In a decade-long Bollywood career, Priyanka Bose hardly has any roles to write home about. And then, she got the Oscar-nominated Lion. There, she will walk the red carpet in Vivienne Westwood. Here, nothing has changed
We already have a Priyanka here,” yelled the paparazzi in Los Angeles at one of the screenings of Lion. Priyanka Bose’s reply was instant: “But there’s only one Bose.” Bose, 35, animatedly recalls the incident. And in our hour-long conversation, we realise that humour and repartees are second nature to her.
Back in Mumbai, she still doesn’t catch the attention of shutterbugs at theatres, airports, and all the other venues the paparazzi park themselves. “I’m so good at my work that nobody recognises me.” It’s the same wry humour at work again.
We’re at her Juhu studio apartment, which she shares with her girlfriend on days she is not living at her Madh Island flat. It’s the evening before she leaves for Los Angeles to attend the movie event of the year: the 2017 Oscars. Lion, in which she plays a small but crucial role alongside Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and Dev Patel, is her first project with a major Hollywood studio (The Weinstein Co). The film has bagged six Academy Awards nominations. Bose plays Kamla, the biological mother of the protagonist, Saroo Brierley. The film has already won two BAFTAs. Not surprisingly, she’s ecstatic.
Ready to roll
There are a couple of suitcases lying around: half packed; some shoes here, some dresses there. Bose is gearing up for the high drama of the Oscars. And she says the big awards are every bit worth the hype: meeting the jury, lunches, brunches, previews, press runs, rounds of interview, high teas, cocktails, dinners. “I was amid all of it until the end of November. I had to beg the Weinstein guys to let me return to India to shoot for two of my upcoming projects. One word: crazy,” Bose says.
Before she could elaborate on the madness of the awards shows, a delivery guy arrives with several outfits for her pre-event and after-party appearances. But the outfit that’s making headlines is the Vivienne Westwood number she will wear on Oscars night. Bose is one of the two chosen faces — alongside Emma Roberts — to represent actor-environmentalist Suzy Amis Cameron’s eco-friendly campaign, Red Carpet Green Dress. The initiative works with couturiers to promote sustainable design. “Giorgio Armani is dressing up Emma Roberts, and Vivienne Westwood is dressing me. It’s incredible. Stella McCartney dressed me for the New York premiere [of Lion]. Personally though, I never had the kind of money to buy any of it,” she says.
Meet the stars
Hobnobbing with the stars is something Bose has had to learn quickly. She admits to having spent more hours talking to Hollywood A-listers than Bollywood stars. She has barely any screen time with Kidman in the film, but over the past few months, the actor has established a connection with the Hollywood star. They’re evidently on first-name terms. “When Nicole speaks, you only listen to her. We talked about patriarchy, misogyny and all things intense,” she says.
But she found herself tongue-tied when Arnold Schwarzenegger asked how she was doing. It was a brief conversation in a lift, but she was taken aback. “He is such a big man. But he was so warm.” She pinches herself dramatically at this point.
The Delhi girl believes in spontaneity, and 13 years back, her move to Mumbai was one such moment. “After graduating in sociology, I was choreographing events. One day, I just decided to move to Mumbai and try my hand at acting,” Bose says.
Even after being in the industry for a decade, Bose confesses that she would go for hundreds of auditions and not land the first, the second or even the third leads. Some of her blink-and-miss film credits include ‘singer in the bar’ in Guzaarish (2010), ‘sex worker’ in Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013) and Sandhya in Gulaab Gang (2014). But her most striking performance remains on stage: in the critically acclaimed play, Nirbhaya, based on the Delhi gang rape.
Lion, she believes, happened to her “serendipitously” in 2015. She had read the story, A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley. Receiving a call from Tess Joseph, the casting director of the film, was nothing short of a miracle. “It was as if I had sent signals out in the universe, and some meetings later, things fell into place,” says the actor.
But Lion has not changed much for the actor in India. At its premiere in the city, Bose found herself standing “like a mouse in one corner”, while the media took quotes from Radhika Apte and Vikramaditya Motwane. She doesn’t have plenty of offers, and is still receiving the same old “village girl” or “prostitute” parts. But she has a clear agenda: She does not want to say no to any kind of work — in India or elsewhere. “I want to be a cross-culture actor. I want to be on stage too. But right now, quite honestly, I just need a signing amount.”
Garth Davis’s Lion is now in theatres.
To watch The Academy Awards live tune in to Star Movies or Star Movies Select HD on February 27, 5.30am. Catch the repeat telecast at 8.30pm.