They represent two of India’s most progressive voices; stars who haven’t been afraid to use their celebrity status to influence socio-political change or speak out against the establishment. Along the way, Siddharth and Parvathy Thiruvothu have contributed towards making some fantastic cinema and established themselves as two of the finest actors in the industry today.
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Predominantly working down south over the years, a collaboration between the duo was always on the cards; in hindsight, it’s a surprise it’s taken this long. However, a quick conversation with the duo, who act alongside each other in Netflix’s upcoming anthology Navarasa , reveals a witty, easy camaraderie and the assurance we could see them together in a full-fledged feature very soon.
Directed by Rathindran R. Prasad, Siddharth (who is also the producer of this segment) and Parvathy will be seen in Inmai , the portion that explores the rasa of bhaya (fear). The story of a woman who receives an unknown visitor at her doorstep, the portion promises to be a deep dive psychological thriller that will have audiences racking their brains.
Excerpts from an interview:
Before coming on board for this anthology, what were your impressions of each other, and has it changed now?
Parvathy : My earliest memory of Siddharth was watching him in Boys along with the rest of my classmates. Then of course, I got into the film industry, and all my balloons about it being a big, beautiful paradise burst. I kept seeing Siddharth at award functions and in movies, and was really impressed by his performances, his charm and the fact that he’s so opinionated. Rang De Basanti happened in the meantime, and I fangirled over him more, with people telling me I should work with him.
Earlier, I’d worked with a star, who was a superb actor, but that experience did not pan out well. It was a really one-sided collaboration. So when Navarasa with Siddharth came my way, I wondered a little bit if he’d live upto my incredible expectations of him.
But guess what; the man’s the real deal! He blew me away with his presence. He’s a fantastic actor, conversationalist.. and now, a friend. He’s also the producer of our segment, and that made this an even more interesting project to work on together.
Siddharth : I’d seen Parvathy’s acting work earlier, and knew her to be a feminist who speaks her mind, which is something I can relate to a lot. I knew exactly what I was expecting from her — and that I would get it — as it relates to her honesty and integrity, which are her strongest qualities.
As an actor, I enjoy the preparation and rehearsals that happen before shoot, and Parvathy was really involved with Rathindran Prasad and I in all these discussions. The amount of detail that has gone into the making of this half-hour film speaks a lot about us as professionals. I particularly love the way Parvathy is on a film set; it felt like working with a proper thespian, someone who knows the rhythms and process of making films, and she respects everyone’s jobs on the set equally.
She also has a lot of fear and constantly questions herself a lot, even though she’s so good at her job. That really helps her as an actor, despite reaching the levels that she has. I think going forward, it’s going to be much easier for us to set up projects together, as we are in a position of trust now. I know that tomorrow if I bet everything on Parvathy in a movie, she will live upto it.
Why did you guys pick bhaya (fear) as your emotion in the anthology, and what can you tell us about the storyline?
Parvathy : I was both excited and nervous, as I’d never internalised fear as an emotion in a film. In most of my previous films, the arc of my characters followed a conflict resolution. My understanding of fear, in fact, is a little different from what we normally perceive. I don’t think it is fully negative; I thrive off it as well.
Waheeda (my character in Inmai ) goes on a journey, from a space of self-assurance, to everything in her life being questioned and the need to hold it together. That is not exactly a kind of fear I relate to. Personally, I’m someone who thinks that if everything ends one day, I’m fine with that. But Waheeda is a person who has struggled hard to get to where she is, and now her entire life is being tested and she has to navigate this. So it was really interesting to essay a role like this.
I’m a huge fan of horror films; from mind-bending thrillers to the gory, bloody stuff. I believe Inmai belongs to the former... it will get deeper into the skin of the people post the viewing, and mess with them.
Siddarth : It is a psychological thriller piece, yes. When we picked the rasas , I actually told them I didn’t want shringara (love) or bhaya (fear), but ended up doing the latter. These are the two most manipulative rasas ; within the first minute, you can take the audience into the genre. But I do believe that by the time you finish watching Inmai , you will understand why we picked this emotion, and why fear drives this film.
As for s hringara , I have been fighting to stay away from it for the last decade; I don’t want to be called “chocolate boy” anymore!
Parvathy : “Charming” is okay, no?
Siddharth : Hmm, yeah, charming is okay. I basically don’t want to be called anything edible. (laughs)
Which other segment in ‘Navarasa’ are you most fascinated by, and why?
Parvathy : I’m definitely intrigued by all of them, but I really want to see how bheebhalsa (disgust) has panned out and been represented in the anthology. I can’t get my mind around how that rasa can be saturated into a story and events; I’m really excited to watch it.
Siddarth : Raudra (anger) is something I’m rooting for, as it is Arvind Swami’s directorial debut, and he’s a fantastic thinker both on and off the set. Not only is he a dear friend, but his film also has some spectacular technical talent.
Siddharth, as someone who’s worked with both Mani Ratnam and Jayendra Panchapakesan, how was this reunion of sorts? Any takeaways from how your relationship with them has evolved?
Siddharth : I always say that Jayendra sir is my mentor and Mani Ratnam sir is my guru.
20 years ago, when Mani sir gave me a job, he thought I didn’t know anything, and now in 2021, I’m happy to report that nothing has changed and he still thinks I don’t know anything. (laughs)
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Jayendra sir has known me since I was six years old, and he was one of the main reasons I got into cinema. When Navarasa happened, I understood it would be a tough job for everyone, but it would be the toughest for me, as it is very difficult to get compliments from both of these gentlemen.
Both of them are people who have taught me so much. I owe my journey in cinema to Mani sir, and I’m very happy that after all these years, my production company Etaki is involved with my mother production house Madras Talkies. It’s a homecoming for me! I always count my achievements in life based on where I came from 20 years ago, so this is a special project for me indeed.
Navarasa will stream on Netflix from August 6