In March, a number of articles were written about 23-year-old Mithila Palkar, whose video of her performing the Marathi song 'Hi Chaal Turu Turu' (originally sung by Jaywant Kulkarni) went hugely viral on Facebook.
Palkar, who hails from Mumbai, performed the song in the style popularised by American actress-singer Anna Kendrick's 'Cups', using, well, a plastic cup, a wooden desk, and her hands to create a groove even as she sang over it without missing a beat.
However, that wasn't the first time she'd attempted such a thing. In April 2014, she had uploaded a similar cover of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons' 1967 pop hit 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' on her personal YouTube channel.
"Both times, I'd done it just as an experiment," she says, in a phone conversation with HuffPost India. "I picked a Marathi song because someone had commented on the earlier video suggesting I should try something in Marathi [since she is Maharashtrian]. I don't know why this one went viral in particular but, hey, I'm loving it."
Now, at the end of the month, Palkar will be seen making her web series debut, as the protagonist of Girl In The City. The show, which will have 13 episodes of roughly five minutes each coming out weekly, has been written by Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh (who wrote dialogues for the acclaimed Neerja) and directed by Samar Shaikh (who directed the 2014 Vidya Balan starrer Bobby Jasoos). Rajat Barmecha (Udaan) will be her co-star.
Aside from that, over the past few months, she has been appearing regularly in a number of videos produced by web content creators Dice Media and FilterCopy, some of which have garnered lakhs of views on Facebook and YouTube.
Palkar, who grew up in and resides in Mumbai's Dadar area, always knew she wanted to act. Still, like many people who come from completely "non-filmy" backgrounds, she chose the practical route by taking up science for her Higher Secondary Certificate (XIIth standard) exams and went on to get a bachelor's degree in mass media. In 2012, during her final year in college, she auditioned for an English play being directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee. Unfortunately, while the audition went well, she didn't end up doing the play. "It was my graduation year and I didn't have permission from home because it was graduation year," she says. "The deal with the granddad was that I finish my studies and do whatever I want to."
By then, the need to do acting had already superseded the need to pursue a 'stable' career. In the same year, she attended her first ever acting workshop at the National Centre of Performing Arts, organised over two weekends by Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and Kaizaad Kotwal. Although unable to act in a play, she ended up working as a volunteer with Thespo, a youth theatre festival in Mumbai that has been a training ground for several young actors, writers, and directors for more than 15 years. In 2013, she was its festival director, which allowed her to meet and build relationships with several talented youngsters. "Everyone I've worked with since has had some connection with the festival," she says.
Her big break came in June 2014, when she was called in to audition for Nikhil Advani's Katti Batti (2015), starring Kangana Ranaut and Imran Khan. Actress Shweta Tripathi, who was seen in Neeraj Ghaywan's acclaimed Masaan (2015), was the associate casting director for that film and called her in for the role of Khan's younger sister — a part that echoed Chloe Grace-Moretz's in the indie hit (500) Days Of Summer (2009). "That's when I finally gave in to the idea of acting full time," she said. "I didn't know if I'd get it, but at least I'd be on their database."
She did get the part, though, and the film released in September 2015 to an icy response from critics as well as audiences. However, Palkar got noticed and mentioned in a number of reviews (including this writer's), and, suddenly, offers started pouring in, ranging from ads (for brands such as Tata Tea, Zomato, and Maggi) to an online news comedy show called News Darshan.
In Girl In The City, she plays Meera Sehgal, a girl from Dehradun who moves to Mumbai to pursue an internship with the fashion department of an e-commerce giant. "It's an interesting role for me because I've never lived outside Bombay. In fact, I don't even have any friends who are from small towns. So it's quite cool to step into those shoes and see it from that perspective," she says.
One would think it would be hard to play a character like this without being able to draw from some sort of personal experience, but Palkar, who trained in the Stella Adler technique of acting in Los Angeles two years ago, disagrees with that notion. "You have to understand the character and do as your character would do," she says. "Even if you don't have certain personal experiences, you can live in the moment and become the character."
She has nothing else on her plate as of now, but hopes to do more web content, as well as Marathi plays and films. "The Internet is the place to be for anyone trying to be an artiste and find an identity," she says. "With YouTube and Netflix coming into play, I think things are only going to get better."
The first episode of 'Girl In The City' will be available on Bindass' Facebook on April 28. This will be followed by a television premiere on Bindass, followed by a wider digital release on their YouTube channel.
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