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A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Between movie sets and hotel rooms, Chopra admits she doesn’t get out much. “I have [filled] seven passports,” says the actress and singer, fresh off a flight from Mumbai. “I’ve been to almost every place in the world. But I’ve never really seen them.”
This year, the Bollywood beauty embarks on another great unknown: recording her first album. Chopra, 31, quit training as a classical singer half a lifetime ago to act in Hindi films. For 10-plus years, she’s nabbed roles in a string of hits, including the rom-com Barfi! (one of 2012’s top moneymakers in India) and the upcoming gangster flick Gunday.
But Chopra, who has 5.3 million Twitter followers, is taking “baby steps” toward her music career. To follow a pair of internationally known singles (“In My City” with will.i.am; “Exotic” with Pitbull), the former Miss World offered a snippet of her first solo track, an EDM version of Bonnie Raitt‘s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” on Jan. 20 (the single is due out in March). “There’s angst and pain and love,” she says of the unlikely cover. “And music is my solution when I feel like that. Really loud music.”
Going pop seems like a no-brainer, but Chopra cautions, “It’s a journey. … It’s new for me, but not as new as it is for the audience who knows me and is listening to me [sing] for the first time.”
Ahead of her album release later this year, Chopra tells THR why she prefers dance music over her classical training, what she thinks of her Miss World title today and how she manages the film-to-music transition, both around the world and back home.
How do you separate singing from acting?
You don’t. The way I see it, I don’t separate them at all. I’m creative as an actor as I’m creative as a musician. One I’ve done for a long time, and I know like the back of my hand; the other one I’m starting to learn right now. When I was in school, I trained in Western classical music and I was always singing in school, but I stopped doing that when I started acting. I never went to acting school; my career has been my acting school. I had to stumble, fall, learn everything myself while on set, make my mistakes. And I’m proud of where I am because I’ve done it on my own.
I’m definitely a better actress, so far. Making my music, I’m just taking baby steps in that direction. I am an actress; I hope in a few years I can turn into the musician I really want to be.
Your album is coming later this year. What about Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” as an EDM cover?
It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. This one is for the actor in me. It’s a classic, a song that I love, so this is sort of my ode to it. You’ve never heard that song in a dance-club space. When I heard it, I was like, “That’s mine.” It’s such a beautiful song and it says so much; there’s angst and pain and love. And music is my solution to when I feel like that. Really loud music.
How did your childhood — moving around India and traveling to the U.S. — shape your songwriting?
You could label me a global citizen. Yes, of course, I’m an Indian by birth, but I think nationality doesn’t matter anymore, as long as you’re good at what you do. I just want to be very good at what I do, and I hope to entertain people. And I feel like, because I grew up in so many different cities across the world, it has given me the ability to adjust no matter where I go, under any circumstances or any culture.
How did being crowned Miss World in 2000 affect your worldview?
It has changed my worldview completely, because that was my first exposure to fame. I started when I was 17, and being Miss World was a huge milestone. I am the youngest Miss World so far, so when people introduce me as that, it’s like my title, one I take tremendous pride in. It kickstarted me in the field of show business.
Are there no borders anymore when it comes to pop music?
I think people have come to an acceptance of the fact that there don’t need to be borders anymore. Music is one thing that has no barriers, no borders at all, [Psy’s] “Gangnam Style” being one of the biggest examples of that. I mean, there were two words in English in that song. It was a Korean song, and No. 1 on Billboard forever … The world’s become such a small place.
How difficult was it to be accepted as a singer in a different country, much less at home?
It took a little time. There were hiccups, and there still will be. It’s just been a couple of months for me, but I think people have now accepted it back home, that yes, I do sing and I am doing an English album. “Exotic” went triple-platinum in India in a month, so there’s a huge response to the fact that I’m doing this. But there’s still miles to go before I sleep.
No matter who you are or where you come from, when you go to a nightclub and you’re listening to music, all you want to do is dance. And it doesn’t matter what language; music is a very universal language. And that’s the audience I want to cater to.
How do you tolerate so much travel?
You should see my passport — I have [filled] seven passports. I’ve been to almost every place in the world. But I’ve never really seen them. I go from set to my hotel most of the time. I go to the most exquisite, exotic places in the world, but I’ve never discovered them because I work so much. But I do want to spend the rest of my life sort of exploring places, which I’ve never had an opportunity to do. I never jetlag, I think my body’s immune to it. My body’s like, “Whatever. Take me wherever. I’ll adjust.”
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