The year was 1930. PK Rosy, the first heroine of Malayalam cinema history, had to flee from her native after she was socially ostracised for acting in Vigathakumaran by both caste and patriarchal forces of that time. Rosy remains a forgotten chapter in the history of Mollywood. Cut to 2017, one of the most beloved female actors of the Malayalam film industry was molested in her own vehicle. In the hullabaloo that followed in the most literate state of the country, Kerala was divided on the opinion of whether the accused actor Dileep actually perpetrated the crime or not. Nobody seemed to care much about the victim. Then there rose a few but strong voices that said: “it’s enough”. One voice stood prominent amongst them – Parvathy Thiruvothu Kottuvatta. Here is why I think Parvathy should be a role model for every woman.
Professional Excellence At Its Peak
We cried with Kanchanamala, we laughed with Sarah, we flew with Pallavi, we went through moments of utter desperation with Sameera, and we travelled with Tessa. Every character Parvathy portrayed left us with some emotions; be it happiness, despair, or hope. We witnessed the phenomenal growth of this actor from her first movie Out of syllabus to her latest Virus in awe. Parvathy is known for the research and effort she takes to get into her character. In her famous interview with Mathukutty, Parvathy described how she researched for her character in Take-off and I was left with admiration when she said that she even paid attention to the innerwear of her character.
Parvathy has won many accolades and much praise from her costars and other technicians for her dedication. Bobby-Sanjay, one of the most successful scriptwriting duos in Malayalam cinema, went on record to say that they could not find a better actor to portray Pallavi in Uyare. In addition to a national award and multiple state awards, Parvathy created history by becoming the first Malayalam actor to win the Silver peacock at IFFI-2017. After Shobana, Urvashi and Manju Warrier (during her first innings), Parvathy became one of those female actors whose movies had a particular market value, promised a minimum return to the producers and above all, promised audiences something to take back home. Parvathy has spoken about her desire to direct a movie and I am sure that that movie will bring in great responses.
Parvathy has shown us that efforts reap excellence and that passion for our career can propel us to greater heights. She also taught us that quality trumps quantity any day.
Redefining The Term Actor
If you watch promotional interviews of movies analytically, you would notice the stark difference in the questions asked to the hero and the heroine. The heroine would be asked about her experience while working with her costar, the costumes of her character, her chemistry with her co-star, and what the location was like. On the other hand, her counterpart would be asked about the intricacies of his character, his acting methods, how he chose the script, etc. This is where Parvathy stood out.
The eloquence with which she spoke about her characters was a learning experience for everyone who listened to her. The story of how Parvathy rejected a role because the character did not feel right took the industry by storm. The extra details she adds to her characters and her methods of learning taught us that it all comes down to adding a little extra to the ordinary.
Your Work Is What Matters. Not Your Caste, Not The Colour of Your Skin, Not Your Gender
Many might argue that caste has taken a backseat in Kerala. Then how would one justify the fact that lead characters in most of our movies are a Nair, a Varma or a Syrian Christian? I have ‘progressive’ friends who can only fall in love with someone in their own caste. The cold-blooded murder of Kevin Joseph or that of Jisha shook our conscience with the stark reality that caste is a dominant force in a progressive State like Kerala. Therefore, it was not a small deal when Parvathy came out vehemently opposing the caste surname of ‘Menon’, which is incidentally a higher caste surname, given to her by the media. Parvathy Thiruvothu Kottuvata proudly declared that she is a person first and believes that a person’s character is what is of supreme importance. Parvathy taught us that until we take a conscious step against it, discrimination based on superficial things like caste is here to stay.
Love Yourself First
We live in an era of ‘airport looks’, ‘gym looks’, and God-knows-what looks. And then comes an actress who openly questioned the representation of the bodies of women in cinema. We have seen Parvathy munching on her favourite French fries while talking her heart out in interviews. But at the same time, scrolling through her Instagram feed will give you major fitness goals. It is important to balance French fries with exercise. We all know how Parvathy looks in person because we have seen her enough without makeup (remember the WCC press conference) – and boy, she is damn pretty.
Parvathy taught us that size zero is not real. She taught us that we all are pretty in our own ways. Parvathy taught us that eating French fries (or whatever you like) with a smile on our face is real happiness.
Courage Is Not The Absence Of Fear, But The Triumph Of It
‘Fear, fight, survival’- this was the tagline for the movie Virus, and I think it summarizes Parvathy’s journey in the movie industry.
In her initial days, Parvathy was called ‘Bathroom Parvathy’ amongst the film circle because she had asked for a cleaner and separate bathroom for women in shooting locations. She was the one who spoke about the casting couch problems that existed in Mollywood.
And 2017 was a reality check for all of us. The actress’ abduction case brought out the deep dark pockets in the most progressive and quality content oriented film industry in the country. A much-needed collective of women in cinema was formed post that and Parvathy was one of its flag bearers. In an industry where diplomacy and female actors staying quiet was the most important tool for survival, this was nearly a career-ending move for Parvathy.
When Parvathy voiced her concern about misogyny being celebrated (not represented) in movies like Kasaba, what followed was an unbelievable stream of rape threats (and murder threats). There was an explicit move to downgrade her movies. There were people who said that an actor who did a consensual kissing scene in the movie Maari had no right to speak about misogyny. Directors openly came out; one of them even called her a circus monkey. People started using the word ‘feminichi’ to shame her spirit of feminism. Actor Siddique was caught in a press conference affirming that Parvathy should learn a lesson from the online harassment she faced and learn to keep her mouth shut or she will soon be invisible in Mollywood. For all those who thought that Parvathy’s career was over, she flew out of her own ashes like the proverbial phoenix.
She showed the middle finger to the “owners of the circus company” and told them to “OMKV” (which is a commonly used slang amongst in the mallu male circles). She read every single comment that was sent to her to prepare for the case she filed against online abuse. She co-panelled one of the most eventful press conferences in Malayalam cinema history, where superstars like Mohanlal were called out for their misogyny and turning a blind eye towards the truth. She proudly carried the feminichi tag given to her and even went on to get it embroidered on her handbag. As for her career, she delivered two big blockbusters this year – Uyare and Virus. Actor Siddique gave one of his career’s best performances as Parvathy’s father in Uyare which is a testimony to the fact that the universe will stand with us (in this case Parvathy) for doing the right thing.
In her interviews that followed, she openly talked about those dark days and how she woke up every day with people hurling abuses at her on social media. She spoke about how her family was terrified for her safety. But she says that her firm belief in righteousness helped her sail through those tough times.
Parvathy once said that she doesn’t like people attaching the boldness tag to her name because she believes that boldness should be the new normal. I couldn’t agree more! Parvathy showed us the importance of speaking our hearts out, and its time women stood strong. Nothing should stop us from fighting for what we think is right.
My heart bled when I heard Parvathy in an interview (before Uyare) that she would be okay if nobody approached her for a movie and that she would probably open a shop to survive. I distinctly remember two comments under this interview. One was of a man asking how her future husband could tolerate her and unapologetically saying that women should learn to be silent. I hope my 2-month-old daughter would grow up and become as smart as Parvathy, wrote another man. I still have hope for a better tomorrow!
Parvathy has said that the song Mizhimlarukal from the movie Rani Padmini is something that is close to her heart. The song goes on to say that whatever my heart has told me until now was right. I salute you Parvathy for being someone with an unrelenting spirit and for being the voice of every liberal woman in Kerala.