Pretty and petite, shy and demure, that’s Parul Yadav for you. But as they say, looks may be deceptive. She’s not just a stunning star, but one who has shunned and shattered stereotypes and made her mark on her own right. Parul has swept the red carpets by winning some of the major awards down south, such as the Filmfare, SIIMA and IIFA Utsavam and with Queen, an upcoming film with director Pannaga Bharana and other films in her kitty; she seems to have a promising career ahead.

1. Please tell us about your growing up days. What was your dream career in your childhood days?
I grew up in Santacruz, a hardcore Gujarati area in Mumbai. I studied in a convent school and wanted to become a scientist. I was good at Science and Math, but terrible at languages. No one could figure out why at the time, but later I was diagnosed as dyslexic. I did not go to college but chose to enroll in an interior design diploma as I wanted to be independent.

2. When and how did the journey towards being an actor happen?
It was entirely an accident. I had accompanied one of my sisters to a fashion show where someone spotted me and cast me in a chocolate ad. After that I kept getting a lot of modeling and acting assignments.

3. What are your other passions and hobbies?
My great passion is increasing my knowledge. I am constantly learning – right now I am reading and watching as much as I can about black holes. I just finished Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Right before black holes, I was researching the Age of Antiquity and that gave way to the Dark Ages which then lead to the Renaissance. Travel is my other great passion and Florence and Michelangelo’s David are next on my list.

4. How challenging is it to carve out a niche for yourself?
It’s not only about carving a niche. It’s even more difficult to maintain a niche in the Indian film industry. You can be the most successful, disciplined actress but find yourself out of work because the heroes want to either cast their favourites or some new young girl. I mean, look around you – we have heroes in their forties, fifties, and even their sixties but the heroines have to stop working when they hit 30!

5. What have been some of the biggest highpoints of your journey so far?
Filmfare awards, IIFA awards and turning producer with the remake of the film Queen.

6. What does family mean to you? How was the lockdown period for you? How do you spend time when you’re not working? What is a typical day like for you?
My entire existence is my family. I don’t enjoy anything unless my mother and sisters are around. My sisters are my only friends! Lockdown was a time of great learning for me, not just in terms of knowledge but also learning to be comfortable with not working. It was the first time since I was 16 years old that I hadn’t worked and it allowed me to grow as a person, to re-evaluate my journey and my goals. My days are quite structured with gym, dance classes, and script reading when I am not shooting.

7. Were there any kind of apprehensions entering the field of cinema?
I was too young to be scared when I entered cinema!

8. What is your vision and dream in this field that you have made a mark for yourself in?
I don’t have any specific ambition for myself except that God allows me to keep working till the end. But I would definitely like to see a more equitable world for women not just in cinema. It’s quite ridiculous that we have to struggle to get movies made that tell the story of women and everyone, including the so-called global corporates like Netflix and Disney have severely discriminatory pricing when it comes to buying women-centric movies. In fact, this term woman-centric should disappear – we are 50% of the population but so few movies are made about us that this special term is required to refer to ones that are made.

9. What are the changes you want to bring about in the film industry?
Perhaps the one other thing that I hope changes is the way we treat technicians – both in terms of payment and also their working conditions especially for the lower level crew. It’s seriously unacceptable that the cameraman and the editor get paid less than the hair and make-up people on most movies.

10. How has life changed after entering the film industry?
I went from school to working here so I don’t really know any other life!! But with all the trauma, it’s been a blessed journey.

11. What kind of a person are you in your personal space? How do you like to spend your me-time?
I am either reading or learning something or acquiring a new skill, so no real downtime in that sense. My primary personal attribute is loyalty and that’s who I am with those closest to me.

12. How often did you take holidays in the pre COVID days? What are your preferred holiday destinations?
Life is a holiday when you are in the film business. We are fortunate to be paid to go to exotic locations all the time! Pre Covid feels so long ago, but my family would go away to some nearby resort at least twice a month and spend an extended weekend!

13. Any work you can recall that inspired you in your earlier days?
It’s funny but more than any female actor it was and is Amitabh Bachchan ji who inspires me. It’s fascinating to see how he keeps himself current and relevant.

14. How do you maintain a work life balance?
I don’t!! (she laughs) I love to work and dearly wish that I can keep working forever!

15. Any memorable fan message you’d like to share?
Not really but I do get these messages from people who have cut their wrists etc. ostensibly for me, but I feel angry when I see such pictures. No actor is worthy of such adulation. Sorry but that’s not going to help you win my heart.

16. Any memorable incidents you’d like to share with us during the shoot of some of your films?
I was shooting with Prithviraj on a canoe and he was lying on the head of the canoe. I made him conscious of his shirt flying off and Prithvi slipped and fell into the water while trying to fix it. There was a bit of panic, because he didn’t know how to swim but thankfully the crew jumped in and saved him.

17. Who are your close friends from the industry?
I think most relationships in our industry are transactional and not meant to be taken very seriously!!

18. What has been one of your favourite roles that you have played?
Parvati in Butterfly and Mumtaz of Govindaya Namaha.

19. What are the projects you’re working on currently?
Currently, I am working on many projects and hope for them to all culminate well. As of now, I am working on a farcical comedy with the French Biryani director, Pannaga Bharana.

20. What is your view about films in the OTT world of today? Also your views on social media and how much time do you spend on it?
I think the opportunity is being lost to create some authentic Indian content that’s true to our lived reality because OTT platforms are also captive to the star system unlike what say a Netflix has done in the US. I also don’t think that the amount of objectification of women that’s happening is fair.

Social media is fun if you don’t get too stressed about it. I enjoy creating and posting content. I am also grateful for the platform that it offers me to speak on issues that I believe in. I also believe that it helped us actors stay relevant through the lockdown.

21. February is the month of love. Do share your views on love.
I think true romance is a 24/7 activity and I shy away from these dramatic expressions of love! I think love starts after the lust subsides – once the enzymes and the hormones have been expended!

22. It has been 5 years of Killing Veerappan. Would you like to recall some memories from those days and the success of the film?
It was fun to shoot with eight cameras. I had never done a multicam shoot before. Also, the role and the director’s interpretation of it was fully in my comfort zone. I think the three awards I got for that role are because I was so comfortable in my skin.

23. How has your experience been turning a producer?
Producing is something I have taken to naturally. It is a bit of a surprise to me because I had never thought of producing before I did. The process of development, the planning, and the pre-production are all really interesting and I am very happy that I am actively producing. I had set up a film marketing company but have suspended activities because of the lockdown but we will resume once everything normalises.

24. You have acted with actors like Shivanna, Dhanush and many others. Would you like to recall some fun incidents from the shoot?

Not really, because I generally keep to myself on shoots.

25. What are your future plans?
Work till I die!