I am not just an actor, I am an achiever and want to achieve
Modelling, acting, singing, making movies, the National Award winning actress doesn’t want to limit her creativity. In a candid conversation the bright and beautiful Priyanka Chopra talks about her upcoming movie, Dil Dhadakne Do, and American show, Quantico
In Dil Dhadakne Do you belong to a dysfunctional family and your character is slightly complicated. How did you get into the skin of Ayesha?
We had a lot of discussions with Zoya (Akhtar). I had just finished shooting for Mary Kom and Dil Dhadakne Do (DDD) shoot was beginning in ten days. So, you will see me wearing outfits that hid my bulk, which I had gained for Mary Kom. I had to go on a crash diet to lose my bulk because Ayesha is very gentle, feminine, soft and completely opposite of the fighter, tomboyish boxer. I have always played extremely strong characters whereas in real life I am very feminine, but I don’t go to play my real self because of the roles I choose. So, it was easy to become Ayesha. Her character is exactly like how I am in real life, except that I am a little more outspoken than her. She also dresses like how I dress in real life. So that helped and Zoya is an easy director to work with.
Farhan Akhtar, who was your director in Don and Don 2, plays your best friend in DDD. Was there any difference in the new working equation?
When Zoya told me that Farhan is playing Sunny I said I can’t do the film because I was so intimidated by him as the director. I have seen him as an authority figure on the set and he is a very serious director. He is the opposite of Zoya. While both know exactly what they want, are extremely talented and sorted, as people they are very different. I remember every time I had to approach Farhan for a scene or something I would always check on his mood, if he has eaten – he is a Parsi so he likes his food – or tell Shah Rukh (Khan) or Boman (Irani) sir. I would talk to him via people. When I told Zoya I don’t think I can have this best friend relationship with him, she started laughing. We were at her house, so she called Farhan, ordered lots of food, cracked lots of jokes and laughed a lot which broke the ice.
Farhan plays your best friend in the film and both of you have romantic feelings for each other. Have you ever faced a similar situation in the past?
My best friends have always been girls. I have never had a guy best friend because that dynamic changes with me every time. I have had a lot of guy friends who ended up liking me or falling in love with me. When you can’t reciprocate you lose friendship, which doesn’t have to always happen. One of my best friends has only friends who are boys except me. She is married. So, there are different kinds of girls. Somehow it has never happened.
Ranveer Singh, who has played your boyfriend in Gunday and will be seen as your lover in Bajirao Mastani, is your brother in DDD. How was adjusting to this ever-changing onscreen relationship?
Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya (Bachchan), Ash (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) and Shah Rukh (Khan) have done it in the past, now, Ranveer and me have done it. People just have to be actors and act. It has nothing to do with who you are playing and whether you play a husband or a child. Shefali (Shah) played Akshay (Kumar)’s mother despite being younger than him. Anupam Kher played such an old man in Saaransh. You are an actor and our job is to act and do it convincingly. How convincing we are as siblings we will find out when the film releases.
From DDD trailer one gathers that you share a very transparent relationship with your onscreen brother. Do you share a similar rapport with your real life brother too?
Not at all, I bully him. There’s a seven-year age gap between us and I am a self-confessed bully, which is horrible and one shouldn’t do it, but as an elder sibling it comes with the territory. Kabir and Ayesha’s relationship is a lot like the one Farhan and Zoya share. There’s hardly any age-gap and they are more like friends. I think she has written it like that.
You have sung the title song of DDD, whose decision was it? And, do you think singing gives that extra dimension to you as an actor?
I always sang; professionally, I was too shy till this opportunity (international album) came my way. I am a creative person and I think creativity will present itself in various forms. Most creative people will have three-four avenues; like, if you write, you will love to paint, etc. For me it is acting, singing, writing and, hopefully, at some point I want to produce films. I want to be able to do anything as long as it allows me to be creative.
The decision that Farhan and I sing happened randomly at a party. Someone said that since both of us can sing so we should sing a song in the film. Shankar Ehsaan Loy (SEL) felt it was a great idea. So Javed sa’ab wrote it and SEL they composed it. Then Farhan and I went and recorded our respective parts. After all that they decided to use it in the end and get the entire cast to be a part of it.
Who did you bond with the most on the sets of DDD?
Zoya. I didn’t know Zoya before DDD, of course had met at parties and events. Then there was Divya Seth and Rahul Bose, who I worked with for the first time. I met Shefali Shah after a long time. She played my mother-in-law in Waqt. We had spent a lot of time together. The specialty of this film is that there so many primary characters and the actors who are doing it have a body of work. Even the new actors are so talented.
What was the experience working on an ensemble film?
I think it is great fun because you are not the only one doing everything in the film. You get so many off days because someone else is shooting. The only people the film would have been difficult for is Zoya and Ritesh (Sidhwani, producer) and the crew. Ensemble movies are less pressure. There is a certainly a difference if you are the only face on the poster vis-a-vis when there are other actors with you.
In one of the earlier interviews you had stated that one of your dreams is doing an international show. And you are doing American TV channel ABC’s show Quantico. What next?
For the show to be successful. I was very skeptical of doing an international work because Indian actors are always put in a box. Indian talent is never recognized or given relevance. My only thing with the deal with ABC was that give me a part that is ethnically ambiguous. Just because I am from Bollywood I don’t want to do a song and dance show, that’s not all of India. I don’t want to play an arrogant princess or hypnotize snakes or be a yogi. They agreed which is amazing on their part to do that. When I did Guess (campaign) I was probably one of the first people to not have the typical look that Guess models have always had. When my song was chosen for NFL network’s for Thursday night football series, so much racism came my way. Racism exists and I want to break it. With God’s grace the response to Quantico trailer has been amazing, but that also has to do with the bias of Indian fans, they have been very supportive. I just hope internationally the show is successful and the writers write a great season. If it does then it will be a dent in Indian talent being recognized. Quantico will definitely be aired in India. In fact it is going to be aired in 180 countries. The response has been so overwhelming. That again is a testament of how far is the reach of Indian cinema. People don’t realise the power of Indian cinema.
You are one of the top actors in Hindi film industry, have albums internationally and, now, part of an American show. Professionally, is there a sense of satisfaction?
No. Because the day I will be satisfied I will quit. I don’t think I am satisfied because I feel there are so many avenues and so much to do. I never have a benchmark for myself. I don’t consider myself as a star or an actor. I consider myself as an achiever and just want to achieve. I don’t know what it will be next, it could be a wife, but whatever it is I want to be the best ever at it.
What is happening with your maiden venture Madamji, which was to launch your production company, Purple Pebble Pictures?
I am spread so thin right now. Madhur (Bhandarkar) is doing Calender Girls and currently I am promoting DDD, then will start shooting for Gangajaal 2. In July I am going to the US for Quantico and then come back for Bajirao Mastani. Between all this as Purple Pebble Pictures I am developing a couple of small interesting ideas, but we are only in the development phase. We are doing a lot of commercials but I want to be very sure of what I do.
As a producer do you intend to make a certain genre?
There is no certain kind of genre in mind just like my career. As a filmmaker also I won’t stick to any particular genre.