Mithila Palkar, the girl from Dadar

In the midst of a shoot in Ooty, actor and singer Mithila Palkar manages to squeeze in a telephonic interview. But her answers aren’t rushed, and her chatty warmth is very reminiscent of her on-screen cheerfulness — a parallelism that seems to go a long way in making her the social media sensation that she is.

The 24-year-old is one of India’s few YouTube discoveries whose career is expanding beyond the Internet. Whether she is the titular Meera Sehgal for Bindass’ Girl in the City series, or Kavya in Dice Media’s Little Things, Palkar’s spontaneity on screen is arresting. She was recently seen as the unapologetically ambitious Indu in Marathi film Muramba. And soon, she will take on her first Bollywood lead role in Karwaan, which also stars Irrfan Khan and Dulquer Salmaan.

Getting started

Ask Palkar about what makes her click with the Indian millennial audience and she laughs, “I don’t know! But I am so overwhelmed that they do enjoy my work, and I think it's because I speak their language.” She says a character like Meera would resonate even with young men finding the courage to pursue their dreams.

She’s no stranger to the concept of pursuing a passion. With no actors in the family — and a sister who has a Ph. D in neuroscience — it took a lot of convincing for her family to be on board with her plans. “I was 12 when I was on stage for the first time, and had an epiphany that this is what I wanted to do. But my grandfather’s deal was that I finish graduation, then do whatever I want.”

After completing a major in advertising, Palkar joined ‘Q’ Theatre Productions (QTP), and worked behind the scenes on their annual youth theatre festival, Thespo. “But it just felt unfair,” she says, about having to ignore the acting bug for long. She soon started auditioning and landed a supporting role in Nikkhil Advani’s Katti Batti as Imran Khan’s sister.

Going viral

Soon after, actor and writer Dhruv Sehgal, who met Palkar during Thespo, asked her to audition for Filter Copy’s News Darshan, a satire show inspired by John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. They went on to star as the widely successful lead pair for Little Things, and will soon return to being Kavya and Dhruv for its next season.

Around the same time, Palkar took to YouTube to share her take on Anna Kendrick’s song ‘Cups’, but with a Marathi number. “It was a very overwhelming night for me. I uploaded the video on March 11, 2016 at 9 pm,” reminisces Palkar, on how her cover of Hi Chaal Turu Turu went viral. “My followers jumped from 5,000 to 45,000 overnight. People wrote to me from all parts of the world,” she says in a tone of disbelief, even though it is over a year later. Now that number has grown to 56,000; her Instagram following is over 5,48,500 and her official Facebook page has 3,81,000 likes. That’s not counting the many fan club pages.

Her role as the flustered girlfriend and annoyed sister on videos created by FilterCopy and Dice Media — ‘Things Brothers and Sisters Do’, ‘Confusing Things Girlfriends Say’, ‘Annoying Things Boyfriends Do’ — went viral and introduced her to our timelines. Kartik Krishnan, content creator and manager at Dice Media, pins her success on her relatability. “She’s a natural in front of the camera, and has a girl-next-door vibe; she also comes across as cute and lovable,” he says.

Multiple identities

The seemingly seamless confluence between her on and off-screen persona plays a crucial role in her massive following on social media. For digital natives who are getting increasingly aware of discrepant social media and real-life identities, fans are often thrilled to find that their favourite characters are possibly the actors that portray them. Scroll through comments on her videos or Instagram posts, and it’s clear that her followers strongly identify her with her characters.

While she essays fashionistas and girls away from home, in real life, Palkar lives in a quaint house in Dadar with her grandparents. “I’m a hopeless romantic and a believer in handwritten letters. None of my characters have been like that,” she says.

She once featured in a “day-in-the-life-of” segment of a TV channel; perhaps the fact that she’s just like them resonates with urban youth. On the other hand, Muramba director Varun Narvekar elaborates, “The way Mithila carries herself, you want to be that girl, or any girl in your life to be like her.” Not surprising, since a lot of the content she has been part of relies on connecting with viewers on a personal level.

Both Krishnan and Narvekar think there is more scope for her to explore the role of the enthusiastic girl-next-door, but Palkar does not fear being typecast. “As Indu, I broke out of it,” she points out. “So I think I’m on my way.”

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2021 8:53:49 PM |

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