She is passionate. She is sexy. She is an actor, singer, producer, or let me put it as 'multi hyphenated' as she is often referred to. I am talking about the oh-so-hot Priyanka Chopra. The actress is in India for few days and has been running against time to wrap up her commitments before she flies down to US for the next six months. Her choc-a-block schedule refuses to let her breathe and she is constantly on the run to get done with her work! I meet her on another such day, when Ms. Chopra is shooting for something at a venue in the burbs of Mumbai.It is a gloomy day, but Priyanka is unaffected. Her lovely smile and the never-ending enthusiasm will stun you. Amidst the preparation for her shots, she squeezes time for an interview with me. While she is gearing up to chat with me, she excuses herself to grab a quick bite. Though our candid tête-à-tête is interrupted twice as she is multi-tasking, may we add as always, Priyanka Chopra does manage to floor us with her million dollar smile, warm hug and those honest replies! Read on...
First half of 2016 has been amazing for you. What do we expect from Priyanka Chopra in the second half of the year?
Second season of Quantico will start in September for which I begin shooting in July. Six months of my life are right there and then Baywatch will release which will be fun and global release. And at the moment, because I cannot start any film till March 2017, I have the luxury to decide. I am listening to few scripts here and there. Some really good films are being made in World right now including India. So it is difficult time because I am greedy actor and I want to do everything. And I am used to doing 4 films a year, so someone who is used to do that and gets to do only 2 films, it is very difficult.
Are you feeling bad that you won't have a film releasing in Bollywood for over a year?
Think about the actors that are around and tell me how often their releases happen. It isn't heartbreaking because my show comes every Saturday and Sunday into people's homes. It is the highest rated English spoken show for the network and not just the channel, which they told me two days ago and I am excited about it. I am touching an audience on weekly basis, which I couldn't even access when I was doing films. Plus my film will have a big Indian release. Baywatch as a show was hit, so the film has a brand value attached to it. So I don't feel I am away from.. because I have gotten them use to 4 films a year. But in the last two years I have started doing 2-3 films as I was doing music and other stuff. I don't feel bad because I am compensating it through other work but I do want to be able to do more. I wish there were 600 days in a year. Woh bhi fill hote hai... Then I would say kaash 900 hote.
When Jai Gangajaal didn't do well, did you feel bad?
I mean whenever the film doesn't do well, it bothers you as an actor. I feel really bad but I am glad people liked my work. But that's all an actor can do. It is a film I am proud of. 100% track record kiska hai Raju Hirani ke siwa? (laughs), Correct? And he also has made only three films. Raju Hirani is special.
Since you spoke about Rajkumar Hirani, do we see you working with him?
Oh God! I don't know but I hope so. I have always believed that casting is a director's prerogative. I am not someone who would say. I have never in my life said that 'I want to work with these people' but I cannot say 'Can I do your next film?' That is because the character will tell who the actor should be. And everyone knows my work and merit. I don't have to tell. I hope he finds me interesting enough because I admire his work and he knows that. I love his films.
Now that the first season of Quantico did so well, is there a pressure with the second season?
Second season always has pressure. Maine kabhi television kiya nahi hai pehle. But this is what I am told by all. We have gone to 212 countries, dubbed in 56 languages, which is amazing to me. The show has exploded in great way and of course there will be pressure. But there will be more pressure on the writers to make second season as interesting as the first. But that is what we will find out. That is what art is. It is transient. It does well sometimes, it doesn't sometimes. You just gotta keep going!
You are the only Indian actress to feature on 5 international magazines...
I never see it as an achievement. I just keep working. If I have time, then I will do it. I am really happy for the honour. This year itself, the amount of magazines that have covered me within the US and India.. chalo India toh we do it.. but whether it was Malaysia, Germany, Spain.. It is just nice to be honoured with it. I am only 9 months old there in television, I am not considering my film yet. Signing a film doesn't make someone a star. Let it release then judge and talk about it. But I will talk about my show because that has released and judged. The laurels I have got, whether it is getting Padmashri, being at Oscars, being on Time and doing 8 covers, it is so gratifying and amazing because I want to be known for my work and this is the direct reflection of how my work is perceived. I don't do anything else. I don't understand planning, strategy, image etc. I have been very organic and instinctive for my career. Which is why I make mistakes also. But I stand by them too. I have always said this, everything that has happened to me, it may be the first for any Indian, but it is just 1-2% of what we deserve on a global platform. Because we are such a prolific film industry. We have always been put into a box. I hope with me ploughing the ground and telling and showing people that Indian actors are lot more than the usual stereotype that we have always had to play. Like Alex has got nothing to do with me. She could have been from anywhere - haan om bracelet shayad nahi pehenti. That is my idea. I wanted to start the show with Om. 1st shot of it was with a hand, which they gladly allowed. The writers have embraced my culture after I was cast in it. I think that is how casting should happen - on merit. It should be based on talent.
You have ventured into everything including Production. Any plans of turning into a director?
