Priyanka Chopra Jonas: When I entered films, I was told ‘hero will decide who heroine will be’
Right from being told ‘female centric films’ are something an actor does when she wants to win awards at the end of her career, to male actors taking the calls on a film set, Priyanka Chopra Jonas feels Bollywood has come a long way since then.
She has always taken the road less travelled in a career spanning 17 years. From starring in a film that exposed the behind-the-scenes controversies of the fashion world (Fashion; 2008) to playing a character with grey shades in 7 Khoon Maaf (2011) or stepping into the shoes of boxer Mary Kom (2014) in her biopic, Priyanka Chopra Jonas has always earned applause for her acting chops.
Currently, Bollywood is focussing firmly on films with female protagonists, and Priyanka feels the industry has come a long way from the time she started off in films. “When I first started working, we were told, ‘Heroes will decide who the heroine is going to be.’ This was 2002 or 2003; it was on the beck and call of main actors. I’m sure it still happens with a lot of films, but what has changed is the audience, and the acceptance of watching films with content instead of the gender of the lead actor. That’s one big change we’ve seen,” says the 37-year-old, who was last seen in The Sky is Pink (2019).
Priyanka’s all set to star with Richard Madden in an international event series Citadel, developed by Russo Brothers, who are known for directing Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and End Game (2019).
She also adds that there were a lot of naysayers who dissuaded her from taking up roles that eventually turned out to be her career milestones. “When I did Fashion, everyone told me, ‘Women do female-oriented films — I hate that word — when they want to win awards at the end of their careers.’ And, when I did Aitraaz (2004), I was told, ‘People will consider me a ‘vamp’, and my ‘pure’ image will get tarnished.’ I didn’t know any better, so I ended up doing them. There was no one to teach me. Now, we’ve actors like Deepika (Padukone), Alia (Bhatt), Kangana (Ranaut), Vidya (Balan) come out there and say, ‘These are the stories we want to tell, and we will do it so well we will compel you to come in and watch them.’ When I started doing it, very few people were doing it.”
Not just acting, female actors are even producing films that narrate stories that they want to share. “Yes! You start producing films when you want to tell stories no one else is making,” Priyanka continues, “You think, ‘If you’re not going to give me the kind of films I want to do, I’ll just make it myself.’ In America, that’s what I’m doing. It’s a testament not just to the actor but also the audience who are becoming gender blind. My life’s dream is that we stop referring to films as ‘female centric’, actors as ‘female actors’, directors as ‘female directors’, or athletes as ‘female athletes’. It’s just athlete, director, actor!”
Married to singer Nick Jonas, one can’t miss how much the two adore each other as it’s evident from their regular social media posts. Does Nick watch her films? “He loved Mary Kom,” she smiles, “and started asking me boxing-related questions. He cried through The Sky Is Pink, and video called Shonali (Bose), the director.” She says, “These are the kind of films artistes look for. He was invested in that film because we met during the shoot of this film, started dating and got married. He was on the sets while we were filming it!”
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