Mithila Palkar’s story is stuff that viral dreams are made of. Among the early voyagers in the vast YouTube’s entertainment universe, the 25-year-old found fame in the most unexpected way. She recorded a Marathi version of the Cup Song (by Anna Kendrick) and posted the video on YouTube. As luck would have it, the post went viral and voila, a YouTube star was born.
“Interestingly, one summer I was visiting my sister in USA and I learned how to play the rhythm of The Cup song which is from the movie Pitch Perfect where Anna Kendrick plays this song. I thought it was intriguing and I learnt that it was on four beats, so I sang Can’t Take My Eyes Off You in English and put it up on YouTube. Then, I started working more as Katti Batti happened and people started looking me up I guess. One day someone found that video of me and commented saying ‘Do something in Marathi’. One afternoon when I had nothing in particular to do, I thought this was an interesting idea. I called my friend who held the camera for me as I recorded The Cup song in Marathi and posted it. The song went viral,” she recalls.
Of course, Palkar’s career has come a long way ever since. In the midst of promoting her film Karwaan, starring Irrfan and Malayalam actor Dulquer Salmaan, her transition from a digital star to a movie actor is evident. She confesses to being slightly intimidated by the idea of working with a talent like Irrfan but she didn’t let that come in the way.
Glamorously turned out, her endearingly unruly mop has been twirled into decorous waves matched with a stylish ensemble and Palkar seems well at ease in this avatar too. She is no stranger to the big screen having featured in Marathi films like Muramba and besides her small turn in Katti Batti. But the trappings of showbiz are gradually dawning on her. Fortunately, the fashion police monitoring the appearances of actresses (in particular) has not yet trained its sight on her but public recognition and adulation is a reality that the young actor is happy about.
“Everyone is really sweet as they watch my shows and follow me. It’s overwhelming really as I am here because of my audience. I am still adapting to the ‘Can I take a picture phase?’ I think it’s still too early, but I am getting there. It’s exciting to know that you are loved so much. It is humbling,” sallies the young actor.
But there’s more in store for her. Palkar’s web series Little Things has recently been acquired by streaming giant Netflix for a second season, which is a big deal. There is also the third chapter of Girl In The City, a popular series on Bindass, which is back too.
The power of the Internet has evidently been her stepping stone to bigger projects, a view that she shares. While she realised early on that she wanted to be an actress, outside of the theatre, she did not have the foggiest notion of how to go about it. Her journey into the realm of the unknown (that was digital entertainment in India, till recent times) began with an audition for a web show called News Darshan produced by Filter Copy.
“I knew I wanted to be an actor but was not sure where I wanted to be. I had been giving auditions and this was one of them. So I was open to experimenting and the internet has grown in the last two years and I have been on this wave as it was rising. It gives great opportunities to people who don’t know how to showcase their talent. I believe that if you want to say something, record a video and put it up because at some point it will be seen. One shouldn’t have inhibitions about this,” says Palkar, the perfect poster girl to speak of the worldwide web route to stardom.
A quintessential Mumbaikar, Palkar grew up under the guardianship of her maternal grandparents since her parents’ residence at Vasai, a far-flung suburb of Mumbai made for a forbidding commute.
“I think this was more of a logistical decision, and education was also a factor as my college was in Bandra. I spent the most impressionable years of my life with my grandparents and they meant a lot to me, which is why I wanted them to come around with my decision of acting. My parents have always been supportive of me being in this field so that worked out well.”
So far it has turned out to be a happy decision as her grandparents too have come around to accepting her choice of career despite their early reservations.
“I think they are proud. In fact, my grandfather is the one showing off now. It’s quite endearing as he learned to operate a smart phone and a tablet to see my work, which was mainly YouTube. They have transitioned for me into being very supportive and it means a lot to me as they had strong opinions about me not becoming an actor. They bent their rules for me to be able to pursue my dream,” sums up Palkar.
A happy ending indeed—just the kind that befits a heroine.
Priyanka Sinha Jha is a senior journalist, author and digital-media specialist.