Priyanka Chopra on working in Hollywood: ‘I had to figure it out, walk into rooms, introduce myself’
That Priyanka Chopra Jonas is a household name across India, is an understatement. She is perhaps our biggest name working abroad too, singing, acting and doing what not! After carving out a music career in the West with songs such as Exotic and In My City, she went on to star in films such as Baywatch (2017) and Isn’t It Romantic? The show Quantico, in which she played the lead role, remains her biggest achievement there.
However, it wasn’t all easy for PeeCee. She tells us that it was all too new for her when she first went to try her luck in Hollywood. “When I went to America,” she begins, “there wasn’t a precedence. I didn’t have a road map to follow because there was no one who had done it before. I had to figure it out, walk into rooms, introduce myself, say ‘I am an Indian actor, my name is Priyanka Chopra, these are the kind of films I want to do’. I demanded playing leading ladies, instead of having parts which were the stereotype of what a Bollywood actor would usually get. Those also came to me, but I was very clear about what I wanted to do.”
The 37-year old adds that such was the perception then, that Bollywood was reduced to a ‘genre’ on streaming platforms. Says Priyanka, “I dug my feet in, persevered and did what I needed to do. I am so glad, and hope through me… it’s my life’s dream that Indian cinema becomes global. We are one of the biggest movie industries in the world, and we have been reduced to a genre? If you look on streaming services, you will see ‘horror’ ‘comedy’ ‘drama’ ‘Bollywood’. Bollywood is not a genre, it’s an entire industry! It’s my life’s dream to see Indian cinema and artists take over the West.”
Many Indian actors such as Ali Fazal and Radhika Apte have been getting work abroad. Does Priyanka see a positive shift?
She agrees. “It’s better. Somewhere, people don’t see Bollywood with the lens that they saw with when I started working in America. I got a lot of ‘so you must be dancing well?’ and I used to be like ‘Ya, I can sing, dance and act, I am a triple threat!’ So you stop people in tracks and say ‘I am not just one thing’.. It took a lot of work, I am so glad. I hope beyond what we are seeing, I want to see Indian actors in mainstream global entertainers. That’s what I have done with Quantico, Baywatch and the movies The White Tiger and We Can Be Heroes. That’s where we need to see more Indian talent,” says Priyanka, also recently seen in the Hindi film The Sky is Pink after a break of three years from Bollywood.
And that is what exactly happened when Priyanka and actor Mindy Kaling got themselves the chance of a lifetime. Priyanka tells us, “To me, it was a massive achievement when Mindy and I walked into Universal Studios, came out with a deal for an all-Indian starcast in a Hollywood movie, in a romantic comedy! That’s never happened in a mainstream rom-com! I remember, we came out, held our hands, we couldn’t believe it. It took us fighting the fight. I am hoping to be able to create so many more opportunities for Indian actors in my small way. I am obviously not saying I can change everything. But in my small way… that’s my quest.”
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