Meet the Arumbae girl
Shilpa Manjunath, who portrays the character Parvathi in Kaali, talks to CE about the film, her character and more
When Ms Karnataka 2013, Shilpa Manjunath, signed up for Vijay Antony’s Kaali, little did she imagine that life would undergo a sea-change. The Bengaluru girl marvels at the way director Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi designed her innocent village belle character, Parvathi, for the big screen. “Ever since the Arumbae track was released online, people have been calling me the Arumbae girl! Strangers come up to me and tell me they are confused because I look familiar to them but they can’t place where they’ve seen me. When I tell them I was in the Arumbae song, they don’t believe me since I look totally contemporary in real life,” laughs Shilpa.
Turning into Parvathi, hence, was a huge challenge for the actor. “I never wear bangles, pottu or churidars in real life. I’ve never even been to a village. So getting into the character was completely new for me. But when we shot in Thalakona for my portions, I observed the local village women and picked up their body language. The way they nod, walk, talk and hold their pallu were nuances I tried to recreate.”
How she was chosen for the role, she says, is an interesting story. “Director Kiruthiga spoke to me on a video call first but thought me to be too modern. But she called me for a look test to Chennai. Before the audition, she sent her assistants to dress me up fully as Parvathi and then I gave the screen test. Something must have clicked at that moment.”
Shilpa has acted in three Kannada films and one Malayalam film before Kaali came her way. “But Parvathi has been the toughest role for me. During one shot in the Arumbae song, Vijay Antony and I had to stand on a tree branch, which was 100 feet high. I was tied to a rope for support. I had to walk, sing and romance, all at the same time on that fragile branch. I was terrified and literally in tears. It was only at that moment that I realised I am afraid of heights! But Vijay was very encouraging and a solid support.”
She tells us about another tough scene. “I knew the shot was a serious one, involving several actors. So I went into the mood of the character two days ahead of the shoot. Everyone, including my mom, thought something was wrong. I became quiet and reserved. It was only after the shot that I became normal.”
She gives all credit for her performance to Kiruthiga. “She’s one of the best directors I have worked with. On the sets, she would clap and say superb after many a shot. Her open encouragement boosted my confidence and helped me give my best shot.”