognised. So that is a huge moment of pride and comfort for me."
Parvathy's first State Award came in 2016 for Charlie, an unusual rom-com in which she starred with Dulquer Salmaan, and Ennu Ninte Moideen, a tragic love story.
This year, Parvathy is especially delighted because the character, Sameera, whom she played in Take Off is close to her heart. Sameera is an assertive, independent woman, who is among the group of nurses held hostage by the ISIS in the film. The story was based on a real-life incident.
"That the award has come on Women's Day for a character like Sameera, goes beyond anything really. The nurses and everyone who helped me, Mahesh (Narayan) who wrote it...they all really helped me get Sameera right. I feel like I owe it to all friends. Before Take Off released is when the bad things happened and the WCC came...you know, life changed after that. I don't feel the same way about anything after that," she says.
The incident Parvathy is referring to is the abduction and sexual assault of a prominent woman actor from the Malayalam film industry which split the film fraternity and led to the formation of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC).
"There is a comfort and calm in the way I do things now. There is a lot of Sameera in the way I handle crises. So you know, you go into that expected phase of gratitude but the encouragement is not loud...it is an encouragement to go back to work," she shares.
Parvathy made the headlines last year when she became the first Malayalam actor to win the prestigious Silver Peacock at the IFFI. The award came for her performance in Take Off.
However, soon after, the actor was subjected to death and rape threats because she called out the misogyny in the Mammootty film, Kasaba, at the IFFK, on a panel discussion on sexism in cinema.
Apart from random social media users, several people from the film industry also slammed her, claiming that according to them, Parvathy knew nothing about acting. The active encouragement to the abuse given by her own colleagues led to more hate. Videos from the actor's upcoming film My Story were targeted and subjected to incessant trolling.
Does the State Award come as a good answer to all of this? What's Parvathy's take?
The actor laughs and says, "I really don't have anything to say. Something all my friends in the industry told me when they supported me is that no matter what you do in your personal life and how you are treated, what you do on screen, you leave untouched. You go to work and nobody can strip that away from me or any artist for that matter. I truly believe that the award and this has no connection. The work I do now 110% reflects my political views and my belief in what art is supposed to do to society. Apart from that connection between Parvathy the citizen and Parvathy the actor, I don't see any such criticism coming into the picture for an award like this. It's truly for cinema."
Parvathy is quick to add that although this is a pat on her back, there is no room for complacency.
"I have a great set of people in the industry who have told me that you cannot rest on your past glory and that you cannot let your success fail you. So I can never fly off the ground, my feet are always on the ground," she says.
Speaking further on the Kasaba controversy and the hellish abuse she was put through in those days, she says that she's learnt to separate such incidents from her art like "oil on water".
"I'm going to keep talking my heart out. If people think that they can take it out on my films, I still don't lose anything. I will still do a good job, I will still give a 110%. The state recognising my performance is a huge deal and especially because it is Take Off, I'm a very happy person," she says.
Parvathy also believes that she's become a stronger person because of the Kasaba controversy.
"A lot of things have got perspective now. There's no going back. Seriously, time's up. We're going to talk, we're going to make things happen, people are going to be uncomfortable and we're not even sorry. It's fine. A lot of people are messaging me saying this is a great reply...but I was saying I didn't plan this," she says, laughing.