The international films he has been part of may have won the Academy but Irrfan, despite all the success, hasn’t yet made it to the Oscar stage. Now, that’s where Priyanka Chopra is a first. The popular Indian actor has been selected alongside Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore and a bunch of other international talents, as a presenter at the upcoming 88th Academy Awards. Retweeting the announcement from the Oscars handle, Chopra said, “Looking forward @TheAcademy !! This will be an insaaaane night! (sic)”
Immediately, her friends took to Twitter to congratulate Chopra on the “achievement”. Photographer Atul Kasbekar, tagging her, said, “Wow! Woke up to see this bit of news! @priyankachopra presents at the #Oscars Go Girl.” Stand-up comic Vir Das tweeted, “You’re a rockstar who is making us all proud. Keep soaring!”
This opportunity, which Indians view as a huge honour, follows her recent spate of success in both the Indian and international scene. Chopra has won, and deservedly so, a number of awards that also includes her National Award in 2008. Last week, the actor was also among those chosen to receive India’s third highest civilian honour — the Padma Shri.
In the international scene, her cumulative achievements perhaps do count, but don’t tantamount to getting her the opportunity of being on the biggest and most watched live show across the world, the Academies. What has worked, however, is the effort Chopra has put in the last five years to slowly make inroads into becoming an icon in American popular culture.
She had crooned a few numbers, for the Tamil film Thamizhan (2002) and an unreleased song for Bluffmaster! (2005), before Universal Music saw in her the potential of becoming an international pop music icon from India and signed her on in 2011. Her first single, In My City, featured international singer will.i.am, and won her three nominations at World Music Awards that year.
The song may not have made her an international singing sensation but aided by her business acumen, impressive personality and hard work, it set the ball rolling for Chopra. As a result, she was able to bring Pitbull on board for her next single Exotic and its video, released in 2013.
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However, her two biggest international stints have been on the American screen. Last year, Chopra lent her voice to a character from the animation film Cars before bagging the lead role in the American tele-series, Quantico, winning critical acclaim for her role as an FBI recruit suspected of carrying out a terrorist attack. It got Chopra the Favourite Actress in a New TV Series trophy at the People’s Choice Awards held earlier this year.
What sets her ascent apart from the achievements of previous Indian exports such as Mallika Sherawat and Freida Pinto is the fact that unlike the latter two who have been purely counting on their “exotic Indian” appeal, she is a good performer. Chopra isn’t depending on selfies or cameos with Hollywood stars but going for plump assignments and appearances that will make her a household name in America.
Now, there are many other Indians, including Om Puri, late Saeed Jaffrey and now Irrfan, who have established themselves as actors in the West. But Chopra is the only Indian “star” to have successfully transcended the boundaries to become an international name. And for her fans worldwide, her most anticipated performance will be on February 28 — those few moments she will be seen on the stage presenting an award at the Oscars.