First Movers in Film, empowered by Bumble, a social networking app, where women make the first move, features women in entertainment who challenge the status quo, rewrite the rules and break stereotypes. Actress Parvathy Thiruvothu has delivered fine performances in Malayalam films like Take Off and Uyare. She’s also been forthcoming about her mental health struggles and a strong voice in calling out sexism in the movie industry.
Edited excerpts of her conversation with Film Companion editor, Anupama Chopra:
Anupama Chopra: You’ve talked a lot about your struggle with mental health and seeking help for depression. But you said you first sought it because it was getting in the way of your work, but now you are continually working on bettering yourself all the time. How are you doing that?
Parvathy Thiruvothu: I had to start digging really deep as to what it was that I was suppressing and pretending was okay in order to make everything function really well. I was taking on a lot more than I could. Then I thought ‘this is really embarrassing. I don’t want to have to stop shoot and cause the producer trouble’. So it was for others that I started finding my way towards healing. And then I met my therapist and she said, “That is not the reason why you should be seeking therapy, to help others. Even there you’re not prioritising yourself”.
To be honest, it’s been about 6-7 years now, and I still find it difficult to prioritise myself. I don’t mind saying this on a show like this because it’s so important for us to acknowledge our failings and not as a weakness. In acknowledgement comes power, and in all my acknowledgements of my weaknesses and bad mental habits, I have felt empowered to take the first step towards saying yes to the right thing – saying yes to me. And I have worked towards coming to a space where you look into the mirror and say ‘You’re a badass, you’re awesome, you’re going to kill it today’. I never thought that it would work. It’s a very ‘Poo from K3G’ thing to do, but it really helps.
Anupama Chopra: What is a first move that you made in your professional life that has enabled you to be where you are?
Parvathy Thiruvothu: I’m hoping that actors out there, especially women, can relate to this. I remember when I started out I didn’t have anybody helping me out. It was just me and I did not like doing PR stuff or inaugurations or endorsements. I just wanted to do movies and go back home. A lot of managers kept telling me ‘You have to do item numbers to get money, you have to do good movies for little money’ and things like that. These were the bizarre formulas that they would tell me about.
So I never made any first steps, I never asked for auditions, I never reached out to anybody saying, ‘I’m a working actor. I would love to be considered if you can audition me’. But then I watched Manjadikuru, Anjali Menon’s first film, and I just garnered the courage and messaged her. I got a very curt reply saying ‘please email me’. I emailed, and then four years later is when Anjali called me for her project. And I thought ‘Finally, I’ve made it happen’.
Even though timeline wise it took me so long to catch her attention, this is one director I have wanted to work with and I did everything I could have to put myself out there. In those four years, I remember messaging her on and off and there was no response at the time too, because obviously, she was busy. But finally I did start to work with her and it has been a continuous collaboration in so many ways. So that was my first move and I’m very proud of it.