Basking in the glory of her latest release Take Off, Malayalam actor Parvathy recently gave an interview to RJ Mathukutty in the show Talk Time With Mathukutty.
The hour long interview couldn't have been more frank with Parvathy speaking about success, feminism, being an actor, the Parvathy of yesterdays and the struggle she went through to establish herself. And as the interview drew to a close, the actor also spoke about the "casting couch" in the Malayalam film industry.
"Of course there is casting couch in the Malayalam film industry. You know it, I know it, I'm sure a lot of people know it. I don’t understand why it’s a surprise at all. It's a reality, why are we even shocked about it? I haven't faced it at all in any other industry, but only in Malayalam industry," Parvathy said, even as anchor Mathukutty kept a straight face.
Parvathy's answer was in response to Mathukutty's question about a gap in her film career before she attained stardom.
"When I started off, people in the industry sort of saw it as an obligation. They would hint along the lines of 'listen, we gave you the break'. And my response would be that I have done my job, what else do I owe you?" she said.
To a bewildered anchor, Parvathy said that she was not making a controversial statement at all, and that this was something everybody knew about.
"There was a time when it was expected of me, people asked me very openly, be it actors or directors...they were all the same. That too by seniors in the industry. I have never worked with such people at all. So the movies I have done are not like that. Some people even gave free advice, they try their best to make me understand that that’s how the industry is. I chose not to work with them. Probably that’s why I did not get films for a long time. But the thing is, I didn’t care. So I did other movies in Tamil and Kannada. If not films, I would do something else…my literature or my university," Parvathy said.
The actor then spoke about a woman's right to say no and added:
"How sad must be that life when a man thinks that his manliness comes with asking sexual favours from a woman. That's the saddest way of being a man. We should just realise that women have the right to say no," she said.
The interview had Parvathy at her candid best and the actor made no efforts at all to hide her love for food. She would often pause the interview to get hold of a plate of french fries or coffee, making her priorities clear!
Parvathy talked about ageism when the anchor made a remark that she looked like a kid when she kept nibbling on a spoon to get the last bits of ice cream off it.
She asserted that there was no age to do "appropriate things."
Stardom and the title of being 'Lady Prithviraj' which many have bestowed on her was the next topic to come up. To this, Parvathy said that she neither understands stardom nor goes behind it.
Responding to the Lady Prithviraj tag, she said, "It's supposed to be a compliment, right? Prithviraj speaks his mind, so do I. I hope he doesn’t get insulted with people calling me that. He is one person who is thoroughly interested in a film’s technical aspects and can go on at length about them. But I am not like that."
When the anchor took a dig at her for not having enough knowledge about the technical aspects, Parvathy retorted:
"I am not that bad either. This is another thing about actresses, that people think they don’t know anything about technicality, but we know! It's just that we don’t care. It's just that when we are acting, these kind of things really don't matter. So we don’t focus on them. But Prithviraj has worked his way up."
The conversation also wandered to feminism and gender stereotypes, with Parvathy and the anchor having a go at each other about the colours of the respective hookah jars that they were given. Deliberate? One could argue so but a relevant discussion nevertheless.
Has success changed anything for Parvathy, the way people look at her and weigh her personal opinions?
"Nothing fails like success. I do not get carried away by it. I do my work, get back home. Then I have nothing to gain from it and I move on to the next film. I have always been saying this, it is not an attempt to show how I am. This is my way of life. But again, I was a very different person at the age of 18, I can't even recognise her. The thing is, I have let myself evolve," she said.
Talking about choices and the stereotypical roles assigned to a woman by society, Parvathy held forth about a woman's right over her body and the need to exert it.
“Since class 4, I have been conscious of the hands that pinched me and hit me in public places. But I couldn't get myself to react until I was 17. Society has taught me that all this will happen to me, but it never taught me that I am entitled to protect myself. It's not about hating men, it's about getting what we deserve. It took me years to even sit like this, comfortably, the way I want to. Say, when I am back from a day’s work and I want to just spread my arms and legs and lie down. But I have been told not to do that. It's just unfair. All this is because society sees us women and not as individuals," she said.
On having played the role of a mother of an 8-year-old child in Take Off, Parvathy said that since actors portray the lives of people around them, it was only natural for her to chose the role and not worry about her "image."
Parvathy also spoke about the personal space that actors are entitled to, sharing an episode when a group of people rushed to take a selfie with her despite her saying no.
Be it her choice of roles or her ability to melt into the characters that she plays, Parvathy is a star to reckon with and this interview only proved it all the more.