Priyanka Chopra talks Baywatch, Quantico, and why she stopped endorsing fairness creams
Priyanka Chopra is back in India and is currently busy promoting her debut Hollywood flick Baywatch.
Just as she reached Mumbai, news of the actor doing the Kalpana Chawla biopic started to make the rounds. However, Priyanka — while revealing that she has finalised three films — chose not to confirm the details of any of these projects.
“My name gets attached to a lot of films. I can’t give a yes or no to this, until my dates are sorted. I have locked three scripts but I cannot announce anything until all the details are finalised. But whatever my next film will be — I promise you, it will be very exciting,” Priyanka told Firstpost on the sidelines of her Baywatch event on Wednesday evening, 27 April 2017.
If Priyanka does take up the Kalpana Chawla biopic, it will be her second — she'd previously played the role of Olympic boxer Mary Kom in 2014.
With her mentor Sanjay Leela Bhansali deep into the schedule of Padmavati, one thing fans wonder about is, will priyanka have a special appearance or role in this film too?
“Sanjay sir and I have talked about other films but there has not been any discussion on Padmavati," Priyanka said. "Now just because I am his favourite doesn’t mean that I will be part of his every film [laughs]! But I am lucky I got to see few glimpses of Padmavati. It’s a good movie!”
While Baywatch is set for a 2 June 2017 India release, the future of her the third season of her TV series Quantico seems uncertain. That has been stated as the reason for Priyanka's talks with several filmmakers and producers in India.
When asked about Quantico's renewal, however, the actress says, "What happens is that after every season, the channel goes back and they do a consensus to see which shows should come back for another season and which they are cancelling, what their budgets are. Right now, we are in that phase. Even after season 1, we didn't know if season 2 was coming till May last year. So now, we are still waiting to see if there will be a season 3 or not. Therefore, I am looking at some scripts and met many filmmakers here. But when I know what my schedule is, only then I can figure out when I can do my next film. I don’t know whether it will happen this year or next. At present I know that I have to go for Baywatch. I don’t know what I am doing post-June. But I definitely miss Hindi films, I missed Mumbai, this is my home, my industry. I have been meeting people every single day.”
When asked if she had to make a difficult choice between doing an Indian film and the third season of her show, the actress said, "I am in a contract with ABC that says I cannot just leave Quantico midway, especially if they want another season. So I think I'll have to choose that. However, I cannot announce any Hindi film project yet as a lot depends on whether the show will have a season 3 or not." So will she continue pursuing work in the West, even if Quantico is dropped? Priyanka said, "I never came here with a plan or an agenda to find work. Offers just came to me. I am an actress. I will go wherever my work takes me. It's not like I was trying my luck or anything. Hindi and English both are my first languages, I just want to do good work.”
On the reason behind taking up Baywatch, Priyanka said, “It was a conscious choice to do a big movie. People didn’t know me in America, but post-Quantico, films that came to me were very interesting obviously because of the show. You can’t just arrive there and say, ‘I want a film’. People have to come to you. After Quantico, I was offered some amazing films and I liked Baywatch the most. It was a big global movie and I was a huge fan of Baywatch when I was growing up. I have always chosen a different path and that’s what excites me. So after Alex Parrish I wanted America to introduce me as something completely different. Alex was a positive character and here playing a baddass was fun.” She added, “I have played villain in Hindi films like in Saat Khoon Maaf and Aitraaz, but I wanted my character in Baywatch, Victoria Leeds to be very different. We haven’t seen too many female villains. I had liked Kajol (in Gupt), she was amazing. I wanted Victoria to be feminine and also very evil. There is something scary about her.”
Priyanka also addressed male-female disparity in terms of roles and fees. She said, “Overall, around the world we live in a male-dominated society. You must have seen the women’s march in America recently. Women’s rights, fight for equality, feminism — it is all the same fight in the west. Even in films in the west, male stars are given that kind of reverence, which is fine. But now, in Bollywood, with Kangana’s film (Tanu Weds Manu) we have reached the Rs 100 crore mark. Earlier, women oriented films would not even get an opening. Fashion got that, Mary Kom was one of the highest opening films for a female actor. It is a nice time for actresses and going forward even our films will hit Rs 200-300 crore in collections. The audience should change their mind-set, they should watch good films without judging gender. We are making strides as women and the same goes for the audience. The same trend can be seen in Hollywood. There is fee disparity over there, too. Everywhere men get paid more and Jennifer Lawrence also spoke about pay disparity.”
Priyanka said she is hoping — in her own small way — to change the representation of Indian actors in international projects.
"It has been my constant endeavour from the time I started working in America that Indian talent or South Asian talent gets represented in global cinema," Priyanka told us. "We see very few actors and that too in small, miniscule roles in American films which is not right. I want to take up those kind of roles which is not written for Indian actors. The Baywatch role was initially written for a man who is a huge Hollywood star. Similarly, Alex Parrish was originally written for a Hollywood actress... But slowly, Indians from different parts of the world, like Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed are representing Indians and I hope Indian talent does a lot of work in the entertainment industry — just like how many years ago, Latin actors took over Hollywood. There was Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas — so why can’t Indians do that? Hence, I am trying to not do stereotypical roles. It is a fight and we have to stand up for that.”
Priyanka said that she also wants to break certain myths and stereotypes about India and our movies. “There are certain stereotypes in the west about India and our films internationally — like elephants walking on our streets, whether we know to speak English or that we break into songs and dances randomly. All this comes from lack of understanding. So when I walk on my set in America, I want them to know that I am an actor and I know my job and it was taught to me by the Hindi film industry. I try to explain to them that we sing and dance on every occasion, be it birthday parties, weddings, child birth, festivals...our stories in our films are told by music more than the scenes. I tell them that it is a cultural difference, that's it. Now people over there who know me have watched my movies like Bajirao Mastani, Barfi... It is so much fun for me to have that kind of cultural exchange.”
Akshay Kumar’s win at the 64th National Film Awards created quite a stir in the country. Many questioned the jury as they felt Akshay did not deserve the award for Rustom. But Priyanka, who co-starred with Akshay in many films in the initial years of her career, dodged the question and instead said, "Main toh America mein thi toh mujhe kuch nahi pata." (I was in America and I don’t know anything about the controversy). Her Marathi production Ventilator won three honours at the National Awards. Talking about it, she further added, "I only know that I have got three awards. [Laughs] Well, without being in the country I was honoured with three awards. But it was a very difficult film and I had to become a producer for that."
Recently Abhay Deol had spoken out against celebrities who endorse fairness creams. What are Priyanka's thoughts on the issue?
“I endorsed a fairness cream many years ago, for about 12 months, and then I realised I did not like how I felt. After that I never endorsed fairness creams,” said Priyanka.
There's been a lot of talk about Priyanka's steamy scenes in Quantico, and the actress is surprised that it caused a stir. “I wonder why it happened! Don’t people here watch Hindi films? The only difference in Quantico is that my boyfriend is white. I have not done anything more than what I have already done in Hindi films," she said. "It is a story, I am an actor. I have my limitations and they know it. My standards are the same for all films.”