Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Priyanka Chopra

There’s a stereotype in the west about us, and I want to be able to change that”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the September 6, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

She personifies sexy. And no it’s not her well-toned body, or those drop-dead gorgeous looks that make me want to say that. It’s her attitude, her confidence, and that husky voice, which make her effortlessly sensuous. While many actresses would be happy playing the hero’s sidekick, and filling in for the glamour quotient in a film, here’s an actress, who not only makes men skip a heartbeat, but also goes beyond that, and does performance-oriented roles. While she plays seductress in films like ‘Aitraaz’, then, she makes you fall in love with her child-like innocence while portraying Jhilmil, in ‘Barfi!’, and that’s an almost seamless transition. While I meet the lady for a little chat, she’s busy promoting her film ‘Zanjeer’, despite keeping under the weather. She looked as stunning as ever, even in a simple ‘choti’, black t-shirt and floral pants. She almost lights up the atmosphere when she’s around, and no, the little fever didn’t dip her enthusiasm and willingness to talk. Needless to say, she’s a true rockstar in every sense! So, here we Priyanka Chopra, in an engrossing conversation talking about ‘Zanjeer’, her singing career, her approach as an actor and why she picks the kind of films she picks:

So, what is it that draws you towards doing a film? Let’s say, ‘Zanjeer’ for instance.
I do films because of strange reasons. I do films very instinctively. When Apoorva (director) came to narrate the film to me, the narration was for an hour and a half, but we sat for 7-8 hours discussing the film. I really liked Apoorva’s perspective of it. We were thinking as to how can we make Mala’s character different and when he left, I thought I’d really enjoy working with him, which is why I said yes to the film.

But comparisons with the original would be inevitable, isn’t it? Because I’ve done three remakes, I can say that out of experience, that these films which I’ve been a part of, they’ve all been almost tributes by the directors to the older films. Because, it’s Apoorva’s favourite film, the remake is his perspective. While comparisons are inevitable, people should try and look at it as an individual film. It’s an entertaining action thriller. Also, Mr Bachchan is my favourite actor, and I’m glad that I could be a part of his film’s remakes. The earlier remakes have done well, and I’m hoping ‘Zanjeer’ does well too.

While Ramcharan makes his debut in Hindi cinema, he’s a superstar down south. How was the experience of working with him?
I didn’t know he’s such a huge superstar down south, when I signed the film. When we were shooting in Hyderabad, thousands and thousands of people would come and see him, the roads had to be blocked. He’s very sweet; Chiranjeevi sir, Ram’s mother, his wife, they’re all so sweet, they spoilt us a lot, and every day the food would come from their house only. And everyone knows I’m such a big foodie! He was really helpful because, we were also doing the Telegu version, and Telegu was difficult for me but Ram would really help me with the words and pronunciation. 

Your song ‘Exotic’ is garnering some great response…that must feel good?
I think what I’m finding amazing is, to give everyone in the west, a taste of how we are. I was very excited when we went to this one club in LA, and people were telling me, to show them how to do the ‘thumka’. There’s a stereotype in the west about us, and I want to be able to change that.

Hindi films, few films down south and now with your album you’ve also gone international. Do you treat every medium differently, or it’s all the same for you?
In the last few months, I have done Bollywood, Tollywood, and got a little bit of an international feeling with my album too, but for me it’s all the same. I’m an actor, give me any film, I’ll do it if I like it, irrespective of the medium. My work conducts where I should go. No work is small for me, whether it’s two scenes, or the whole film. Work is work, and I worship it. I don’t have a perspective, that this is big or this is small. I don’t have any priorities. Nor am I looking to do some big crossover film, but I like expanding myself, and being a creative person and an artist, wherever I can show my creativity, in different ways, I’ve tried and done that. Though, as a musician, it’s just been a year, so mistakes may happen, but hopefully, with some more time, I’ll be the musician that I want to be. But I take all the work coming my way seriously. For me, work is ‘Lakshmi’, work is my worship, and I never take my work for granted.

But what took so much time to kick-start your singing career. You’ve had singing offers before as well…
Offers were always coming, but I was shy. I sang for my first film, which was a Tamil film and when I heard myself sing in that film, I decided I’d never sing again. My father used to always push me to sing, because he knew I sang well. Then for ‘Bluffmaster’, I sang for Vishal -Shekhar, but when it was about to release, I asked them not to release the song. They still have that song. Then, when I got this offer from Universal, my dad told me, it’s high time you do it. Actually, in the beginning of my career, I didn’t really know much of acting, I’ve learnt everything on the go, so at that point of time, it was important for me to pay attention to my acting career than singing. I had to learn and know what acting was, and how one goes about it. It took me a few years to actually get the hang of the whole process. You know when you’ve gone to film school, or been an industry kid, you are familiar to these things. But in my case, when I came into the industry, there was nobody to teach me or guide me, I had to learn everything on my own. Then I reached a point when this offer came in, and by then I was very comfortable in films, and Dad really wanted me to do it, so I said yes.

