My job is more than just a profession for me - Priyanka Chopra | Exclusive Interview

She is steadily taking over the world, one successful project at a time. From earning the biggest opening in the U.S with Quantico to bagging prestigious awards and wowing the audience with her red carpet appearance at the Academy Awards, Priyanka Chopra is fast becoming the darling of Hollywood. The actress, whose Jai Gangaajal hits the screens today and will once again be seen as Alex Parrish in the second season of Quantico premiering this Sunday, is one busy girl! She successfully juggles between being a badass FBI recruit in America and portraying a female cop in the hinterland of India.

Her global domination continues, as she is all set to play the lead role, that of a baddie, in Baywatch - the film. Right after her glamorous appearance at the Oscars 2016, where as a presenter, she gave away the Best Editing award along with America actor Live Schreiber, the actress took off to Miami for her film shoot. With Indian and International producers running around for her dates, and the who's who of Hollywood going gaga over her talent, Chopra has now become the new face of Indian cinema on the international shores! But even today, she is still the hard working Indian at heart, whose smile is enough to brighten even the dullest of rooms. Excerpts from a delightful conversation with our very own desi girl:

Bajirao Mastani, Jai Gangaajal and Quantico; you were simultaneously working on three projects that come from completely different genres. As an actor, how difficult was this phase?
Difficult? Not really. Fortunately, I have always done multiple projects together. My process as an actor is completely different. Nobody taught me acting. I learnt things on my own and when I started off, I looked up to my directors, co-actors as teachers. For all my films, I do a lot of homework before the project takes off. I create a personality around the character. I don't believe in working on scenes or lines. My main priority is to understand the character, in and out. What does she do, where did she study, what are her hobbies, favourite food items; I try to understand the person that my character is and believe in creating her from scratch. Once I know the person well, almost like a best friend, then I am confident enough to enact any scene in her periphery. That's exactly why I can easily switch in and out of multiple roles at the same time.

But for Bajirao Mastani and Quantico, you were working on two dialects that were poles apart. Was that tough?
Oh yes! American and Marathi. That was very difficult. At least, I am familiar with Marathi, because I live in Mumbai. So, there was a dialect coach who helped me and Ranveer during Bajirao Mastani. She was a Maharashtrian Bhramin girl, who would listen to our dialogues on the set. In case there was any mistake, she would correct us and then, we would do a retake. For such projects, where my dialect needs to be in a particular way, I always have a coach. I had one on the sets of Quantico as well. If my American accent goes a little off, she makes me do the retake. It's like a tool to get your job right!

What's the best compliment that you have received for your performance in Quantico?
There are so many of them. My fans have always been generous with their compliments and have stood by me, through thick and thin. But, my most favourite has to be seeing little girls dressing up as Alex Parrish on Halloween last year. They tweeted these pictures, where they had tied up their long, blonde hair and wore black wigs. It is such a big compliment for me to be universally known as an actor, and not for the colour of my skin. Actors are always put into categories. I don't want to be one of them. I want to be noticed for my merit, more than what I look like, where I come from or how I speak. Tomorrow, if I am approached for something that requires me to play a Spanish girl, then I want to learn the language, dress like a Spanish girl and convince people ki main Puerto Rico se hoon. That's my job as an actor - to become other people!

How has it been interacting with the American audience and media?
It's been so overwhelming! Both the audience and media in America have been very warm and welcoming. In fact, forget winning, just getting nominated for the People's choice award was the biggest thing in the my first year as an actor there. Everyone has been very kind and sweet. Even the security at international airports see me and go, "Who's the terrorist?" I don't even know (laughs). Also, it's fun to introduce people to Indian cinema and talk about it on shows. For them, Indian cinema is all about running around trees. But, I explain that our music is a part of our culture. We tell stories through music. That's when they get fascinated about the whole thing. It's like a cultural programme for me. 

You have always been someone who has tried new things and emerged victorious. Be it winning Miss World, National Award for Fashion, trying your hand at singing and dubbing, and now, winning the People's choice award for Quantico. How do you look at all this?
That's the beauty of my job. You can't control creativity, it will come out and shine in some way or the other. You are a writer, but perhaps, you can even paint tomorrow (I tell the actress that I have been multitasking in different roles for years and she gives me a high-five). Creativity is not restricted to a particular medium. If you are a creative person, it can be in any form. I have written for so many magazines and newspapers, right from Elle to Hindustan Times. I am a writer and I enjoy the process. That's because I am a girl who was raised with a voice, with parents who taught me to be a thinking person. I like taking out my creativity in different ways.

And now, you are also turning producer. Tell us something about your new role.
Oh yes! My production company is called Purple Pebble Pictures and our aim is to work with new talent. It's not easy for talented people to get a foothold without knowing someone or having a godfather. I have been through that struggle and hence, I want be a producer who gives new talent a chance. I also want to promote regional cinema and three projects - one each in Punjabi, Marathi and Bhojpuri are in the pipeline. The Marathi project is called Ventilator, directed by Rajesh Mapuskar and it went on the floors in February.

Many believed that your portrayal of Kashibai resulted in one of your best performances till date. What do you think?
Well, that the audience can tell you better (laughs). But personally, I knew from the beginning that Kashibai's character will resonate. She was never at fault and even history ignored her. The entire focus has always been on Bajirao and Mastani, so no one remembered Kashibai's journey. Credits to Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) sir for bringing her to life and showcasing her side of the story so well. I was one of the first actors to be cast for the film and he told me, "I need to know who my Kashi is. Only then, I can get my Bajirao and Mastani." 

Is that why you believed that a character like Kashibai can never be written again?
Absolutely! She had a different voice, and she stood for herself. Kashibai said a lot, without even talking that much and that too, in an era that dates back to the 19th century. If I was in her place, I would have just asked my husband to get out and leave me alone. But, Kashibai stood like a pillar of strength with Bajirao, through his good and bad times.

Do you agree share the same sentiment as Kashibai did in the film, that of letting a man go? 
Pyaar ho jaata hain. You can't tie someone up and never let them go. Even if Kashibai did that, Bajirao's heart would still be with Mastani. Love cannot be controlled, and that's why Kashibai asks Radha Maa to free Mastani. Personally, I am someone who is of the belief that you have to let someone go, if they are not wholeheartedly involved in a relationship. Even today, societal pressure has forced several women to continue a relationship, despite their ordeal. Just because, haw! Duniya kya bolegi. Par, galat toh ho raha hain na. It is better to live by your self respect and allow someone to go. You don't need someone to complete you. Also, I hate the double standards that the society has for women. 

Actors are usually skeptical about opting for a supporting role, especially at the peak of their career.
But, I have always believed that there is no role that is big or small. There are only small actors, and I am not one of them. There are many films where I have hardly had any screen space. Look at Kaminey, I had just eight scenes. Par main apni kaabiliyat mein bahut believe karti hoon. I do all my work with honesty. My job is more than just a profession to me. There is a strange spiritual connect between the moments when the director goes 'action' and 'cut'. That's how I treat my job!

In one of our earlier interactions, you had mentioned that Jai Gangaajal is a prime example of feminism.
I am a feminist and proud to be one. I strongly believe that feminism is not about hating, berating a man or making him feel smaller. Feminism stands for equality, where a man and woman can walk shoulder to shoulder. Why should any woman feel she can't do certain things, just because she is a woman? This is a global issue. Women have been globally treated like second class citizens since years. For example, the issue of renumeration disparity is a global problem. Several female actors in Hollywood have voiced their opinion on it. As for Jai Gangaajal, I do believe that the film is a prime example of feminism. A uniform has set values and respect. It has nothing to do with being a man or a woman.

As an independent woman who strongly believes in Feminism, what is your solution to challenging this disparity?
Nobody will fight our battle. We have to do it ourselves.We can do it only by being really good at our respective jobs, so that we can't be denied anything. Also, just the way you shouldn't be denied something because you are a woman, there should not be an exception either. If you are good at anything that you do, be it as a doctor, engineer, CEO of a company or an actor, no one has the right to take away what you deserve. 

So, do you see things changing around you?
Personally, I feel that we have just started and the battle ahead is a long one. But, I do see big changes across the globe, which is a very good thing. The CEO of Pepsi is a woman. Our nation was the first to have a female Prime Minister. So, women have always taken important steps in history to bring about a change. Films like Jai Gangaajal, Fashion, Queen, where only a woman's face draws the audience, are also important. It is a big step! And these small steps are crucial. Duniya ek din mein thodi hi badlegi.

You are one of the few female actors who stays away from the race to outdo one another.
But, I don't have the time. I am constantly working on new things, and trying to outdo myself. My only priority is to better myself. My career has never been dependent on someone else's failure. I am not a competitive person. I compete only with myself. I like being collaborative - the coming together of great minds, creating stories and good cinema is what excites me. 

So, apart from Quantico and Baywatch, what else is keeping you busy?
I have got my hands full already (laughs). It's been a super busy start to 2016 already, with Quantico season 2, Oscars. I have the option of choosing a bunch of films between India and America. Honestly, it feels like I should do them all, because I am a very greedy actor. But, my team believes that I don't have a clone, and hence, I need to make a choice (laughs). So, I am still in the process of finalising some more projects after I finish the commitments that are currently on priority.

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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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