Mithila Palkar, who arrived on the scene thanks to the famous cup song that went viral, will now appear in a Netflix show, season 2 of Little Things. Palkar's sudden popularity, from a viral Facebook video to a popular web series to a film with Irrfan Khan and Dulquer Salmaan, and now to a Netflix show, is testimony to how the Internet has democratised opportunities that were previously restricted to a few.
Looking radiant in a polka-dotted evening dress, Palkar, who's always been a Bombay girl (something that comes across in the way she talks, unmistakably Bombay) sat down for coffee and pizza with HuffPost India and spoke about her journey as an actor, the complications and contradictions of love, and why she'll never be on Tinder:
Your show, Little Things, which started off as a web series on YouTube, has now become a Netflix series. Are you feeling the pressure?
It's more of excitement for me. In a sense, if people take you seriously, it keeps you on a pedestal of sorts. Suddenly you're on Netflix and you're like, "Oh okay I have a Netflix Original". I don't know if I can brag about it. But generally, it's very overwhelming, that feeling of leverage. I don't think that when Dhruv (Sehgal) was writing it we thought about it that now there is a pressure of sounding better. We've grown up like that, we wanted to stay true to our characters. As for the pressure, well, imagine being screened to 190 countries at the same time. These numbers are mind-boggling.
Would you say now that the stakes are much higher, there's a difference in how you approach your character, Kavya, and more importantly, your performance?
Look, just because it was a Facebook video doesn't mean I wouldn't take it seriously or put lesser efforts. For Dhruv (co-actor and show's writer), it's just surreal to see where the show has come. The first thing that Dhruv and I worked on was a video for FilterCopy, where we played a couple. Those were co-written by him. They were trying to look for someone to cast someone opposite me, they didn't find anyone so they asked Dhruv. He's been behind the scenes and never as an actor.
That video went viral and we realised the audience wanted to see more of us so we started doing more work together. We essentially just needed to do it on a bigger scale and for a longer duration of time, and that could be done by writing a show. Pretty much how Little Things was born.
Since Dhruv is the writer and the show is essentially about relationships, how do you make sure that the woman's perspective also gets represented in a way that's not catering to the male gaze?
As a writer, Dhruv is very open to feedback so we sat down and we discussed before the first season. There are several instances where I don't agree with what he's making Kavya say and I point that out. For instance, there might be a scene where Kavya is coming across harsh and dominant which I feel isn't right at that point. Or if she's cussing which I may feel is inappropriate. So these are moments where I bring in the female perspective and Dhruv is quite open to it.
One trap that shows about relationships end up doing is creating an idealised notion of romance. But love isn't ideal, right? It's messy, spiteful, conflicting... I think the Before Sunrise...series paints a great picture of the evolution of love. How do you all keep the romance real while still retaining an element of drama?
It's quite a real conflict. We had a talk about this. We were going in a direction where we thought we were cheating on our audience. We were deviating from what they wanted but then we also realised that the characters in the show are growing up and just for the sake of cuteness, you can't take that nuances away from Dhruv and Kavya's relationship. Making them adorable and relatable doesn't mean you stunt their growth as people. In relationships, there's always going to be conflict and imbalance. We don't know where it's going to go and how it will be received because it's all adulthood and adulting now.
How much of Kavya do you channel from your own personality?
I don't know if I relate to her at all. She's really strong and fierce. I am like that in my thoughts but I will also be very calculated and diplomatic in my conversations. I will try not to be hurtful and extreme. If I don't like someone or something, I will not make it known. She is passionate and driven and confident and loves what she does, all of that is me too, but our approaches are different.
As a millennial, what do you think about relationships in this age? Have hookup apps taken away the romance from dating?
I do not relate to the dating world at all. As Mithila, I am way too old-school for this. I believe in love letters, flowers and sweeping gestures. Even out of curiosity, I will never be on Tinder. I am not against it though. I get attached to people easily and for me dating is out of question. I think I am waiting for a miracle.
Do you think those gestures still exist?
If there's me who thinks like that, I hope there's someone else who's thinking like that too.
I think you are the Alia Bhatt of the internet.
Alia Bhatt is Alia Bhatt, I don't think she wants to be compared to anyone. I love her, I look up to her because she's inspiring. I relate to her fashion sense. But I hope I have my own personality and people identify me as Mithila Palkar.
Do you think in a nepotistic industry, the Internet has democratised careers for actors?
How do you think I would have come about? The cup song! Right now is the most important time to be in the industry. Opportunities are endless, there is no line anymore. You're not put in a box. Everyone is everywhere. This is exactly what I wanted. Film stars are doing shows and vice versa. The Internet has liberated art. There are no time limits, no language limits, no censorship. There are no barriers. Let's enjoy it for however long it lasts.