It’s fun to be Priyanka Chopra now, says Priyanka Chopra. This year has been a roller-coaster ride, but Pee Cee is pleased that it’s ending with optimism. After three very successful films — Agneepath, Teri Meri Kahaani and Barfi! — and a successful single, ‘In my city’, the actor and singer is on a different kind of high. Where once she seemed vulnerable, she’s bounced back with renewed energy and has her eyes set on bigger things now.
In a very open chat at her lovely Versova apartment, the actor bares her heart to HT Café.
You said it’s fun to be Priyanka Chopra now. Why now?
I live cinema and passionately love music and my efforts in both these crafts are unfolding. Barfi! is going to the Oscars and my first single is out. I know I have been out of sight, but that’s because I was shooting for Barfi! and then working on my music. Now I will have to be abroad again for some time, planning my next single and involving myself with promotions and shows. I am also looking forward to shooting the three films I have signed, Zanjeer, Gunday and Milan Talkies. The sequel to Krrish has been completed and I am in talks for a few more big projects. Yes, life’s looking up again.
Recently you were almost written off. Did that upset you?
Ups and downs happen to everyone. Every decision a public personality makes is under the microscope. If today I decide to take a five-month break and I am not seen or written about, I will be viewed as jobless or an untouchable. It’s bizarre. Professionally it’s been a superb year, but personally it’s been little hard as my dad’s not well. I don’t like talking about this. He’s constantly going abroad for treatment. His resilience is a huge example for me. If he can fight through that, why can’t we, as family, fight it out? It’s been a traumatic year, but a truthful year.
Did you feel that some of your co-stars turned their backs on you after reports about a public spat with a prominent director, and rumours involving you and an actor?
None of my co-actors or directors ever turned their backs on me. That’s a misconception. There may have been a few people, a few rumours and a few articles, but that always happens to everyone. Like I said, ups and downs come and go, but nothing that mattered to me ever changed. It was more of a power play. Also, because I wasn’t talking about it, my silence was misinterpreted. But had I reacted, 10 more articles would have been written.
In any case, it didn’t matter, because it wasn’t so important to me.
You have been linked with various men in the past. Have you ever found true love?
I am very romantic and have a very ideal idea of love. Yes, I have felt that love. But I am not going to talk about when, and who.
Hmm. Tell me, would you marry an actor?
It doesn’t matter if the guy is a musician, actor, engineer, businessman or a doctor. He should be able to make me laugh, and make me feel special, the way my dad does. And that’s a very high standard!
Have you met anyone who is close to that standard?
Yes, close. But not close enough…
‘Any talk of a war with Salman was media created’
We’ve heard you’re renewing your equation with Salman Khan.
I never had any issues with Salman. He was one of my first co-actors and I have tremendous respect for him and vice versa. I am friends with his sister Arpita. Any talk of war with him was media created. He has always been kind to me whenever we met. We worked together in a lot of shows last year and this year. I have never felt any sort of animosity from his side.
What was that picture of you with him outside his house at 4 am about?
It was very stupid, unethical and looked shady and tacky! I have been to his house several times, his sister Arpita is my friend, but nobody bothered to click any pictures then, so why now? It was in bad taste. We have ridiculous and erratic hours of working and I cannot justify it. Tomorrow you will see me running on Yari Road at 5 am — because that’s the time I get to jog! We don’t have normal working hours.
It’s good to see you and Karan Johar sorting out your issues.
I don’t know what had happened between us, but it happened. It just did. Everyone has a reason for the way they behave. And I am sure Karan had reasons to be the way he was. We share a great working relationship and we got along very well and that’s what matters. Karan and I have done two extremely successful films together. I admire him as a director.
You are acting in all the remakes of Amitabh Bachchan films — Don (1978), Agneepath (1990) and now Zanjeer (1973).
Karan Johar and Priyanka Chopra
It’s quite funny and coincidental. He is my favourite actor and I am his brand ambassador. Because I couldn’t play Mr Bachchan in any of the remakes, I am in all his movies. (laughs) You are also reprising Jaya (bhaduri) Bachchan’s role in Zanjeer.
In Don, I reprised Zeenat ma’am’s role, Roma. But the way I did it was very different. Similarly, my role based on Mala from the original Zanjeer will not be a chaku chhuriwali
Mala like Jaya ma’am’s role. The film is set in today’s time, so naturally I will play it differently and bring in my element.‘SRK and I have always been and will always be friends’
Shah Rukh Khan has never been embroiled in a controversy like this before... Did the rumours about the two of you lead to any awkward situations between you?
