Award-winning actor Mithila Palkar talks about travelling with family, the power of honest content and her dream of playing an assassin.
By Gayatri Moodliar
The year 2020 taught us to be grateful for the bonds that we have. What was your biggest learning?
I think a general lesson was patience. None of us knew when things would open up, but weʼre learning and trying to work through it. For me, the most precious thing was that I got to spend time with my grandparents. I know that I will never get so much time at a stretch to just stay at home and be with them, to play cards and chat.
Your performance in Tribhanga is being praised. What was it like on set?
It was fantastic! I have known all of them; I have known of all of them. They are phenomenal. I went into this shoot feeling extremely intimidated because I am a ʼ90s kid, I have grown up watching Kajol. But she doesnʼt make you feel like that at all. She has the most infectious laugh and she is very welcoming. I think if I had to sum it up, it was a riot.
The movie focusses on how relationships in families can take on many forms. How did you get into the mindset of that role?
It was a challenging role, which is why I was very excited to play it. A lot of unlearning had to be done, but the one common thread that bound us—Masha [Palkar’s character in Tribhanga] and me—was the fact that we have the privilege to make our own decisions, however different they may be. I say it is a privilege because not everybody can make those choices. Also, it helped me learn that kindness and empathy are two of the most important virtues. You understand the phrase “walk a day in my shoes, and you will know what my life really is”. As actors, we live that quote.
How do you detach from such characters once you are done shooting?
For me, when the camera is on, I am on as a character. Once it is off, I am off. I canʼt overanalyse and brood unless there is a special scene and that mind space is required. But that is not my method. I feel if I am as spontaneous as I can be, I am more faithful to the character than if I overthink.
You are being recognised for your OTT work, like the Filmfare Award you recently won for Little Things.
More than a personal win—even more than as an actor—I feel like the real win was the fact that a platform like Filmfare acknowledged our presence and validated the work we do. I feel, above all, content won. Now, it is all about the stories we tell, it is not about the story of a specific hero or heroine, but instead, about the people.
You have been dabbling in theatre since childhood. How did it help your craft?
It helped me get the epiphany that stage is where I get my happiness. I started backstage. A lot of my learning came from observing the way people work. Theatre teaches you life skills, and no matter how successful you are, I feel these roots keep you grounded. It also taught me that theatre is a raw medium of entertainment; once youʼre on, it is what it is. Onstage, your quieter moments are much louder; on camera, your quieter moments can be with yourself and the camera will still catch you.
Speaking of roots, what is your earliest family holiday memory?
One of our first trips was to London and, yes, to all the touristy places. I barely remember this trip because I was probably four or five. My dad made sure that every summer, we travelled to some interesting place. He loves to go to new places, and that has trickled down to the next generation; both my sister and I love to travel.
So, your best family vacation was…?
I think that would still be it. Because itʼs the first vacation that I remember! The funniest thing happened during the trip: My sister and I have a seven-year age gap, and she loves to read up and study the place. I was a toddler and I couldnʼt have cared less about history then. At lunchtime, my dad would ask us where we wanted to eat. To my sisterʼs disapproval, my answer would always be McDonaldʼs. She would tell me, “Canʼt we explore food?” I would say no because McDonaldʼs Happy Meals!
Makes sense. Every country has a different McDonaldʼs menu, too, so you do get a new experience each time.
I think so! Earlier, I didnʼt experiment with food, and itʼs only in the last couple of years Iʼve realised that travel is so much more enriching when you try new food. Itʼs a peek into so many traditions and cultures. And, it just suddenly opened up so much more for me. That made me love travelling 100x more. Even within India, Iʼm always looking forward to going to other states, because the food is so different.
Your go-to place for food in India?
Do you prefer solo travel, a family vacation or travelling with friends?
I love travelling with my friends. We havenʼt taken a family vacation in a while because my sister is in the US. It is easier to plan it individually and set out. I have been visiting places where I have people. So even though I start solo, I always get people to join me. I have not travelled solo since I love talking so much. But I am happy to go with someone and make new friends along the way.
If you did have to plan a solo trip, whatʼs the destination in mind?
The first place, solo or not, is Europe. I have been to London, but I have not experienced the entirety of Europe for what it is.
What do you love about taking a trip with loved ones and family?
Just being able to set out and spend time together, without other engagements. It has become so much harder now. When you are in one place that is not your workplace, you get the right kind of quality time.
We agree. Now, finally, whatʼs the one role you really want to experiment with?
I want to play an assassin. I have been wanting to play one for a while.