Q&A: Priyanka Chopra


Beauty queens morphing into actresses in Bollywood is hardly a new trend, but when Miss World 2000 Priyanka Chopra pulled off the transformation, she did it with unique style. And when she bagged the best actress trophy at the last Filmfare Awards for her turn as a model in director Madhur Bhandarkar's "Fashion," the 26-year-old proved how far she's come since her 2002 film debut. While she had her share of letdowns in 2008 -- "Love Story 2050" and "Drona" disappointed at the boxoffice -- Chopra also hit a high with "Fashion" and "Dostana" (Friendship). Her next two films are directed by two of India's most acclaimed directors. Vishal Bhardwaj cast Chopra in "Kaminey" (Treacherous), and Ashutosh Gowariker, helmer of 2002 foreign language Oscar nominee "Lagaan," tapped her for the romantic comedy "What's Your Rashi?" Before flying off to attend the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong on Monday night, where she received the Nielsen Box Office Award, she took time out to speak with THR India
correspondent Nyay Bhushan.

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The Hollywood Reporter: How did you feel when you were told about the Nielsen Award?

Priyanka Chopra: I was very surprised and excited at the same time. It's really a great honor to receive this award. At the same time, it also reflects how the Indian film industry is getting more global acceptance and recognition by the day.

THR: How do you see Bollywood today in terms of its international appeal?

Chopra: In my brief career, I have personally seen a huge change, especially with the kinds of films that are being made today. We are making much more sensible films, and there is a whole new generation of directors willing to push the envelope. Internationally, the biggest trend is how audiences are expanding beyond traditional markets, which, I think, is also influencing the content of our films. And then you have the Hollywood studios investing in India and Indian entertainment companies going global. I don't think there's been a time like this ever before for our industry.

THR: Bollywood often has been accused of offering limited options for actresses in the kinds of characters they can portray. Has that been an obstacle for you?

Chopra: I think the trend has finally changed for the better in that films today are more story-centric than actor-centric. In fact, traditionally, our films have been more male-centric, which probably explains why female roles were stereotypical. Thankfully, films today are more about the essence of the characters, especially in the new wave of indie films like "Dev D" or "A Wednesday" and so on. I have been lucky in doing strong female roles that have been satisfying, be it in whatever language (Chopra's 2002 film debut "Thamizhan" was filmed in the South Indian Tamil language). In terms of upcoming roles, I am portraying 12 different characters in "What's Your Rashi?" probably a first for a Bollywood actress, and that is really something I am looking forward to.

THR: How challenging was your role in "Fashion," which mirrors your real-life experiences as a model?

Chopra: When I was offered the part, I was quite nervous and skeptical given how close it was to real life. But it was worth the challenge because it's a film driven by three strong female characters and it's about the fashion business, which I have experienced first-hand.

THR: After "Slumdog Millionaire," the global spotlight is on Indian talent as never before. What did you think of "Slumdog" and what is your game plan as far as international projects?

Chopra: I really liked "Slumdog Millionaire" as a film. I also know there was a lot of controversy about how it portrayed India and, while I did have some reservations about that, I still think that in terms of technique and style, the film was path-breaking. It not only put the spotlight on Indian acting talent but also on technicians (like Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty), which was fantastic. I think the film has finally broken whatever barriers existed between Hollywood and Bollywood. I think it is great to see Indian talent going global in whatever way, such as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in "Pink Panther 2." As for my game plan, I really don't have one because I guess these things are best left to chance. As they say: Man proposes, God disposes.

THR: One of your hidden talents is that of being a singer. Considering you work in Indian films that are full of songs, wouldn't it be an obvious extension for you to actually sing for your films?

Chopra: Singing is my passion and it's something I inherited from my father. Because it is so special to me, I am working on my craft and actually waiting to see which is the right project that comes along where I can show my talent. Trust me, singing is definitely part of my plan, and I hope one day it gets the right platform with the right film.