Since her first role in White Gold, Mishqah Parthiephal has more than proven that she’s definitely in the right career. We caught up with the fast-rising star.

If, like most people who have watched Keeping up with the Kandasamys, you’ve been impressed by Mishqah’s beauty and talent, you’ll understand why she says, ‘I didn’t choose to act. This career chose me.’ She got her big break in the 2010 movie, White Gold, a story about the Indians who came to South Africa as indentured labourers. She says there is almost nothing she doesn’t like about her job. ‘I love being in front of a camera; I love performing,’ she says simply.

Since White Gold, Mishqah has had roles in series (her most recent venture is a TV series called The Indian Detective, which is scheduled for international release later this year), as well as movies and even appearances in music videos, so she’s had a taste of most areas of the industry.

Ironically, the most difficult time of her life followed her big break with White Gold. For a period of two years she struggled to secure any roles. ‘It was terrible,’ she recalls. ‘I love what I do so much; I get terribly bored if I can’t practice acting professionally.’

But as with most challenges, she learnt some crucial lessons during this time. ‘You get rejected a lot in this industry,’ she says. ‘You have to audition all the time, but you don’t always book work. You can’t let that bother you. You have to keep your head up and carry on pursuing your dreams.’

Luckily, Mishqah has always had the support of a tight-knit family. She has two siblings – her sister Tahirah is four years her junior and her brother Ridhaa is 10 years younger than her. 

'I’ve learnt that they will always be there for me, no matter what. Through the good, the bad and the ugly. And I never forget that. Family first.’

Mishqah says she thoroughly enjoyed the music videos she performed in (her first on-screen acting job was in a music video for Zain Bhika’s song, ‘Who I am’, in 2009), because both told a story in just four minutes, so they challenged her to create a character, as she would for any other role.

‘In a way, the videos I’ve been in weren’t dissimilar to film,’ she says, ‘because I still had to perform. They weren’t your typical videos, where all that’s required is for the girls to look hot, dance and party.’

So what kind of roles is she drawn to? ‘Usually dark and intense roles; characters who are almost twisted and disturbed, yet normal in their own way,’ she says. She cites Angelina Jolie’s role as the sociopathic Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted (for which Jolie won an Oscar) as an example of her ultimate role. Mishqah places enormous pressure on herself as an actress, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that such roles intrigue her, as these characters give her scope to challenge her skill to the utmost.

Keeping up with the Kandasamys has set new standards in South African comedy. Mishqah says that working on the film was one of the most memorable experiences of her career, and she would be ecstatic if she got a chance to work on another one like it. She says working alongside director Jayan Moodley gave her great joy and satisfaction. ‘Jayan and I have known each other for years,’ she smiles. ‘She’s my mom, my big sister and my friend, all wrapped into one! Working with her is always a dream.’ Naturally, this made it easier for Mishqah to get into character, although she says that she and Jodi (her character in the film) already have much in common, which made it easier for her to bring Jodi to life without too much preparation.

Mishqah’s role in the film Paraya helped bring her to the attention of international audiences when it screened at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals. In Paraya she plays a woman who is challenged by the demands of her culture. Mishqah admits that the role required her to think more deeply about her on-screen persona, and to take special care to craft a character defined by extraordinary strength.

She acknowledges that it’s difficult for South African artists to achieve international acclaim, but says she is determined to ‘give it a bash’. If her talent and tenacity are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we see her name alongside her acting idols, which include the likes of the ‘insanely talented’ Natalie Portman. Mishqah says that while her name and face might be recognised in South African households today, it’s taken a long, hard struggle to get to where she is now. But, even in the face of adversity, she never gave up.

‘I can’t point to one thing that made me want to be an actress,’ she says. ‘It’s almost as if it was a calling. It’s been incredibly difficult to reach the point where I am now; sometimes the journey has been soul-crushing. But I still feel unbelievably lucky to have had all the opportunities I’ve enjoyed.’

KEEPING UP WITH MISHQAH KEEPING UP WITH MISHQAH Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on September 01, 2017 Rating: 5
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