Whether it is Kavya in Little Things or Meera in Girl in the City, Bollywood actor and millennial sensation, Mithila Palkar’s spontaneity is arresting. She’s as high-spirited, motivated and relatable as her characters, making her the darling of the audience.
“All the roles I play are different shades of Mithila, at least most of the time. I am as strong-willed and effervescent in real life as I appear on screen, apart from my character in Chopsticks,” she shares during a chat with MAKERS India.
In Netflix’s first Indian original film, Chopsticks (2019), Mithila (27) played Nirma, a character that was a polar opposite of her real-life persona. As a timid and under-confident tour guide for Chinese travellers, she displayed so much conviction that your heart went out for her.
“I think all my characters leave something in me and I leave something in them (perhaps). For instance, my role in Chopsticks was the extreme end of the spectrum; but I learnt vulnerability from Nirma,” Mithila tells MAKERS India in a chat.
In the last few years, she has featured in several prominent web series and films, including Katti Batti, Muramba and Karwaan. But theatre will always remain closest to her heart - after all, it is the cornerstone of her career.
First tryst with professional theatre
Mithila was only 12 when she went on stage for the first time in school, and has wanted to be an actor since then. Her humble Maharashtrian family has had no previous links with cinema or theatre, and all this seemed alien to them. Yet, her grandfather was of the view that she could pursue her dreams but only after she completed her graduation.
It was in the third year of college while pursuing Mass Communication from MMK College, when this Mumbai girl had her first tryst with professional theatre.
“I was 19, when I worked with a theatre company called ‘Q’ Theatre Productions (QTP), and worked as part of the organising team for their annual youth theatre festival, Thespo. Most of the networking I have done has been through the people I met there. Thespo will always remain special, because that’s when I went on stage for the first time at Prithvi Theatre, even if I wasn’t acting,” recounts Mithila.
However, she wanted to prove her acting chops, auditioned for several roles, and landed a part in Nikkhil Advani’s film Katti Batti (2015) as Imran Khan’s sister. While the film didn’t rake in too much moolah, Palkar was noticed by critics.
A few months later, Mithila’s co-star Dhruv Sehgal, asked her to audition for Filter Copy’s News Darshan, a show inspired by John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
Around the same time, Mithila uploaded a YouTube video to share her rendition on Anna Kendrick’s song ‘Cups’, but with a Marathi number in which she used a plastic cup as a percussion instrument. She was taken by surprise, because this ‘experimental video’ became viral, and in no time, Mithila’s charm spread far and wide.
“A month or two before the video became a roaring success, Dhruv and I had done two sketches; so the first taste of fame was thanks to those videos. I just wanted to experiment, so I did the ‘Cup song’ and a lot of people took notice of me. It put me on the Marathi film industry map,” Mithila recollects.
Mithila’s Marathi film debut, Muramba (2017), was followed by her first lead-role in a Bollywood film, Karwaan (2018), in which she starred with the late actor Irrfan Khan and south Indian superstar Dulquer Salman.
“I had a fantastic time shooting both for Muramba and Karwaan. The entire team that ran both these films were incredible, I am going to cherish these experiences all my life,” says Mithila.
It is the blend of her on and off-screen persona that has helped Mithila strike a chord with the millennials. Her massive following of 2.3 million on Instagram is proof enough of her popularity.
But this young star doesn’t take her fame for granted. Even today, she is filled with an undying passion to break the mould and follow her dreams.
“I do believe in taking risks, especially when it comes to work. If you play it safe, how will you know what’s in store? I think I definitely choose the path that opens up more opportunities,” asserts Mithila.
Being in the public eye also brings with it frequent troll attacks, whether it is for being vocal on social and political issues, or being called out for your looks. But Mithila remains unfazed.
“Yes, I have been trolled a few times. I have been skinny shamed and also fat shamed. There is no escape to this, but there is learning. As cliched as it may sound, one has to be comfortable in their own skin. Your confidence must be undeterred by any of these trolls. I don’t think anyone should be defined just by the way they look, there’s more to a person than the way they look,” says Mithila.
All in all, Mithila loves both the bouquets and brickbats that come with being a part of the industry.
“My work inspires me. To put things in perspective, I love my sleep. There is nothing that I will negotiate for my sleep and I believe if there’s anything that makes me leave my bed, it is my work. The kind of schedules that we run on, sometimes sleep is a far-fetched thought; yet, I love to go back on sets. That should say enough - I really love what I do,” says Mithila, signing off.
(Edited by Athira Nair)