Priyanka Chopra says films didn’t feel like her reality when she began: ‘At 17 or 18, I was shaking as I walked on a set with Sunny Deol’
“I come from a small-town in Bareilly and my parents were doctors. We watched movies but I didn’t think I could ever be in them.”
Indian actress and model Priyanka Chopra (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)
Actor, producer and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra Jonas says she has a bigger dream every day, refusing to be daunted as she climbs the ladder of success, step by step. Priyanka, who grew up in the Uttar Pradesh town of Bareilly and has made a global name for herself, said her quest for excellence began when she won the Miss World title at the age of 18.
“It has to be a bigger dream every day. And you should not be overwhelmed as then it can be daunting. It should be like, when you climb a ladder, you have to step on each rung, you can’t go from bottom to the top,” the 40-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.
The actor, who lives in Los Angeles and was in India this week for the first time since the pandemic, said establishing herself as a global star was not one of her childhood dreams. Fame just happened.
She joined the Hindi film industry after her Miss World win. She started her acting career with the 2002 Tamil film Thamizhan and made her Bollywood debut the following year with the Sunny Deol-led spy thriller The Hero. “I was 17 (or) 18-year-old when I did my first movie. And when I walked on the set with Sunny Deol I was shaking and I was like, I have seen this person in movies since I was growing up. It wasn’t my reality,” she said.
“I come from a small town in Bareilly and my parents were doctors. We watched movies but I didn’t think I could ever be in them. But since my life went in that direction after I won a pageant… I was so young I didn’t know what was thrust upon me,” the actor, who is married to American singer Nick Jonas, added.
Hollywood beckoned after a series of acclaimed performances in Hindi cinema — Aitraaz, Fashion, Barfi, Mary Kom, Kaminey, 7 Khoon Maaf, and Bajirao Mastani. After moving to the US, she released several singles, including “In My City” and “Exotic” and appeared in the popular TV show Quantico. She also acted in films, including Baywatch, A Kid like Jake, Isn’t It Romantic and The Matrix Resurrections.
She is now set for her first Hollywood film as a lead – Love Again is scheduled to release in May 2023. “All I did was try to be excellent every day. And I learnt and sat down and saw how it worked. I listened to my co-actors. My acting school was my job and that’s what I am doing now… Every step I take is an evolution. I am seeking to be better than I was yesterday.” Priyanka said making space for herself in the American film industry was not a cakewalk and she had to approach things like a newcomer.
“I have started with smaller roles but it takes smaller roles to get to the big ones. And I am ok with that. Everybody thinks it is so easy and I just went there and it was done.
“I had to be very humble. I had to walk in and introduce myself, take my showreel and show them the work that I have done in Bollywood. I have worked with acting coaches, did auditions, got rejected multiple times. But still I didn’t stop… I am not ashamed of that I am very proud of it actually,” she said.
While she established herself in Hollywood, Priyanka opened an Indian fine-dining restaurant Sona in New York, launched her production banner Purple Pebble Pictures and started her own haircare brand Anomaly.
The actor last week introduced Anomaly in India with beauty e-commerce platform Nykaa. It’s not necessary for artists to branch out in other businesses, she said. “An actor’s job is acting and they should act. But I want to do multi-faceted things and that is not (something) that should be thrust upon everyone. That is my individual choice. As long as I can do everything well together including acting, it is fine.” Describing Anomaly as an extension of her personality, the actor said the product comes from a particularly Indian ethos.
“We didn’t grow up with conditioning or blow dryers etc. We grew up with coconut oil, champi and that’s the ethos of Anomaly,” she said.
The name of the range resonates with her experiences in life and she said she has designed the products for those who are a “deviation from the normal”.
“When I entered the industry, I was not conventional and beautiful. I was called dusky, different. I am a deviation from normal. All of us are anomalies, we all have our own needs, dreams, desires.” Priyanka’s next Hindi film will be Farhan Akhtar-directed Jee Le Zaraa. The movie, set to get into production next year, also features Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt.