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My Grandfather Learned How To Use A Tablet Because He Wanted To See My Work: Mithila Palkar

  • IWB Post
  •  February 12, 2018

If you watch anything with Mithila Palkar in it, you will feel like she is portraying either your life or your friends’. She’s that relatable. The 25-year-old internet darling, who shot to fame with web series like Girl In the City and Little Things, made her Bollywood debut with Katti Batti in 2015, but is now gearing up for her first lead film role with Karwaan.

She was also featured on Forbes India‘s 30 Under 30 list recently, kicking off the year 2018 with aplomb. In a recent conversation with IWB, she talked about breaking a few rules, explained why she’s not a typical millennial, and learned the meaning of smh. Excerpts from the chat:

Congratulations on making it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list! Does something like this motivate you or end up putting a little pressure on you?

Thank you! I don’t really take pressure about these things. Firstly, it is extremely overwhelming to be part of such a prestigious list and I never expected to be on it. I do understand that there are going to be a lot of expectations from my audience now but I have always loved what I do, so I am going to continue to do that. Because if I stress about it too much then I will not be able to do what I do.

Mithila

Nobody manages to reach a milestone like this without going against the tide and breaking a few rules. What are some of the rebellious things you ended up doing to reach here?

I broke some rules, for sure. Acting is an unconventional career path for me. I come from a middle-class Marathi family and it was never looked at as a legit career option so there was not really full support from home. I live with my grandparents, my nana-nani, and, obviously being from a completely different generation, they were really worried about me being part of this industry and were never in support of it. Which is why I also tried to run away from it but I finally realised that this is my calling, so I stuck to it.

Another thing is that a lot of people had told me that TV kar le, it’s like a stepping stone to films. But I was nowhere, I was still trying to figure out how to go about it, and I didn’t think that you needed to do that. And the internet also, when I started, in 2015, web series and web shows weren’t this big. So I discovered the internet as it was in its growing stage. Even as an actor, having chosen the internet was an unconventional path then.

I read somewhere that your sister has a PhD and there was an expectation from you to follow in her footsteps. How is your relationship with your sister and what does she think of your career choices?

I don’t think I was expected to follow in her footsteps, per se. My sister is a very intelligent woman and has always been very academically-inclined. And while I wasn’t the kind who completely gave up on studies, performing arts took precedence over academics for me. I did really well in school but that’s never my interest was.

My sister is seven years older than me but she’s my best friend. She has been in full support of what I wanted to do. She lives in the US but she was always there, she always encouraged me. She was one of the few people who believed in me from the beginning. She told me if this is what you want to do, this is what you will do.

Mithila

How has your relationship with your family evolved as you became popular? 

I don’t think I am used to my popularity. I am a very social person and it gets very awkward when people come up to me and say, ‘Ma’am, can we take a picture or something.’ I’m still getting used to that. It’s extremely sweet. With my family, nothing has changed. I live in a very grounded place. I live with grandparents and for them, nothing has changed. They know that something is happening and it’s a big deal but I am still someone who will accompany them when they go out because they are 90 and 80.

Our routine is the same, what has essentially changed is that my grandfather came around and that is a big deal for me. Because I started doing a lot of work on the internet, he was very keen on knowing what I do, so he learned to use a tablet. He has a Facebook account now, he has a smartphone and he knows how to access YouTube and see my work. Until today, whatever has been written about me, I have zero collection of it but he collects it. That is a very, very big deal for me, for him to come around, because he never wanted me to do this.

That is extremely sweet. The thing that instantly endears your characters to people is how you seem to get them. But in real life, are you a typical millennial or an old soul? 

Oh my God, I am not a typical millennial at all. I don’t know these words. I took time to know what AF and lit meant. I just don’t understand them. I don’t even know what smh is. A lot of people hashtag smh and I don’t know what that means.

Shaking my head. It means shaking my head.

Wow, wow. See, there you go.

How can you not know this! You work on the internet!

Isn’t it weird? I really didn’t know this. I don’t think my audience is going to be very happy about this. But this is who I am. I belong to the 70s. I am an old soul. It reflects in my taste also, I only listen to old music. I am a huge Hindustani classical fan, I am a huge retro music fan, and Marathi music fan. I am also a student of music.

My friend’s younger sister, she hangs out with us, and one day I was like what the hell does lit mean and she was smh-ing at me and she was like why don’t you know this. It’s okay, I don’t need to know this, I use full words. I am also a grammar nazi so anyway I can’t deal with this.

Mithila

Wow. Anyway, you worked with two superstars in Karwaan, Irrfan Khan and Dulquer Salmaan. Was that daunting? 

I just looked at it as a huge learning opportunity. I mean, who is not a fan of Irrfan Khan? He is a legend. And I was, in fact, extremely excited about working with him. Dulquer and I met for the first time because of this film. In all honesty, neither of us were aware of each other. Obviously, I knew ki OK Kanmani ka hero hai but the enormity of his fame, I had no idea. I got a taste of it because I was shooting in Kerala with him. But he is an amazing human being, and obviously, a fabulous artiste. Both of them never intimidated me. They both knew that I was also learning so they let me be. They got used to my idiosyncrasies. I am usually constantly singing on set, so Irrfan sir called me Binaca Geetmala and Dulquer called me The Jukebox, but honestly, it was a great learning experience. It took me about 10-12 days to realise that I was acting in this film, I was not their audience. They were so amazing that it was easy to get lost in their performance.

You’re starting to do lead projects in Bollywood at a time when there is hyper-awareness about feminism, pay disparity, and other social issues. How do you see yourself navigating all of that while working?

I am focused on what I do. I am going to try and not let any of this bother me. Obviously, I am a feminist and obviously, there are certain things that I do believe in. And suddenly that has gotten a negative connotation. Being a feminist makes you an extremist, for some reason. People just look at you that way. I think you have to focus on what you do. Do what you love and believe in what you do. That’s it. It’s how millennials say, haters gonna hate. What can you do? You can’t make everyone happy. It’s the bitter truth. It’s more important to be happy yourself.

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