Sunday, May 28, 2023

Cover Story: Priyanka Chopra Jonas dominates

CelebritiesCover Story: Priyanka Chopra Jonas dominates

It’s a hot summer afternoon in Mumbai and it’s been a long day of press for Priyanka Chopra Jonas. The actress, along with her musician husband Nick Jonas and daughter Malti Mary Chopra Jonas, was welcomed in India with much fanfare. “It’s so weird when someone says, ‘Welcome home,'” when I ask him what it’s like to be back in the city. The actress is bubbly as ever, eager to talk about whatever she is up to. And she’s done a lot. She appeared in the Oscar-nominated The White Tiger and the Keanu Reeves-led The Matrix: Resurrection the same year; He wrote a voluminous memoir; opened a restaurant in New York; welcomed their first child through surrogacy. And now, she headlines a big budget spy thriller series, Citadel. The Russo Brothers-backed show will see her performing awe-inspiring stunts in high-octane action sequences alongside Richard Madden. The Hollywood production has international installments including an Indian version. In a microcosm it is telling of Priyanka’s global stardom. Yes, he is an Indian. But he is not the only token Indian cast member. He has made sure of that. And when Desi Girl talks about it, eyes gleaming with conviction, it’s impossible to look away.

What went into creating that sizzling chemistry with Richard Madden in The Citadel?

It’s a good thing Richard and I are together in the first place. He really went a long way. We both care a lot about the show, so we both came to the shoot with a lot of preparation. I am a preparation oriented girl. I do a lot of homework before appearing on the show. So I’ll ask a million questions. I really want to know about my character. I think about what I’m doing, and I’m very intentional about it. When we were doing this table reading and I realized that he is also an actor who has prepared and taken care of himself, it clicked. He didn’t come out and just wrote his lines. That’s when I came to know that we can take care of each other. We had each other’s backs. This helped a lot.

Priyanka Chopra

There is a tinge of action in the show. What goes into all those stunts?

I am one of those who have been doing action for a very long time. I have done various feature films and TV shows. That’s why I trust my body. This is something I know how to do now. But I wanted to elevate what I do so that it’s different from what people have seen me do. And working with the Russo Brothers gave me that opportunity because they’re incredible at it. He’s obviously done Marvel movies like Extraction and The Gray Man, where he does such slick, cool action sequences. So I really depended on him for the stunts.

Speaking of the Russo Brothers, is there a superhero you want to play?

I don’t know I guess just like we have Bollywood blockbusters, Americans have superheroes. We have masala films, their are superhero films. So definitely, now that I’m working in Hollywood, I want to be a part of the film industry. It would be nice if I get a chance to do that. But I also have the opportunity to create my own multiverse with Citadel, which is going to be really international and diverse because we’re going to be visiting a lot of different countries with it. We have Indian installment and Italian installment. And we have the potential to do much, much more. All those stories are going to be connected. It has increased. I am not a person who covets much. I don’t think I want that specific character. I’m not a woodcutter. I look for opportunities and find what I find. I’ll make the most of it.

Priyanka Chopra

Since you stepped into Hollywood, how diverse has the industry become?

They need to do a lot more. If you think about leading ladies, how many Indian leading roles have you seen? There are very few that we have seen coming to Hollywood. In the past five years, there has been a great demand for actors who say, “I don’t want to be the sidekick anymore.” i know i did I didn’t want to be one of those checks in the box that says we’ve diversified our cast—that we have one Indian, one Asian, and so on. I didn’t want that. And I know many of my colleagues don’t want to do that. So I’ve had a number of meetings where I’ve told the producers outright, “Don’t cast me in stereotypical parts.” I don’t want to do this. I’m going to work hard for you because I know my job. I will come on set and do 10 per cent more or maybe even 20 per cent more than what you have asked for. I’ll be better than anyone you throw at me because I’m not afraid to work hard. It needs to sell itself. And I hope that maybe seeing me and other female South Asian talent at the forefront, for example, Simone Ashley in Bridgerton, Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project and everything she’s doing, or Deepika Padukone, makes us want to do more. By watching, Hollywood will get used to the fact that this is normal. It is not special or rare. I hope that the next generation of actresses will inherit the same from my generation of actresses.

What are some of the joys and challenges of representing India at the global level?

I represented India for the first time when I was 17, when I became Miss World. It was a terrible feeling at the time, because what? I am representing a country of one billion people. He is mad! At that time I could not understand the seriousness of the situation. But as my career slowly progressed, I realized that what I started with had grown much bigger than me. It’s not just “Priyanka Chopra is an actress who does films”, it’s grown up. It’s not all on me. It has made me cautious about the choices I make. I have made deliberate choices and strategies. Like the pre-Oscars, the South Asian Excellence Party was a clever ploy to show Hollywood that we have power in numbers. We are not just two or three people you see on posters. We are filmmakers and writers. We come from one of the biggest film industries in the world and we have the ability to go toe to toe with any international filmmaker. So I’m trying to make sure that I take that responsibility seriously. But at the same time, I am still an actress trying to make a career out of myself.

Priyanka Chopra

Between something like Citadel and Love Again, what’s your process for embodying these wildly different characters?

I want different roles and I have always asked for different roles. If you look at my filmography – I did an objection, then I did a fashion and a barfi! I always look for these characters because I don’t want to play myself. I want to be an actor who is told “Oh my God! You have a wild filmography”. I had an amazing opportunity to do this in India. I haven’t done it in Hollywood yet and it’s something I want to do in the next decade of my life. It is looking for a prime variety. I am glad you brought up Love Again because it is in a completely different direction than Gaadh. Meera, my character, is different from Nadia. That was intentional. It gives me the range and the ability to make myself nervous and excited and build on these interesting characters.

If you could pass a note to your past self, what would it be?

I would say calm down. it’s not that bad. I used to take small things very seriously. I’m a Cancer and I’m sensitive so I’ll go into my shell. I used to get hurt emotionally. It made it difficult for me to get up and go to work because I felt such a burden after any failure or any missed opportunity. Especially, in my early 20s when I was first starting out in the film industry. I didn’t know anyone. I was a scared girl who came in and worked with some of the biggest stars that I grew up watching on TV. But I think I’ll pass a note to that girl that you’ll be fine. Smile a little more and enjoy the process.

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