Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas on Friday said that she has never let her work define her identity, which has allowed her to do multiple things. The actor-producer was in conversation with Shobhaa De, as part of a session on her memoir “Unfinished”, at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival. Chopra Jonas said the 11 chapters in her book were a sum of who she was.
“I am never defined by my work, which is why I have the ability to do multiple things. I never believed that if my next film doesn’t do well, or if I don’t get the leading part in a movie, my career is over.
“I have never ever felt that. I was raised with enough confidence to know that I can pivot into anything else. I can choose to do anything I want,” she said.
The Jamshedpur-born star, who made a name for herself in India with movies such as “Fashion”, “Kaminey” and “Bajirao Mastani”, added that all her professional decisions were independent of who her co-actors were.
“My career has never depended on my co-actors. I have never needed to do a movie with a particular hero or a particular guy for my career to go forward.
“I have chosen various kinds of films, various kinds of parts.. big parts.. small parts, big director’s, small directors, indie movies, non genre films. My journey is very individual to my choice and moods at that point.”
Chopra Jonas, who is married to American pop singer Nick Jonas, also runs a production house, Purple Pebbles Pictures. At the peak of her career, the actor moved to the US to seek opportunities in the west, but making a career in Hollywood was a “lesson in humility,” she admitted.
Despite being a superstar in Bollywood, she had to audition for roles, and often introduce herself at parties. “I was okay to swallow the pill of humility because it was my choice to go into a completely new continent and industry and start all over again. And I was okay to try that at that point . I was seeking and craving change and evolution,” she said.
A former Miss World, an actor and a producer who made a mark in Bollywood and also across the seas in TV shows and films, Chopra Jonas feels that the Hindi film industry has come a long way in its treatment of female actors since she began her film career in the 2000s.
“It was very normalised that girls were replaceable, movies were dictated by male leads and who they fancied and that was a reality at that point. Girls of my generation have created a change. You are seeing leading ladies that are married, closer to the age of their co-actors, who are producers, who are creating their own content,” she said.
The new age female actors are bold and have the ability to stand on their own feet and have opinions, which is a “big change”, the actor said.
“The goal post has been shifted from when I joined to where I am now, and I hope that with everything that the women of this generation are doing the girls of the next one won’t be inheriting our problems.”
When asked about the topic of nepotism in Bollywood as well as Hollywood, the actor said that there wasn’t anything wrong with trying to help one’s family and friends, as long as there were enough opportunities for others.
“There is nothing wrong with wanting to take care of your family and friends, it is natural human nature and should not be punished at all. But the struggle I have is why do people want to build larger walls and keep the tables small? Make the table bigger if we have the opportunity. Let’s create opportunities.
“Streaming has come in such a big way into entertainment. It diversifies so much. We have content that’s being told not just by 10 people. You are being able to see so many actors, writers, directors having a sense of opinion, and movies and shows that are being seen across the world and across languages. It is such a great time for our industry to be able to diversify in terms of the arts,” the 38-year-old actor said.
Chopra Jonas, who was the first South Asian to headline an American show with “Quantico”, said that while she did not face “blatant racism” in in the American film industry, she had discovered that it was rare for Hollywood films to have “black or brown leads” but the times had changed since.
“When I went to America, I realised it wasn’t in people’s consciousness that brown people can be a lead of a film, or a show. But it’s incredible to see that we have been able to push that boundary. Like ‘The White Tiger’ was historic… it’s an all Indian star cast, which was the number one movie in the world on the largest streaming platform.
“That’s not normal, and that’s what I want to normalise. That is what I want to champion… seeing people who look like us, especially Indians because we have the largest movie industry in the world, why don’t we have that kind of representation in English language entertainment?” she said.