No, I am scared of that. I have been asked. I am honest. Especially in America for TV and stuff. ABC Network asked me to direct one of the episodes but I was like.. I don't know. They always say that I have it. Directing one episode is easier than making a film and they are my crew, my people and it is my show. But I don't know if I am ready for it. I need to learn so much. I didn't come into the business with any knowledge. So my career has been my acting school. The filmmakers have taught me what to do and what not. The reason I can go there and be confident is because I know my job and I have learnt it in the Hindi film industry. Hindi film industry is the reason, that I can be what I am today. I take immense amount of pride in it. Not because I am Indian, I mean woh toh hai hi. Jimmy Fallon se zyada chicken main kha sakti hun because I am a Punjabi. I don't need to prove it. My Indianness goes with me where I walk. But I am talking about my craft and my ability to work. I hope I someday get the courage to do it.
When you debuted in Bollywood, you faced your share of problems and emerged stronger. Was Hollywood easier or you went through more problems there?
I didn't go to America as a new comer and I went there on my own terms. I didn't need it and I have never needed it. International is not something that I was aiming for. I have an amazing film career in India, by God's grace I have great work and respect. ABC came to me. I asked them why? The explanation given to me was that I have the ability to transcend. Like I can play various types of characters and various types of people while being me, apparently. I can cross over smoother. So I was curious to know. I was doing music in America and wasn't looking at that. Hence I was curios and this conversation I had with the VP of casting, whom I met at a party. 'American TV is doing well and the content is amazing'.I was asked whether I would ever do it and I said, 'I don't know if I will have the time to do it because I have films and all'. Conversation over and I don't know what peeked their interest. She came to India and asked me to do a talent deal. Of course, I first said that I will do a mini series. Four months, it will be easy. Never expected the show to do the way it did. It was supposed to be only 13 episodes long, it became 19 first and then 22. Finally I had to tell them to stop because I had to do movies in the middle and I was very clear about that. So I did that on my own terms. I told them very clearly that I am a leading lady and I play supporting roles when I want to, of course. But I am used to my face on poster. I don't want to settle for less. If you can give me that then great. Second, I will play a character... I break stereotypes even in India with the roles that I play. That is my attempt that art, to push the envelope. To do characters to which people get surprised. Initially, people used to say how did an actress do this? Now they say how did a commercial actress do it? An actor is an actor is an actor is an actor.
There are no small roles, there are only small actors. And I am not a small person. So I am used to doing parts - darje ke roles in India. I told them, you come to me with something like that I will do it, then there is no need to waste our time. I did it on my terms very clearly.
When people like Dwayne Johnson and Jenna Tatum praise you, how do you react?
They are my colleagues! To me they are like people whom I have worked with. To me it feels the same, like when my colleagues appreciate in India. But what is nice is the kind of acceptance and the kind of nod that I may have got for walking my own path. That I was apprehensive about. I don't know anything else except for doing my job. I can host a show, perform on stage etc. I am glad that my work is getting appreciated. I was taken aback when Jenna did that face swap because we had once met years ago randomly at Golden globe party or something. After that it was so sweet, the caption was sweet - Priyanka makes everything beautiful. I was like 'Tumne apni shakal dekhi hai? Kitni sundar..' So it was this mutual admiration which grew. But it feels nice to be acknowledged by colleagues who are not even a year old, for me at least.
Recently when we met Shah Rukh Khan, Irrfan Khan, Anushka Sharma, they all said that they are proud of you and Deepika. Going to Hollywood is gutsy. Do you agree to them?
I don't know, I cannot speak for anyone else. And many people have done movies in the past as well. That is not gutsy. Doing a film - Anil sir, Om sir, Irrfan, Deepika, I am doing it. So many have done it. I have grown up in worldly home. I have grown up in America and I believe in global culture. I believe in global talent and entertainment because that is what I have consumed as well. What was scary for me was to convince America on every Sunday that I know my job. Completely new country that doesn't know me. New demographic for me. Signing a film is easy, it is acceptance which is hard. I am grateful for that. It took lot of blood, sweat and tears. It is difficult to stay on a set everyday where people expect you to only be a dancer-singer. To constantly introduce the film industry and its power to the world, to stand my ground that people wouldn't know, that was difficult. I was very honest, I was scared. I was so nervous when Quantico was going to air. I felt 'yaar agar yeh galat hogaya na toh I will not just embarass me, I will embarass the industry'. Not the country. Countra ka kya lena dena. I don't want to be that. I want to make the film industry proud. It is like when you pass out from college, when you get a nice job, you will always be the alumni na? For me it is that. I didn't want to let down the entire entertainment industry. Country won't get affected by one Priyanka Chopra!
But the Country is definitely proud of one Priyanka Chopra...
Thank you! I am grateful for that. That has happened because it just did. You should be true to what you doing and not think so much. I am grateful to all the other actors too who acknowledge the work that I am doing. As a film actor, my career hasn't even started in America. Like I said - Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Aishwarya, Om Puri, Mr B (Bachchan) they all have done films and have received love and appreciation in a big way. Mine is just a very mainstream and because the show is on my shoulders, I guess.
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