It’s not often that you hear an actor speak fearlessly and unapologetically about issues that matter. And, when it comes to Priyanka Chopra, she does talk and when she does, it gets quite difficult to not take a note of her words. Be it commenting on the Padmavati row, the existence of racism, questioning the rules of the society where only a woman is asked certain questions or talking about abuse of power in the film industry, Priyanka knows nothing about mincing words. But at the same time, she is the one who believes expressing her opinions is her choice. Being an actor does not necessarily mean she has to have a say on everything happening around the world.The Quantico actor was in the national capital on Tuesday to deliver the Penguin Annual Lecture on the topic, ‘Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Chasing a Dream’. As the actor finished giving her audience twelve golden rules of becoming the best version of themselves, she was asked questions about her future endeavours, her journey in the Hollywood and her take on the ongoing controversies. But before anything, the former Miss World defined herself. For our Desi Girl, she is, “like water. Wherever I go I take the shape of it. I think I am inexplicable.” Hearing this, a voice from the audience calls out to her as a “superstar” and soon the entire Siri Fort Auditorium, in unison calls the actor, “superstar” leaving the actor overwhelmed with the love of her fans.
On being the only woman in the men’s only Forbes list
Recently, Priyanka got listed on number seven in the top 10 Indian celebrities in the Forbes list of 100 celebrities with the annual income of 10 million dollars. On being asked if the zeroes on her pay cheque matters, the actor promptly said, “Definitely they do. I was not born with a silver spoon and I worked really hard to be where I am today. I am extremely proud to be the only women on the men’s only list.”
But this made the actor think about a ‘funny thing.’ She quipped, “There are many people who talk about the kind of numbers apparently I get for certain minutes of my time (hinting at the rumours around her fees for performing at the Zee Cine Awards 2018). But has anyone ever asked the boys about the zeroes on their cheques? I mean they get a ridiculous amount of zeroes. I should be happy that they are celebrating a woman who has gone out there but my question is why there are no other females on the list.”
But such thoughts don’t stop Priyanka from being proud of herself. “I am proud of myself that I have the ability to work so hard that today I stand shoulder to shoulder with my male counterparts and be in the top 10 list of Indian celebrities,” added Baywatch actor.
On the Padmavati row
Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Leela Bhansali receiving death threats for their period drama Padmavati is no news. Something similar happened, though not on a scale as big as this when Bhansali’s directorial Bajirao Mastani also starring Priyanka was released. What’s the take of Priyanka on this? “I feel like I should call Deepika and Sanjay sir and tell my opinion to them. And this is exactly what I did. I called them and told I stand by them and hope that audience gets to see the film. The art that Sanjay Leela Bhansali believes in should be viewed by everyone,” said the actor.
However, not everyone from the film industry has come out and supported Bhansali publicly. But Priyanka feels this happens because actors feel used when some media publications run their names on the ticker. “When you use my name as a public figure from Indian film industry and flash my opinion on the ticker, I feel used. By asking this question over and over again you are doing the same. You are asking me a question about another film and filmmaker instead of talking about me and my career,” retorted Priyanka.
On being prodded by saying her voice can make a difference, Priyanka averred why not ask the politicians or government this question who is actually responsible for polarisation happening in the country on all levels. She said, “What can an actor or a filmmaker do to change what’s happening in the country. They are as much a part of the civil society as you or them. I am not at fault. I can have an opinion but I cannot be pushed to give it publicly.”
On women facing abuse from powerful men in their workspace
Hollywood is currently seeing a situation where woman actors are talking about their dark experiences. So, Priyanka was asked if that has struck a chord with women in Bollywood as well. “Not just Bollywood, I think it has struck a chord with everyone. #MeToo got popular not just in America but all over the world,” said Priyanka. Adding to it she said, “Women across the world in every field and not just the film industry face abuse from a powerful man be it in the emotional, verbal, sexual, physical forms. Whether they denied you a promotion, said something demeaning to you, have taken you for granted or something else, there are so many ways in which women faced abuse. It is never easy for a woman to come out and say I was hurt or troubled. It just becomes easier when someone stands by her because most of the time they say a woman asked for it or it was her fault but it’s not. I believe women are not victims but survivors. There should not be a world where women survive, there should be one where they thrive.”
Priyanka was thrown out of movies because of the actor or director’s girlfriend
Though Priyanka says she is feisty and when she walks into a room people are scared of her but there have been instances in the initial days of her career too where she struggled to get roles in movies. She said, “I have been thrown out of a movie and replaced by the actor or director’s girlfriend. That’s an abuse of power and I could not do anything since I did not cater to the whims and fancies of powerful men. I catered to my friends and colleagues who respected me. So I was treated in a certain way because I demanded it. My parents stood beside me and told me there’s nothing to be afraid of. But then there are women who have no support from family, friends, colleagues and peers. It gets difficult for them to do it all alone.”
On her journey in the West
Priyanka’s journey in the West hasn’t been an easier one. She faced racism in her high school. “In my high school, I was the only Indian girl. Students, there used to call me ‘Brownie’ or ‘Curry’. I was an insecure 16-year-old girl who didn’t know what she stood for. I could not realise what I can change in myself. So, yes racism exists in a very big way all over the world,” narrated Priyanka.
Priyanka who has finished shooting two films in Hollywood and soon will be wrapping up the third season of Quantico shared her experience and talked how it is to be an actor in Hollywood. “Being an actor in Hollywood it’s culturally very different. My biggest problem in Hollywood is everyone comes on time. If we have to come at 7.18 am, everyone will be there by sharp 7.18 am.That’s my only problem otherwise it’s just like here,” said the two-time People’s Choice Award winner. But she adds, “The South Asian actors are still considered a novelty in the West.”
Talking about marriage, Priyanka said, “My mother has told me to marry a man who can appreciate the hard work I have done until now. Definitely, I want to get married and have a cricket team of children but finding a suitable match for seems to be a difficult task.”