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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Priyanka Chopra: The International Icon and Inspiration of Millions

Priyanka Chopra, an ordinary girl who was born and bred in Jamshedpur, is now recognised and loved not by just thousands, but millions across the globe.

From Bollywood actress to International star, PeeCee has faced plenty of trials and tribulations to reach such success. But her never-say-die spirit truly inspires many.

In fact, it is this attitude what compels me to admire and adore about the former Miss World.

The year 2019 is truly special as it marks 17 years of Priyanka’s journey through cinema since her debut with the Tamil film Thamizhan.

PC’s Journey to Stardom 

Priyanka made her Bollywood debut with Anil Sharma’s The Hero – Love Story of a Spy in 2003. But what was the true clincher, in her career, was Andaaz.

Playing the vivacious and fun-loving Jiya won the hearts of many critics, as well as audiences.

This led her to receive several awards at the Filmfare, Screen, IIFA and Zee Cine Awards. Post Andaaz, there were an array of hit (and underwhelming) films too.

My favourite and iconic performances of PeeCee are in the films Aitraaz, Fashion, What’s Your Raashee? 7 Khoon Maaf, Barfi and Bajirao Mastani.

A special mention goes to the film What’s Your Raashee?

This Ashutosh Gowariker film proved Chopra is the first actress in the history of Indian cinema to depict 12 characters in a movie, which is remarkable.

In general, all six of these characters hugely contrast to each other.

I find that Aitraaz, Fashion and 7 Khoon Maaf exude dark shades, but are yet formidable. Somewhere within these dark-shades, though, there is a vulnerability in each of her characters.

Playing the role of Kashibai – wife of Maratha Emperor Bajirao, this Bajirao Mastani character is perhaps the most courageous one yet.

Witnessing an individual’s spouse with their mistress/second-wife is the nightmare for any woman and to present these emotions on celluloid.

PeeCee who steals the show with her solid presence and emotions.

She rises above her pain and personal melancholy to fulfil her duties, not just as a wife but also as an Empress.

Formidable Attitude in Life: Receiving International Stardom

Priyanka, too, seems to be an individual who does not allow her professional life to be impacted by her personal life.

Just a few days into shooting for Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom, her father – Dr Ashok Chopra passed away.

In response to this, Priyanka stated:

“I started this film at the hardest point in my life, four days after my father passed away. All my grief, everything, I have shoved into this movie.

A part of my soul has gone into it.” Therefore, I feel that there is a glimpse of Priyanka in every character she undertakes.

She yet again creates history by becoming the first South-Asian to headline an American network drama series with Quantico, playing a non-stereotypical ‘Indian’ role with the name ‘Alex Parrish.’

Interestingly, her Baywatch role, Victoria Leeds, too is quite unconventional for a Desi character and too as an antagonist!

Overcoming All Cultural Barriers

Through her work on the international platform, it is quite clear that she has overcome all cultural barriers between the East and West.

But despite these efforts to omit segregation, there have been recent reports which claim that the superstar was rejected a film due to her skin colour.

In a previous media interview, she cited:

“It happened last year. “I was out for a movie, and somebody [from the studio] called one of my agents and said, ‘She’s the wrong—what word did they used?—physicality.’

So in my defence as an actor, I’m like, ‘Do I need to be skinnier? Do I need to get in shape? Do I need to have abs?’

Like, what does ‘wrong physicality’ mean?” Chopra pauses. “And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy [as called by her close friends], they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown.’ It affected me.”

I strongly appreciate the fact that she is so vocal about gender equality and feminism, not in a preachy way, but in a way which is actually relatable to the masses.

In addition to being a formidable and independent woman, Chopra’s philanthropic work is also exceptional.

She has worked with UNICEF for the last ten years and was appointed as the national and global UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights in 2010 and 2016, respectively.

She promotes various causes such as environment, health and education and women’s rights and (as I just mentioned) is particularly vocal about gender equality and feminism.

How She Inspires Me

I remember interviewing PeeCee in 2017 for Baywatch in London and funnily the topic of gender equality became the highlight of my chat with her.

I asked what would be her 007 mission be if she was James Bond. Her reply, as you can imagine, was hilarious yet thought-provoking.

At first, she asked whether she would be a man or woman and I said that it would be stronger if there was a female character.

In response to this, she said:

“It’s not even a woman thing. I think these are iconic characters which can be genderless if somebody finds a fun spin to it.”

On a light-heard note, she joked:

“I’d like to wake up in my own body because waking up in a man’s body is very scary. I wouldn’t go for a shower for 10 days – you never know what you’d find [laughs].”

Whilst this was just good humour, this conveyed a lot about Priyanka.

I interpreted her to be someone who believes in equilibrium and this mentality was also reflected in her behaviour during the interview.

She created a very friendly ambience – an atmosphere that did not seem like a journalist and star were talking, but as if it was a very informal chat between two friends.

Nickyanka: A Bright New Chapter in her Life

Seeing her marriage with Nick Jonas was perhaps one of the most endeavouring events.

Whilst people have expressed mixed views about her opulent wedding, but what people don’t understand is that her alliance is more than just a celebrity marriage.

The fact that Nick and PC come from different worlds but yet are together, is a huge deal.

Their marriage is a celebration of two distinct cultures coming together. Seeing Nick dancing to a Bollywood song is a sight one would never have imagined to see.

However, as expected, this relationship raised objections.

Given that Priyanka is 10 years older than Nick, people have mocked this alliance. Somehow, this also highlights the double-standards in our culture.

Stereotypically, it is accepted if a male is elder than the woman, but it is problematic if it is vice-versa.

But Nickyanka’s relationship proves that age is just a number. Through their relationship, they sharply break these glass ceilings and taboos within society.

Final Word

On the whole, for me, Priyanka Chopra is not only India’s Most Desirable but undoubtedly is (as cited by leading publications) one of the most powerful and influential people in the world.

To break through international platforms, that too in a cut-throat industry like film and to survive as well as be successful, is the most difficult task.

Furthermore, her courage to walk out of a big Bollywood film and graciously responding back to a libellous article are just recent examples of what it takes to be a superstar and icon.

I believe that Chopra is no longer just a singer/actress or producer.

She is a fighter and an inspiration who stands for equality not just in the film industry, but for society as a whole.

This is exactly why she is an icon for me and millions of others.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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