on the actor's trail

‘I don’t put myself out there enough’: What Parvathy learnt from ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’

‘I’ve never been in a hurry to reach anywhere,’ the Southern star says in an interview.

Southern movie star Parvathy has emerged as the clear winner of Tanuja Chandra’s Qarib Qarib Singlle, which was released on Friday. In her Bollywood debut, in which she is paired with the formidable Irrfan, Parvathy plays Jaya, a 35-year-old widow who gets entangled with Irrfan’s free-spirited Yogi. The depth and nuance that Parvathy has brought to her character has won her unequivocal praise.

Choosing strong roles and intelligent and diverse characters have been hallmarks of Parvathy’s career. She has played Sameera, a nurse dealing with a personal crisis in ISIS-ravaged Iraq in the 2017 Malayalam hit Take Off, Maari, a woman struggling with her childhood love for a cousin in the Tamil movie Poo (2008), and RJ Sarah, a paraplegic with an indomitable spirit in Bangalore Days (2014). Parvathy has gone from one character-driven performance to another with ease and versatility. She spoke to Scroll.in about her first Hindi film and the similarities between Jaya and her.

You have been known to work on one film at a time, and only if it has something different to offer. What made you accept ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’?
Jaya has a good job, she’s made something of her life; she takes care of her brother and her family. She has a happy life, a good life. But love hasn’t happened for her. She decides to put herself out there, trying to figure out the void in her life.

This film is a light-hearted way of looking at something as profound as love, what’s happened to you before, what you’ve lost. But if you love someone, you don’t really lose them because that time, those moments are always a part of you. In understanding that, Jaya and Yogi figure out where they’re headed. It’s about being in the present moment. What we try to do is see where the relationship is headed the first moment we meet the other person. And I realised that was me. I realised I don’t put myself out there enough like Jaya does. I learnt a lot about myself working on this film.

What was it like working with Irrfan?
Being cast opposite Irrfan Khan is like getting the best partner in film school. You wonder, wow, how did I get so lucky?

I believe that good co-actors always give you a lot more to do and they share your burden. Irrfan does this beautifully. He’s more of an actor than a star. That made me feel secure.

You’ve done Malayalam, Kannada and Tamil films. Why did Hindi cinema take so long to happen?
I’ve never been in a hurry to reach anywhere. After Notebook [Parvathy’s breakout 2006 Malayalam film] I felt I was in a bit of a rush and that killed it for me. I do just one film at a time. And if it’s a film which suits me, I’m fine.

Bollywood happened but it didn’t quite – some films were shelved or I didn’t get a good script. Directors saw my work and called me. I never really worried about it. But Qarib Qarib Singlle happened while I was shooting for Take Off last year.

I don’t really look at any scripts while shooting for a film because I’m so engrossed in a role. But I had two days off. I had the freedom of mind and space. The film’s director Tanuja Chandra liked me; I liked the script. They agreed to work around my dates, which people don’t usually do.

Bollywood happened. There was no strategy to make it happen.

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Tu Chale To, Qarib Qarig Singlle (2017).

Are we going to see you in more Hindi films?
No, not just yet. After this, I go on to work with Anjali Menon on her new Malayalam film, which also stars Prithviraj and Nazariya. I also have the Malayalam film My Story with Prithviraj out early next year.

What is the difference between South Indian and Hindi cinema?
I don’t think there’s a difference. This is my first Bollywood film and it’s not even a typical Bollywood film. To me, working on Qarib Qarib Singlle felt like being at home in Kerala. We’d sit around and discuss the character and scenes just like we do in the Malayalam film industry – very casual, informal.

But I did feel the film’s promotion was very different from how we do it in Kerala. I do very little promotions of a Malayalam film. For Qarib Qarib Singlle, I had to do a lot of promotional stuff. I feel over-exposed.

What was it like learning Hindi?
I did my own dubbing for the film. I know Hindi quite well. I studied in Kendriya Vidyalaya growing up in Kerala. I also have North Indian friends. It wasn’t a problem at all.

You’re an active member of the Women in Cinema Collective. Is it going to make any difference in the ground?
Change can’t come about in the blink of an eye. We need to understand the damage that has been done from people staying silent for so long. We’re now trying to shake the ground through WCC. That’s uncomfortable for a lot of people. Change will happen but we can’t put a time on it. There are so many areas where women have been exploited or denied opportunities that we’re shocked by the depth of it.

You are very active on social media, including Instagram and Facebook. Is it to send out a message, to connect with the audience?
I just do it for fun. I get a lot of messages from people who follow or like me, asking me why I’m doing it. But before being Parvathy the actress, I’m also Parvathy the person. It’s my way of exploring myself, of expressing my opinion, just like any other individual. There’s no message. My only connection with audiences is through my films.

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Parvathy in Poo (2008).
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.