Actress Mithila Palkar gained instant popularity for her YouTube appearances, through her roles in web series like Little Things and Girl in the City, as well as in the viral videos produced by the online platform FilterCopy. The 25-year-old Internet sensation is now gearing up for her big Bollywood release, Karwaan, in which she plays the main lead alongside Irrfan Khan and Dulquer Salmaan. She speaks to Guardian 20 about the film and her journey as an actress.
Q. Tell us about your big break in Bollywood.
A. My first break on the big screen was with Imran Khan and Kangana Ranaut, in Katti Batti , directed by Nikhil Advani. I went through the usual process of auditioning. The casting directors asked me to come for the auditions and I was nervous because these are obviously big names for someone who was just starting out. Nikhil Advani—who wouldn’t want to work with him? He’s one of the biggest filmmakers that we have today. I am glad I was a part of that film.
Q. You became a household name in no time through your YouTube web series. How did that feel?
A. It is surreal because it is not something that you expect. You don’t do things for something to happen. A lot of people ask me what is the formula to going viral. But there’s really no formula to it. I just did what I wanted to do. I put it out on the Internet and as I always say, I owe it all to the Internet. It is an overwhelming feeling.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming film Karwaan and your role in it.
A. Karwaanis a film about a road trip. As the name suggests, it is about a journey, a journey to which people get added and which continues. It is about three strangers on a journey who are trying to understand life and to understand each other through this journey. Tanya, the role I am playing, is a 19-year-old girl who is very confident and unapologetic towards life. Her approach towards life is very practical. She loves being herself and doesn’t care what people think about her.
Q. How would you describe your experience working with Irrfan Khan?
A. Amazing is the word. Irrfan Khan is an amazing actor, co-actor and artiste. Who doesn’t want to work with him? I got an opportunity to work with him in my first lead debut film. He is extremely spontaneous. Initially, I used to get so amazed with his work and so lost in his performance that I had to actually remind myself that I am his co-actor and not his audience. Words cannot describe how enriching the experience was.
Q. You have mostly portrayed girl-next-door characters in your web series. Would you like to experiment with different roles in the future?
A. Definitely! As an actor that’s what you strive for, and that’s what I strive for naturally. There’s only so much I have done that you can count the number of characters I have played on your fingertips. I have a lot more that I am looking forward to. So definitely I want to explore as much as I can. I think I have been fortunate that way, for in the films that I have done so far, I have not played the cute girl-next-door character. Whether it is Katti BattiorMuramba [the 2017 Marathi film Palkar featured in] or Karwaan—I am not your girl next door at all in any of these. These roles are very different from what you›ve seen of me otherwise.
Q. Who are your influences?
A. I really look up to Priyanka Chopra. She does everything and that’s what I want to do at some point in my life. She is unstoppable and that’s extremely inspirational. She’s an actor, she produces, she sings, she is in Hollywood, she is also a part of UNICEF. She is everywhere. Similarly, I want to be able to do as much as I can, and that’s why I look up to her.
Q. Since you come from a non-acting background, how difficult has it been for you to make it till here in your acting career?
A. I think it was harder to convince people than to actually get work. I knew that this is what I wanted to do and I was ready to work as hard as I was required to, to achieve my goal. So I knew that no matter what hardship comes my way in terms of work, I will keep at it. But the bigger challenge was to get my grandparents to come on my side. Once that happened, I think I was fine. Then no matter how many rejections came my way I knew that I wasn’t going to give up on my dreams. So I just kept going. But most importantly, if your family is not on your side, then it’s a little disheartening. Of course, my grandfather was worried because, like you said, I don’t come from a film background and we don’t have a godfather in the industry. Hence, he was little adamant but I could understand where he was coming from. I mean when you come from a middle-class Marathi family and you don’t have contacts, it’s a little worrisome. Which is why he tried to deviate me and I could understand him, but today I think he is the one who shows off the most. From here on, if ever there are any rejections, I will not give up. That’s what my grandparents taught me. The hardest part was just to convince them. Rest I knew I was ready to fight anything that comes my way.
Q. Audiences in India are just opening up to web series and OTT media services. Do you think this new medium is here to stay?
A. Definitely! I personally feel that the digital front has opened a lot of opportunities for a lot of people because of its accessibility. People on the Internet are doing some really amazing stuff and it is gaining popularity. Now there is no dividing line between films and the Internet. Over the last few years, the Internet has grown exponentially and the growth is only going to continue. Today, Internet is a legit entertainment medium for people to establish themselves or to start their career with.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming ventures.
A. Karwaanis releasing on the 3 August. Apart from that, my web series,Girl in the City Chapter 3, released on 13 July. It will be on for the next 13 weeks—one episode per week. Also, the second season of my other web series, Little Things, will be out this year for sure.