I never had any awkward situations with Shah Rukh.Are you in touch with him?
I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. People make unnecessary assumptions and I would rather refrain from talking about it. If I say anything, someone will pick up the story and then it’ll turn into an avalanche. Jab Tak Hain Jaan is releasing, it looks incredible and I wish him the best of luck and that’s it. There’s nothing more to say when it comes to him. There’s no uncomfortable situation with him.It’s funny to see Shah Rukh Khan and you tweeting ‘best wishes’ messages to each other Twitter when it comes to your new endeavours...
That’s what you think. Some random actor has wished some actress on Twitter, how do you know that they are in touch or not? So why are you assuming that we are not in touch? These are all assumptions. I don’t want to clarify. It’s making baat ka batangar (a mountain of a molehill). And it’s unfair to do that to anyone. This is all media created.So you guys are still friends?
Yes. Always were and always will be. At least from my end. I don’t know and I don’t wish to tell people what my equation is with any actor. It is not necessary. I owe 90 per cent of my life to people because I am a public figure, but 10 per cent is private to me. And I am not saying it in a defensive way. I feel my life has been made into a TV serial.
‘I am a tough chick!’
Your life has been the subject of much speculation. Does that make you feel bad?
Peope have the right to speculate as I am a public person and it comes with the territory. I have been controversy’s favourite child. But because I have been a little aloof all along, the speculations have taken on epic proportions. I don’t socialise. I am a very ‘kaam se kaam wala’ (minding my own work) person. I hang out with the crew I work with, and part ways with them when the shoot is wrapped up.
I have never had more than four days off between films. In all my nine years in the industry, I’ve worked a lot compared to other people who debuted with me. I love my job and I get my jobs on merit. I don’t have a film background, nor did I have a mentor. In fact, my family had not seen Mumbai till I became Miss World. So my career has been my acting school. I have fallen, gotten up and dusted myself off, all by myself. I take pride in where I am.
But suddenly, it felt as though Priyanka was an untouchable.
The reality of the situation wasn’t as dramatic as it’s made out to be. It wasn’t like I was traumatised and crying. Aisa kuch nahin huwa (nothing like that happened). I am a tough chick. I can deal with a lot.
But yes, the position that fame gives you can be cruel sometimes. The pressure that comes with it is unkind. Every industry is cruel. Everybody plays games in the business. There’s bitching, under-cutting, politics etc. It can be dealt with. But being under the microscope and having to deal with certain norms set by society or the people around me is a pain.
I think it’s great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed and I like it this way. That’s the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human and be you.
So all those rumours didn’t affect you?
I don’t say they didn’t affect me. What affected and upset me was that there was an autopsy done on my life. And I am a crab; I go into my shell and protect my privacy. I hold my pride and self-respect in high esteem.
So you have forgiven, forgotten and moved ahead?
Yes, that’s the best way to deal with things. But no negativity that’s touched your life will be completely erased from your memory. You keep it locked inside your brain and you do not really access it, but it stays there. And it happens to everyone.
Today, do you feel part of the industry?
I feel I have made a small place for myself. And it has happened very organically. Choti si jagah hai, par meri hai (it’s a small place, but it’s mine). Thanks to my well wishers, my family and a few close friends who show me love and support irrespective of my careergraph. That aside, there are directors who have shown tremendous faith in me. I have worked with the biggest banner in the industry. I have no help from anyone. So yes, because of these sets of people, I do feel that I am part of the film industry.
Tell us about the new campaign you started on Twitter.
It’s called ‘It’s cool to be you’. Why should celebrities not be able to repeat or wear stuff they like? Why is it that when I wear my favourite outfit twice, it’s circled, zoomed in and runs with an unkind caption like ‘fashion offender’, or ‘she cannot afford it’. What bullshit! I can afford it, but maybe this is my favourite pair of jeans and I want to wear it three times.
It’s cool to repeat outfits and I am going to do it. I am also very opinionated. I think today, young people are trying so hard to be perfect and live up to society’s expectations that they forget who they really are. But there are certain things you have to remember. You may not be the perfect student scoring 100 out of 100, but you could be an amazing son or a daughter. Why run after perfection? Accept your flaws. Contentment comes only after you accept who you are.
People say actresses experiment with roles at the end of their careers. What do you say?
When I did Aitraaz (2004) way back, people told me I would be slotted as a vamp for the rest of my life. When I did Fashion (2008), people again said actresses do heroine-oriented roles towards the end of their career. When I did Barfi! (2012), people commented again. But I have always balanced my career with powerful roles and glamorous roles. And all of them have been appreciated as blockbusters.