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The internet then provided a string of achievements for Mithila Palkar, through popular web shows like Girl in the City, Official Chukyagiri and Little Things, and sketches on YouTube Image: Nayan Shah for Forbes India
Mithila Palkar’s success as an actor, riding largely on the back of digital streaming platforms, is also the story of her 94-year-old grandfather learning how to use the internet.
When Palkar, a mass media graduate, decided to give it a year to try her luck in the entertainment industry, she was living with her maternal grandparents in Dadar, and her grandfather refused to believe that she was stepping out of the house to do serious work. Then, in 2016, a Marathi news channel featured her ‘Cup Song’ video that had gone viral on the internet, in which she had performed the Marathi song Hi Chaal Turu Turu in a style inspired by Anna Kendrick from the film Pitch Perfect.
“It was only when my grandfather saw me on TV that he thought I had a stable career. He did not realise I was on TV because I went viral on the internet,” Palkar says.
The internet then provided a string of achievements for the young actor from Mumbai, through popular web shows like Girl in the City, Official Chukyagiri and Little Things, and sketches on YouTube. Her grandfather, who was gradually warming up to her career choice, realised that he had to go online to see her work. So he learnt how to type Palkar’s name on YouTube and search for her projects online. “I come from a non-film background where the entertainment industry, or using the internet as a medium of entertainment, was unknown to my family. But my grandfather transitioned organically with me through the course of my career,” Palkar, 28, says. “Today, if he finds me home for more than two days, he says, “Shooting nahin hai?” [Don’t you have a shoot scheduled?]”
Fortunately, Palkar has had an interesting mix of work coming her way for a while now, which has made her both a recognisable actor and a relatable personality among youngsters. While Little Things—which was acquired by Netflix from Dice Media after Season 1—aired its fourth and final season this October, Palkar was also seen in the Hindi film Tribhanga alongside actors Kajol, Tanvi Azmi and Kunaal Roy Kapur. The film released on Netflix in January.
En route, she was also noted for her performances in the Marathi film Muramba in 2017, Hindi film Karwaan in 2018, and Netflix film Chopsticks in 2019. Palkar, who has also worked in theatre, says she prefers that her career is medium-and-language-agnostic. Ever since she started acting, Palkar says she loves giving auditions, irrespective of a positive or negative outcome, because being a self-taught performer, those 20-30 seconds are her chance to try a hand at playing a wide range of characters.
Those who have worked with Palkar describe her as grounded and dedicated, with head firmly on her shoulders. “With Mithila, what you see is what you get. She is sporting, uninhibited and a wonderful collaborator who is willing to go the distance without making any kind of fuss,” says filmmaker Akarsh Khurana, who has directed Karwaan and has collaborated with Palkar in theatre. “When you work with her, she is a bundle of youthful and clean energy, which keeps everyone’s spirits so high.”
Actor Renuka Shahane, who has directed Tribhanga, agrees with Khurana about Palkar being a delight to work with, be it collaborating smilingly with everyone on set or humming old Hindi songs. Shahane says she chose Palkar, known for her urbane, bubbly, girl-next-door image, to play Kajol’s silent and poised daughter Masha. “I knew that Mithila, as a person, has a sense of calm and maturity in her, and that was the centre for me as far as the character Masha was concerned,” she says, calling Palkar an intelligent person. “Mithila is observant, she soaks in the atmosphere on set and performs naturally. Even if she might think a lot about the character, she does not make a big show of it, which is what I love about working with her.”
According to Shahane, Palkar has a lot of potential, for which she has to go beyond the chirpy, youthful characters that she is already loved for. “For actors, we are only what we are offered. I would be happy if Mithila is offered roles that are different from what she has done, interesting or even slightly edgy. She is capable of handling that,” Shahane says.
Palkar also has a goal set on doing different things. “So far, most of what I have essayed on screen have been different shades of me.” So she is set on taking up challenges to keep things exciting. While Little Things made her popular across the globe and playing Kavya was like a second skin to her, Palkar explains, the opportunity to work in different, unfamiliar languages keeps her on her toes. The actor has finished work on her first Telugu film Ori Devuda, which is a remake of the 2020 hit Tamil romantic comedy Oh My Kadavule. “I am still new and there is still so much left to explore.”
Khurana says Palkar is growing from strength to strength. “She has been lucky enough to find both success and creative satisfaction, which is rare,” he says. “Mithila is one of the most relatable young actors in the country today, and the world is her oyster.”
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(This story appears in the 31 December, 2021 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
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