In the video, Parvathy speaks about the various characters she has done in her career of over 14 years.

Watch Actor Parvathy speaks on method acting and how she does it
Flix Cinema Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - 18:03

Giving Parvathy Thiruvothu the script of the film Charlie, director Martin Prakkat told her not to ask him any questions. Parvathy, a self-confessed ‘unapologetic method actor’, is known for her intensive research of characters. She asked Martin helplessly, but why does Tessa go after Charlie (the two main characters in the film). Martin, a man of not many words, moved around two Bisleri water bottles in the room. He called the smaller 500 ml bottle Tessa and the bigger 1 litre bottle Charlie and explained in a single line, “500 ml wants to become 1 litre.”

That was enough for Parvathy, she says, sharing the anecdote in a two hour video conference, curated by artistic director Smriti Kiran of Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI). Parvathy was taking a session on her methods of building characters for the films she has done over 14 years.

Waving a paper with three concentric circles drawn on it, Parvathy began to explain the method of her acting. The innermost layer contained ‘script and director’, the second layer was about ‘self and research’ and the final circle had ‘collaboration and execution’.

She is, as Smirti introduced her, an unapologetic method actor. And method is a very controversial word even among actors, Parvathy says. “You are judged very harshly. For me, method is a range of skill sets and training techniques that will help you. If for you it means throw away the script and go with the flow, that’s a method too. It just so happens I am an information junkie.”

She scribbles down points, she reads and re-reads the script several times, she asks many questions and researches endlessly. But she has also learnt to not ‘cling’ to her research and ‘be loose with it’.

During her research, she would try to understand the socio-political-economic spaces of her character. She would listen to the music the character listened to. She would go to the spaces the character lived in, and interact with people.

Explaining the characters

Like a critic, Parvathy can break down her characters into very fine details, from a random movement of their wrist to the slightest reluctance they exhibit. But it had not always been like that.

For her first film, Out of Syllabus in 2006, all she knew about acting was 'to be yourself'. She calls it an example of terrible acting.

It is during the workshop of her second film Notebook the same year that she first realised what character building is. How she had to learn what curries her character liked, what toothpaste she used (“He (writer) was talking about her like he would talk about me!”). She understood then why her character makes a decision in the movie that she had earlier brushed off as one she’d never do.

The third film was in Tamil, called Poo, where she had to be Maari, a character she had absolutely no idea about. Director Sasi got her to go to the place where her character would live, and interact with people like Maari. In another Tamil film Maryan that released several years later, she played Panimalar, a fisherwoman who was unique in her own ways. The woman who had straight long hair, placed a flower on the side, knew she was pretty, and was madly in love, Parvathy describes Panimalar like a person she knows all too well. That’s what they become, she says, a real life character standing by you.

Parvathy’s final circle in the diagram, collaboration, is also a very important part of the process, she says. Beginning with the director to the cameramen, the costume designer and makeup artiste and the co-actors. “I have read in an earlier interview of Naseeruddin Shah that it is great if you have a great co-actor. But if not, that is no reason for you to mess up your character,” Parvathy says. She stresses a number of times on her relationship with the character, how the character is your best friend and says that upholding her integrity was what mattered.

She’s had wonderful collaborations, like the one with director Anjali Menon with whom she worked in Bangalore Days and Koode.

Parvathy also spoke of her characters in Take Off (‘Sameera, who focused on resolving the many issues she had’), Charlie (Tessa, a vagabond), Uyare (Pallavi, an acid attack victim), and Virus (Dr Anu).