I’d Like To Be A Nourishing, Supportive Director One Day: Parvathy Thiruvothu

Following back-to-back streaming releases with Dhootha and Kadak Singh, the actress talks about her genre choices, dubbing for different languages and venturing into filmmaking
Parvathy Thiruvothu
Parvathy Thiruvothu

17 years into cinema, Parvathy Thiruvothu still finds new skills to learn and experiment with, while also maintaining an interesting industry bucket list. She made her Telugu debut this month with the Amazon Prime Video series Dhootha, a supernatural thriller that co-stars Naga Chaitanya and Priya Bhavani Shankar. “In my head, I have never identified myself as a Malayali actress,” says Parvathy who has already established her acting chops in Tamil, Kannada and Hindi. 

After making her debut with the Malayalam film Out of Syllabus in 2006, Parvathy was quick to enter Kannada cinema with Milana (2007) and followed it up with her Tamil outing Poo in 2008. It took her over a decade to move up North with Jaya, a 35-year-old widow finding a second chance at love and life in Qarib Qarib Singlle (2017). Now, after 17 years, she has forayed into Telugu cinema.

She says, “It has taken a long time to get here. But I’ve been very lucky that the strategy to act in multiple languages has just organically worked out over the years.” The actress has also been making several conscious choices in her career. For instance, her entry into Telugu cinema might’ve happened organically, but what led Parvathy there was her interest in trying out different genres. “I have done a lot of drama, but I wish to explore comedy, thrillers, action, etc. It is one thing I am looking for in films today. With Dhootha, I’ve done a supernatural thriller. But I feel like I'm at the very beginning of exploring various genres. I’ve not even begun to scratch the surface of it. Comedy especially is something that I am really looking forward to because that flexes a completely different muscle as an actor.”

Parvathy in Dhootha
Parvathy in Dhootha

Her latest Hindi film, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Kadak Singh, could arguably be her first venture into comedy. If she played the Sherlockian detective Kranthi Shenoy in Dhootha, who is always trying to put puzzles together, Parvathy’s Miss Kanan in Kadak Singh is a silent observer, a nurse who looks after the amnesiac protagonist (played by Pankaj Tripathi). She says, “Ms. Kannan has a very daily, mundane comedy timing to her which is a very refreshing thing. As we developed the character on set, it was a surprise even to us that Miss Kanan had this natural flair of comic timing.”

Not only have her characters been unique, but also the way they have been approached. For Dhootha, director Vikram Kumar was very meticulous with his research. “He was also very detailed about how this character needs to be with her body language. Since it was my first Telugu project, I focused entirely on building my language skills and fully fell back upon Vikram’s instincts,” she says, adding that the script copy she received almost read like a detailed novel. 

Her preparation for Miss Kanan involved a lot of conversations with director Chowdhury and team. But this time, she wasn’t just trying to understand her character but was developing the arc along with them. “There wasn’t a lot about the character on the page but Tony Da (director Chowdhury) and I discussed and developed the character on the set. Miss Kannan doesn’t have any immediate connection or stake in the protagonist’s life. So, we’d often think about what drives her and stuff like that. For instance, she is from Kerala and she does not make a full effort to completely speak in Hindi because we are like that,” the actress explains with a laugh. 

Parvathy in Kadak Singh
Parvathy in Kadak Singh

But it’s not just through the language that her character’s native traits were built. Parvathy brought several items from Kerala that one may not easily find in Bombay into the set. . She says, “Those things really help you easily slip into your space every single day. For example, Miss Kanan always sits in the corner of the hospital room; she’s like “Casper, the friendly ghost.” She has her office files, hospital files and also her things like the water bottle, tiffin dabba, etc. We wanted to have a certain water bottle that was old. She is also a devout Christian, so she has her rosary, a small Bible and some books because she loves reading and playing games.”

Although the projects were released back to back, and she also had a few other films in the offing including Pa Ranjith’s Thangalaan, Parvathy reveals she always works only on one project at a time. She says, “I like this and I’ve also tried to keep it this way so that the projects don’t overlap. After Dhootha, I went into Kadak Singh after a good gap of one month or so. Sometimes the gap is just 10 or 20 days. But there is never an overlap. I make sure that my schedule is not like five days on Dhootha and 10 days on Kadak Singh. I will truly lose my mind if I have to do that.”

Like her script choices and acting schedules, another conscious attempt on Parvathy’s part is her desire to dub all by herself. “I love to see if I can get the crux of the character, the pauses and the little bits when I perform. It is something I would like to recreate during a dub,” she says. Parvathy is also all praises for the dubbing artists. “My Kannada debut had another artist dub for me, but their dubbing only elevated my performance.” She notes that there is no culture where dubbing artists and performers meet and discuss what the latter had in mind while performing. “The dubbing artists are so smart and sharp that they are taking in exactly what an actor meant and are performing it with a lot of effort. I find that to be a very honourable job and one other thing that is on my bucket list is to be a voice artist.”

On top of this bucket list is her wish to become a director. The actress is currently working on her debut directorial which is in its pre-production stage. According to her, whenever a project reaches an actor, it’s almost 80% developed and right now, she is working to get that 80% ready. “I am going through the pre-production part and it makes me more respectful of the producers who always hired me. I think it is a very slow team-building process that I am enjoying. The writing part is also extremely exciting and I feel like I am at the right time in my career where I can make this journey.” 

So what about acting? “There’s no shift. I’ll continue to be an actor.” In fact, her acting experience helps her massively in prepping as a filmmaker, she adds. “When you're coming in as an actor, your entire focus is on just doing your job. The rest of it is accidental learning that happens on set.” But in the last four or five years, she has made an active effort to go on set and observe the work of other departments even on days when she doesn’t have to be on set. “I feel like the biggest takeaway would be how sensitive I hope to be in working with my actors because I am one. So I would like to be a really nourishing, supportive director that way.” 

For both actors and directors, besides making films, it has also become a mandate to promote them. With the releases of Dhootha and Kadak Singh, December has so far been filled with multiple promotional interviews for Parvathy. She asserts that she enjoys this process. “As an actor, it all seems very safe and sort of fun because when I’m acting in front of the camera or on a set, I know what I want to do.  But when you come out into the world, you feel a little vulnerable because the human factor just changes completely when you’re being interviewed. I look forward to speaking to different interviewers who come from different life experiences and I am excited sometimes to start having very meaningful conversations. But the fact is that nothing comes up to the level of actually showing up and just performing and going back home. If it was just up to me, I would’ve wanted everyone to just watch the movies and not talk to us. I’d be like, “Don’t colour anything, don’t get to know me. Just watch the character and enjoy.””

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