Parvathy as Sameera in Take Off: Uncomfortingly real

When we first see Sameera, she is standing in an emigration queue to join a government medical agency in Iraq. She seems worn out and tired on the outside. But, there is something about her that means business, despite her reluctant demeanor. We learn that she had earlier been married in UAE, but is now divorced, and had chosen a job in India over the custody of her now-eight-year-old boy, to settle her family’s debts. Now, that’s the kind of female lead that would make actors reach for the craziest of excuses.

But, we are talking Parvathy here. And boy, does she impress! Frame after frame, she seldom loses out on an opportunity to further sculpt the unconventional protagonist, she had stepped into the shoes of. When she turns a blind eye to her colleague Shahid’s sincere expressions of love, we can see through her biggest fears. It is to Parvathy’s credit that these introductory scenes come together into one of the most sustained stretches of relentless character development in recent times. Consider the sequence where she turns down a marriage proposal that requires her to put her Iraq emigration plan on hold. The camera focuses on her face, as she takes the lift to meet Shahid. She is angry. She is disappointed. She is in doubt. She is in denial. She is vexed. Believe me, all these emotions flow in and out of her countenance in this one-twenty seconds of pure cinematic brilliance. And Parvathy is in no mood to relent. As she walks up to Shahid and asks him to talk her dad, you have to watch her camouflage the bursts of a newfound resolve with a rather feigned indifference to understand what I am talking about. It’s no less a masterclass.

What she accomplishes here is a feat in itself. She makes us sit up in anticipation, yearning for answers, to questions that are apparently yet to be spelled out. Her lingering confidence in taking us deep into Sameera’s psyche without the slightest air of undue caution – without coming across as overtly manipulative at any point – pays off big time. Consider the scene where Sameera on learning that she has conceived a second time, lands up in the doctor’s clinic along with Shahid. The husband wants to keep the child. Sameera doesn’t. At first, just like the doctor, we think that she is worried about her flight, and the well-paying job package in Iraq. But when we know about her true concerns through Shahid, it hits us like a ton of bricks. Why didn’t we think of this earlier?

 Right on the heels of a heated argument that follows, she takes an auto to work, seeming largely expressionless. But her eyes speak a million words. “Why am I asked to choose every single time – first, between my marriage and my family, and now, between my new-found joy and my son, my only ray of hope?” Her silent screams turn audible for a moment.

Parvathy handles these segments in such a way, that despite the self-assured leisurely pace, we are constantly kept guessing on the lead’s emotional contradictions. And slowly, she blurs herself out of the picture. What we see is a drained-out woman in flesh and blood, desperately trying to balance her desires with that of her dependants. One moment, she seems insanely strong-willed, and the very next, she collapses into an inconsolable mess. It is this capriciousness in her histrionics that makes the character unsettlingly real, reflexively warping around our minds.

To cut the long story short, she is simply terrific. The special mention at the National awards was the least, Indian cinema could give, in return.