So, you’re still more of an actor than a singer?
I’m very new as a singer, but now acting seems like it’s in my blood, I’m doing it since I was seventeen. As a composer, I’m a year old, so I still need to grow on that front. So, as of now, yes, I’m more of an actor.

Is there always an aim of doing something different with every film and every character?I don’t know if I think like that, I just do what I feel. I’m a very different or weird kind of a person. I want to do things that are the most difficult. My mom also keeps telling me why do you work so hard, and do all the difficult things? But, what excites me is, to try and do things which people don’t expect people to do. It would be very easy for me to be in the safe box, and do things that a heroine is expected to do. But I think it’s more fun when you push the limits, and surprise people with your work. Which is why, on one hand where I’ve done commercial films like ‘Zanjeer’, ‘Don’, ‘Krrish’, ‘Agneepath’; on the other hand, I also pick up ‘Barfi!’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’, ‘What’s Your Rashee’, ‘Mary Kom’. I like keeping a balance between different kind of things. So, yes it comes naturally that I don’t want to ever repeat myself in any film, and that’s my biggest challenge, to myself, because I keep competing with my own self. Having said that, every script can’t be different. And every script doesn’t even give you the opportunity to do something different. But from my end, whatever I can, I do. I don’t make films for myself, or I don’t have a production house or some relative making a film for me. But I think I’m lucky that I have filmmakers coming to me, who’ve written roles keeping me in mind.

What sort of homework do you have to do to get into a character even now?
You have to prepare for everything, because I never go to any film being Priyanka. For me, every character is different. Like, the preparation for ‘Zanjeer’ was to keep a very bubbly personality, because she’s a Bollywood fan, and she thinks she knows everything about India, just because she’s seen Hindi films, which is so stupid, so I had to give that air-head type vibe to my character.

There are actors who’re always trying to make or break some image. Does this whole ‘image’ thing ever bother you?
There’s no image that I have, this is me. I never do any work for my fans, I do the kind of work I want to do, and if people like what I’m doing then they become my fans. I have never done any kind of work, for some image. My image is me. I’m very black and white. I believe in being honest, but I also think that it’s not necessary for the world to know everything about me. But then, I don’t even play hide and seek. I’m very private, which I think is my right. But I don’t believe in having any image.

You steer clear on commenting on any controversy…
I don’t feel the need to clarify a controversy. I’m very private as a person, and I really believe that by giving statements to controversies, I’m giving importance to them, because then people will write two more articles about that, and then someone else will react, so it’s pointless. If it’s something that I really feel the need to talk about, I will. Usually, these controversies are about very trivial things and I get very hurt by them, because I’m a very family girl, and it affects my family. Which is why, for me, I rather just keep quite. I just go into my shell.

I believe, you’re slightly emotional, that’s a Cancerian trait, so when you do grey characters in films like ‘Aitraaz’ or ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’, do they somewhere emotionally drain you, or stay with you?
Not slightly, I’m extremely emotional. But no, no character has really drained me emotionally, or stayed with me. The only time that happened to me was in ‘Aitraaz’. I was so new and involved in the character that I used to talk like that at home. I’ve realised over time, that I’ve tried to be a method actor but that hasn’t worked for me. I am just in my character between action and cut, because otherwise, I get bored. I can’t do it. Different actors work differently. I don’t know if my way is right or wrong, but this works for me. I do a lot of research. I do a lot of preparation, before the film begins. But then when I start a film, whatever comes naturally, I do that. 

There’s also ‘Krrish 3’. How has your role shaped up in the film?
I play a journalist in ‘Krrish 3’, and I have a new-found respect for journalists after doing the film. I had to do a scene without tele-prompters, and had two paragraphs of dialogues. I usually don’t forget my lines, but since it was more of a live-action, I forgot my lines. I wonder how these TV journalists do it. ‘Krrish 3’ is a film, where after a long time, I’m just going to look pretty, that’s it. When you have a superhero like Krrish, what’s the need to do stunts?

Tell us about ‘Mary Kom’.
‘Mary Kom’ definitely is going to be one of the hardest films I’ve done. When people usually do a biopic, the subject is either very senior, or has passed away. But here, Mary is 32 years old, she’s still a sportsperson and a national icon. So, it’s a very difficult film. People don’t really know her as a person, and I want people to see her personality in the film. You’ll never imagine that a tough boxer girl, discusses nail paints, saris, and all of that. So for me, to portray that whole personality is interesting. Also, to learn a whole new sport, and build my body like her, that’s a tough job. And I never liked sports even when in school, so yes, it’s one of my toughest roles.

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