CAA Signs Its First Bollywood Star

Priyanka Chopra - portrait
UTV Motion Pictures

Priyanka Chopra, one of India's leading actresses, is also an aspiring singer set to release her debut international album on Universal Music Group/Interscope and Desi Hits! Inc.

NEW DELHI — A former Miss World and one of Bollywood's leading actresses, Priyanka Chopra has been signed to CAA. Chopra, 29, is the first mainstream Bollywood star to be signed by the agency, whose Indian talent roster also includes Golden Globe-nominated director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth).

The actress, who starred in the 2012 hit Agneepath, is an aspiring singer as well. She was recently signed to Universal Music Group and Desi Hits! Inc. (an entertainment entity connecting international and Indian artists), where her manager is Troy Carter (also Lady Gaga's manager), CEO of Atom Music. Co-founded by L.A.-based Anjula Acharia-Bath, Desi Hits! played an instrumental role in Chopra's CAA signing.

"I have had a long-standing relationship with David Taghioff at CAA because he has been working on India-USA cross-border deals for many years and we have been connected through this for some time," Acharia-Bath tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I approached David and CAA with Priyanka's manager, Troy Carter, and my partner on this, signing [Interscope Records chairman] Jimmy Iovine to assemble an 'A team' that would both understand the enormity of the industry she is coming from and how best to navigate her through the immense opportunities that lie ahead.” 

"This is a great follow-up [after the Universal Music Group/Desi Hits! signing], 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," Chopra tells THR. "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."

After an early modeling career and winning the 2000 Miss World title, Chopra debuted in Bollywood with 2003's The Hero: Love Story of a Spy. The actress followed that in 2004 with her breakout role in suspense drama Aitraaz for which she received the Filmfare best villain award. In 2008, Chopra's turn as a troubled model in Fashion won her the Indian government's National Award for best actress. Last year, she found success with a critically acclaimed performance in 7 Khoon Maaf (Susanna's Seven Husbands), playing a femme fatale, from youth to old age. The project was co-written by Hollywood screenwriter Matthew Robbins (The Sugarland Express).

Alhough there are wider international opportunities for Chopra to explore, obvious challenges also remain, as Acharia-Bath explains. "It is no secret that business is handled differently in India and there is often a disconnect given talent in India handles much of their own business and rely less on agents and management to navigate opportunities for them," she says. "This is in stark contrast to how things are handled in the USA. Also, stylistically, Bollywood is a very different form of cinema so finding talent that can cross over is challenging as there are cultural sensibilities that are very different.”

But Chopra's background could give her a different positioning since “she began her career on an international platform [as Miss World] and moved into Bollywood almost as an outsider but managed to rise to the top," adds Acharia-Bath. "She is unique because as much as she is Indian, she has an incredibly international focus and understands the protocols and approach to the entertainment business globally.”

The profile of Indian actors gradually is increasing internationally, with talent agencies such as ICM repping Anil Kapoor (Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol) and Brillstein Entertainment Partners repping Irrfan Khan (this summer's The Amazing Spider-Man).