Berlin 2012: Priyanka Chopra Talks About Movies Transcending Cultural and Language Barriers (Q&A)
THR: What are you expecting from Berlin?
Priyanka Chopra: Germany has always given Indian films so much love and affection. I am really looking forward to the German people seeing Don 2 as we shot it in Berlin. We have fond memories of the place and I'd love to watch the film with the people we made the film with. Its like going back to the beginning of the project.
THR: How was it shooting Don 2 in Berlin?
Chopra: More than anything, I was amazed at the way Germans know so much about Hindi films. And how much they like and enjoy them. We had a crowd of at least a 100 people outside our hotel every day, come hail, snow or rain. They don't understand our language but they love our movies and this is what I believe, that movies do transcend cultural and language barriers. We are in the business of selling dreams and if, for two hours we can take people - even from other cultures - on this journey then that's beautiful. And when you see the love and affection you get from people who love your work, it reinstates your belief in the magic of cinema. That's what I am excited about at the Berlinale.
THR: So did you have any favorite parts of Berlin? How did you live the city?
Chopra: We shot in almost every part of Berlin so that was how we lived it. And it was so cold, in October and November, it was impossible to go anywhere. But the one place I definitely went and saw was the Berlin wall.
THR: After you were signed to Universal Music Group and Desi Hits for your upcoming debut album (to be released in North America via Interscope Records and worldwide through Island Records UK), was this the next obvious step to be signed by a major talent agency like CAA?
Chopra: This is a great follow-up and there should be some fun stuff coming up. Basically, I am an actor so it did make sense to have representation in terms of movies or entertainment in any way. Everybody on my team thought that it made sense to be covered on the movie front as well. CAA was excited to come on board so we went with them.
THR: How do you see CAA opening up film options for you given you have an established career in India?
Chopra: I guess they will pitch me as an international actor and acting is what I do well, if I may speak for myself. I love movies in any language. I have lived in the US and I have a kind of sensibility and an understanding of how the western world functions and thinks. At the same time I am Indian and my culture is very important for me. So its going to be very interesting for CAA and me to see how to take things forward. I guess its a first for me and them. We are both exploring different facets. I guess once some projects are finalized, then that would be a good time to talk about them. We have had discussions of what we should do and I will soon be in LA for my (ongoing) album recording and that’s when we will see how to take things forward.
THR: You've been in the studio in LA recording your album so how has that been, working on an international project?
Chopra: Its been fascinating. I love music as I grew up with it thanks to my father who loves to sing. We woke up every morning to music. I knew how to sing before I knew how to read. So when the album project came as an opportunity it just seemed like something I could naturally do. I have had such an amazing team to work with who know so much more than me. So I am going to use my instincts to carry along the culture that I know and integrate it with the music I grew up with which is a lot of western music. So I think it will be something really new.
I've worked with a bunch of producers and writers – such as Swedish House Mafia, among others - but we still have to finalize which songs have to be on the album. I am also writing my own music because its very important that my music speaks my language.
THR: When it comes to foreign talent, there's this eternal debate of sometimes being cast in stereotypical roles in Hollywood.
Chopra: I am really grateful for the career I have in India and the kind of work I have done here. For me movies have to mean instinct – the way I have selected my work here is based on stories. Yes, I am very aware that there is the trap of stereotypical casting but I am very clear I want to stay away from that.
THR: Now that you are with CAA which represents some major Hollywood hitters, do you have a wish list of the kind of people you'd like to work with?
Chopra: I don't have a wish list and I never had one even when I started work in India. I just go with the flow. I know that whatever I do I try and do the best I can. Honestly, I already have a dream team with me - Universal Music, Desi Hits, Atom Factory and now CAA.
THR: Is there a kind of cinema you are particularly drawn to?
Chopra: Whether its international or Indian, I like being part of cinema that works at the box office. I think movies are made for entertainment and nobody makes movies just for themselves to watch in their drawing rooms. Box office is king and that's the kind of cinema I'd like to be a part of.
THR: In India you have done both kinds of cinema, mainstream - such as latest Bollywood hit Agneepath- and offbeat - such as last year's edgy drama 7 Khoon Maaf (Susanna's Seven Husbands) which wasn't that commercial.
Chopra: When I did 7 Khoon Maaf (which also screened at last year's Berlinale), I didn't think I was doing a niche film which wouldn't do well. When I did (2008 Bollywood hit) Fashionit was also considered cinema that was different. But yet it was successful. Eventually you want to do movies which are both critically and commercially accepted.
THR: Considering you started your career as a fashion model winning the Miss World 2000 title, would you like CAA to also promote you as a global fashion figure?
Chopra: All I can say is that the world is my oyster and I would like to explore everything that I can. Whatever opportunity that comes my way I will take it. So when opportunity knocks my door I will open it and then do the best I can. I don't have a specific game plan - the only thing I have is my commitment.
THR: Considering you are now at a point where you are being promoted internationally, what do you feel about the potential for Indian talent to crossover?
Chopra: I hate the word crossover, whether its for cinema or actors. There is a time and place for everything. At the moment, India is extremely fascinating for the world. Indian technicians are working in the west and we also have overseas technicians working in Indian films. I think the west has crossed over to India if you look at the Hollywood studios (such as Fox, Disney, Warner and others) who are producing Indian films. I think what's happening is an integration of Indian and western cinema. Despite the language barrier, Indian movies have exploded in overseas markets such as Germany and other countries. So in a way, Indian talent is also moving globally given we make so many movies. Many of the films I've worked on such as Don 2 and Krrish 2 (the upcoming sequel to the 2006 super hero caper), have had many foreign technicians. So this integration will only grow as it’s a great relationship.