Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 1, 2011

I don’t see myself as ‘sexy’: Priyanka

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rajeev @ 8:00 pm

  Rajeev Masand: Bollywood’s ‘red hot’ leading lady Priyanka Chopra is fast climbing the popularity chart notching up a string of successes. Rajeev Masand spoke to ‘little miss piggy chop’ Priyanka Chopra.

Rajeev Masand: ‘Piggy chops’ is the name that seems to have got stuck with you. Was it Abhishek Bachchan who gave to this title?

Priyanka Chopra: Yes, it is because of that nerd ( Abhishek Bachchan) that my name has got stuck with this dubious title. But it’s okay as long as I find it cute to be called ‘miss piggy chops’.

Rajeev Masand: Now the whole world knows about it because they put it on screen at the end of Taxi No 9211

Priyanka Chopra: I got this name after Bluffmaster and it’s been a secret between me, Rohan (Sippy), Abhishek ( Bachchan) and Ritesh (Deshmukh). It’s a sweet name but I don’t know why they used the word ‘piggy chops.’

Rajeev Masand: Like many others, you also entered Bollywood after winning a beauty pageant and the prestigious Miss World title.

Please tell us, why do most beauty pageant winners end up in Bollywood? Is that the sign of redundancy of the pageants or is it really because of the attractiveness of this business?
Priyanka Chopra: There could be two answers to this question. One is that you perhaps only know the beauty pageant winners who come into show business. Secondly, you don’t know about the ones who become doctors, lawyers and take up many other professions after winning a beauty title.

Rajeev Masand: So, you are saying that there are many who do take up different professions rather than joining Bollywood, is it?

Priyanka Chopra: There are many people who do take up different professions after winning beauty titles. This Miss World pageant came into being 50 years ago. Not all the winners became actresses.

There were actresses like Zeenat Aman and Juhi Chawla who won beauty pageant and entered Bollywood but that was long ago. After a big gap we saw Sushmita (Sen) and Aishwarya (Rai) enter films.

Then again after a big gap Lara (Dutta), Diya (Mirza) and myself won titles and then joined films. So this has happened after big gaps.

From what I have analysed, the reason why everybody turns towards films is because once you go to a platform where you are popular and have tasted showbiz you perhaps want to retain it.

You want to hold on it, and there is no other business in India that can give you the kind of popularity that a beauty pageant gives you.

Rajeev Masand: Was it the same reason that attracted you towards the film industry?

Priyanka Chopra: Honestly, films happened by fluke to me. Even the Miss India title that I won was sheer coincidence. My mother sent my pictures without telling me. And I only went for it because I wanted to skip my exams.

I had never been to Mumbai in my entire life. I thought that going for this pageant would be a one-month holiday to Mumbai. I took one year off, studied, took tuitions and gave my exams next year.

I had never thought I would win. Even when I won the Miss World contest I had not expected it the least.

I started getting film offers even before I won the Miss World title. Right after Miss India I signed Humraaz, which was my debut film.

Then I went for the Miss World contest due to which the film got delayed by a year.

By the time I came back there were many movies that were offered to me and I said let’s just try this and if this does not happen then I’ll go back to studies.

There was so much to do at that point of time that it excited me. I actually wanted to go abroad and study in college. I wanted to get into engineering and wanted to do so much and I said this is just like a diversion.

Rajeev Masand: It was not like the case – sort of growing up and becoming an actress.


Priyanka Chopra: Never. I mean, when you come from a really normal family, and never even been to Mumbai in my whole life. The biggest celebrity I had met since I was a child was Alisha Chennoy.

I was a huge fan of her. And so I could never relate to it. For me it was all about going to school, a normal mundane in life, it was completely far away.

Rajeev Masand: What were the movies that you grew up watching?

Priyanka Chopra: Yes, I was a big movie buff. I used to love watching movies. Maine Payar Kiya was one of my favourite films. DDLJ is an all-time cult film, which have I watched about 35-40 times and know each and every dialogue of that film.

Rajeev Masand: You are still young. Do you perhaps feel sometimes overwhelmed, like you said you grew up watching Maine Payar Kiya, DDLJ, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and now you are working with them. At the start of your career did you feel overwhelmed by all this?

Priyanka Chopra: My first film, my first day of shooting was with Sunny Deol and I was petrified of him, I was scared of him. Shah Rukh was the reason I became Miss India because he was my judge. He was the one who asked me questions. So for me he is like my lucky charm. I am always been a Shah Rukh Khan fan.

The minute I realised that I picked up his name to ask me a question I knew I was going to win. After that my first ad was with him, which was for home trade, my first world tour was with him. He has been a continuing factor in my career.

I always look up to him since I was a child, from a poster on the wall to being a reality in front of me. It was a complete privilege for me to be working with him. And the fact that I got to know him a bit and that I look up to him is always been very nice, it seems two completely different phases in life.

Rajeev Masand: Our movie stars get overpaid. Do you get lots of money to do something than what other people do, to look good all the time, to run around trees?

Priyanka Chopra: I will put you once before the camera and let you say the dialogue that Shah Rukh said in Devdas and let me see how well you can do that.

