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In one of the small cabin in the upscale Yash Raj Studios, half a dozen journalists are waiting to interview one of India’s most famous woman. And then Priyanka Chopra enters the room, looking cool in tight trousers, a high ponytail and ferociously-heeled shoes. Good at being a star, she’s always well turned out. Everything about her is sharp and sexy.
Film actresses always seem a little smaller in the flesh and in Chopra’s case, her waist for one is non-existent. It’s not easy to believe when the actress reveals that rice and parathas are her favourite foods! She seems to fill the room with her charisma. It’s not easy to pin the star down for an interview because of her jam packed schedule, but once she agrees she is warm and receptive.
As we sit down to chat, the globe trotting Chopra glows as she talks about her latest release Gunday. If she charmed with her autistic act in Barfi!, then she’s endearing in her Dhakai sarees, the one-sided loose plait and a bindi in her recent film release. The film promoting her as a cabaret dancer was just a tip of her role in the film; there’s more that unravels about the character. “I am very proud of Nandita. What I love about her is that she’s very righteous and believes in black and white, which is very like me. She is a no-nonsense person and has this superior air about her, even though she is a very normal girl. I think women should carry themselves like her,” she says with an enormous and disarming smile.
The movies Chopra has done so far constitute mainly of good cinema. In a career that spans more than a decade, she bagged a National Award for Fashion within the first five years itself. She went on to top her performances in films like the critically acclaimed Kaminey, Saat Khoon Maaf and Barfi!, where she bowled over the audience as Jhilmil. And now she has Mary Kom for which she is undergoing extensive physical training. Do these intriguing characters stay with her and leave an impact on her? “Almost all my characters impact me in one way or the other, because I get so closely involved with them. Barfi! changed me as a person. The autistic Jhilmil’s world is just three feet around her and she finds happiness in this tiny world around. Playing Jhilmil in Barfi! taught me to find beauty and happiness in the small things of life. Fashion in which I play a supermodel, taught me that everyone’s life need not be like Meghna’s whose stardom went to her head. It taught me that one needed to get a grip on stardom. I didn’t want my life to be like Meghna’s and I made sure that it wasn’t,” says the actress.
There is always a curiosity about big stars who we watch with awe on screen. But is there any actor whose life details she is curious about and would like to know more? “Marilyn Monroe! I found her life very fascinating and if I could meet her I would like to ask her questions that books don’t answer. She’s the greatest mystery in movies, and its greatest tragedy,” she twinkles.
We have only sat in the dark and watched Priyanka the star on the screen in awe. But are there times when she does not feel like a star? “I always felt like a star since I was two years old. My family always made me feel like one. What I mean by ‘star’ is that it does not mean you need to have a billion people tell you that they love you. A star is someone special and I have always been made to feel special,” she says.
And how do her family and friends describe her? “I don’t know, I never asked. But a lot of them say that I am non-existent, because I am never around! Seriously speaking, I have many different sides to my personality and they don’t know which side will come out! Even as a professional, I don’t know what I will do next as I have never really planned my life or career. I wake up one morning and say let’s try this. I am not a planner or thinker. I do it from my heart and instinct,” she says with a smile.
Many actors have taken to the social media, but Priyanka was one of the first actresses to explore social media when it started, and has the highest number of followers on Twitter (5.55 million). She calls herself a geek and loves everything to do with new technology, internet, computers, instagram etc. “It’s a great way to be directly in touch with people, who want to know more about you. I love it because you can give as much information as you want to give. I even started a website, but didn’t have time to update and develop it. I do plan to take time out and do it properly,” she informs.
Priyanka, who jets between Los Angeles and Mumbai dividing her time between the two cities, is keen to strike a balance in her career between the West, where she is known as the singing sensation, and back home, as an actress. And she’s very confident of making further headway in Hollywood when the third single of her album releases in March or April this year. “I really enjoy music and want to share that with the world. Both my singles have done well. And now the third single comes out in March/April. I am also thinking about singing in a Hindi film of mine, but I just don’t know which one and when. Singing and acting are two facets of my personality, and two distinctly different careers. I am very proud of it because I haven’t heard of anyone else having done that. It’s nice to pioneer something like that and I hope that it will be successful enough for it to be an example,” she says.
There are other facets to her personality too — that of a writer and a philanthropist too. Extremely dedicated to the cause of the girl Priyanka has worked with UNICEF, and participated in discussions on children’s rights and the education of girls. And now she has given a voice-over for the documentary Girl Rising where nine top actresses from around the world tell the story of nine different girls. She lent her voice to Ruksana, a girl from Kolkata. “It’s a beautiful documentary, which premiered at the UN and we had a couple of screenings in New York as well. It’s got some amazing feedback. I am very happy to be a part of it. As for writing, I haven’t written for a while and nothing is happening right now. But a biography is a good idea. I have had a very interesting life. If turned into a book, it will definitely be a bestseller. It will be a cool thing to do,” she says.
She’s been part of the industry for over a decade, but Priyanka does not call herself a film-buff. It takes a lot to get her to go to the theatre. “I am not someone, who watches films. Only an extremely rivetting promo can attract me to the theatre. And that’s been the scene ever since I was a kid. If I have to go to the theatre, I should really want to watch the movie,” she says, adding that she prefers reading and watching TV shows!
And she has eight favourites at a time. “I watch eight shows simultaneously! You know I can’t do one thing at a time! Presently I am watching Scandal, Elementary, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, Breaking Bad and Two Brokers, and I can go on and on. Shows are good because they are there just for 45 minutes, jaldi khatam ho jata hai. I am commitment phobic; I can’t make commitments for long times,” says Chopra.
That she is a real star was apparent when she spoke about her endorsements. The actress, who has campaigned for products like Pepsi, Hero Honda Pleasure, Bru Coffee, Sunsilk, recently endorsed the fabulous Range Rover LWB and the international brand Guess. “I associate myself with premium brands, especially those that I like and would use. I always go for the best, I don’t like second best,” she says with a chuckle.