Rajeev Masand: So, I am guessing your answer is no. You are not overpaid.
Priyanka Chopra: No, we are not. The kind of work we do is certainly not easy. Even I once thought that, wow! This is such an easy job and you don’t have to do much and everybody does everything for you. You travel in first class, you stay in the best of hotels and then you get paid!

It’s nothing like that. You work for 23 hours a day, you do not have Sundays, you do not have time for your family or friends and you do not have a life. Secondly, one thing goes wrong, say an outfit does not match your shoes and it is all over the papers.

People say, ‘Oh! She doesn’t know how to dress. Oh! She is looking bad and looking tired.’ People don’t know that you have not slept for an entire night because you have over-worked. They see you on the big screen and remark, ‘Oh! She looks so bad. She is aging.’

There is no excuse for any thing at all. If you do not know how to dance they say, ‘She doesn’t know how to dace right.’

What is she doing as an actress?’ If you do not how to say your lines right, if your pronunciation is not right, if your diction is not right or if your language is not right you are noticed.

It is such a huge responsibility because everything is looked under a microscope, it is such a tough job.

Rajeev Masand: What is it the bothers you the most when you read about yourself. Are they these things that bother you?

Priyanka Chopra: It is because you don’t have a life that is yours. This is my third year in the industry and after the first two years I realised that you have to be reclusive in a way to maintain a bit of sanity otherwise you can turn into a complete megalomaniac and just think about yourself because people are always topping you up or pulling you down.
But you have to keep a certain amount to yourself, which is why you go to work and then come back to your family. You will never see me at any of the parties, as I can’t handle them. I don’t know these people. I have not grown up in the industry. They are just people that I have worked with.

Rajeev Masand: So you need space and you need a life your own.

Priyanka Chopra: Yes, definitely.

Rajeev Masand: Priyanka in the wake of this recent incident that took place at Shah Rukh Khan’s home where his security guards got into a fight and one of them shot the other and by this incident the question of security of celebrity life came up.

You have also had a bad experience with some one who worked for you. Do you feel safe as a celebrity?

Priyanka Chopra: Let me tell you that I live in a dual world that I have created in my head though I am not psychotic.

I do consider myself a celebrity when I am working and so wherever I go for shows or anything my producers provide me security.

But I somehow feel very strange to the fact that I have somebody hovering around me all the time but I understand that because I have a family and I am worried about them more than myself so I will have to accept it.

And there was a stage where we needed security because I was very worried about my family. But actually I like privacy and I like to have space of my own, I do not to have somebody hovering around me.

Rajeev Masand: You are worried about confidentiality because of the incident at Shah Rukh Khan’s home and you also experiencing breach of confidentiality. Do these things scare a person?

Priyanka Chopra: It is scary especially when it is inside your house. What happened with me was a very scary incident and I was in complete shock because you trust people and when you come into this industry you stop trusting anyone.

I don’t trust people except the ones that I am very close to or otherwise I prefer staying in my own Ivory Tower.

Rajeev Masand: Are they any real friendships that you share especially with the ones on the job, the people that you meet?
Priyanka Chopra: You can make true friends. I have one or two true friends and there are people that I can call at 3:00 am in the morning.

But you know there really have to be people that you have to connect with. May be because I am reclusive and shy that’s why I do not like to socialise with people in the industry. I mostly have friends who are outside the industry.

Rajeev Masand: But I am talking about a real friendship with somebody with whom you can talk about work.

Priyanka Chopra: No, It hasn’t happened to me yet. I haven’t had a real friend in a contemporary over the years and by a real friend I mean someone with whom you can have sleepovers with.

It is all right to go shopping and vacations together. It is also not that I don’t get along with anybody or that I hate them but I have always had a cordial relationship with most of my co-stars.

I have gone for movies with them and gone for holidays with them but there hasn’t been someone that I can depend on or it could be because I do not make friends very easily.

Rajeev Masand: So who is your 3:00 am friend?

Priyanka Chopra: It is my best friend Tamanna who lives in Delhi and she is my 3:00 am friend. But from the industry I can’t tell you.

Rajeev Masand: But are there some in the film industry?

Priyanka Chopra: There are about two or three.

Rajeev Masand: You are probably living a life what most people dream of. You travel abroad, you are well paid and you look lovely all the time. Is there a flip-side to being a movie star?

Priyanka Chopra: There is huge flip-side and it is very lonely out there. It is full of insecurities and there is no stability and it is like having a board exam every Friday and you never know when you will go up and when you will come down. It’s a gamble.

Your entire career is a gamble and that’s really scary. Most people look for a nine-to-five job and they know that their paycheck is coming at the end of the month. But here you can’t rely upon anything.
Rajeev Masand: And the thing about this business especially in India is that the fame and the success is so monetary. Unlike the West where perhaps actresses’ shelf life is much longer but in India it is extremely limited. Do actresses often worry about the future?

Priyanka Chopra: I don’t know about other actresses but I do worry about my future. I started working when I was just 17. I perhaps can’t do anything else except doing films. I do worry.

I wonder what, how, when and where my life will take me. But I’m sure that if God has helped me find my vocation till now, something that I had never planned in my life, I’m sure that he has further plans also. You do work in terms of investments for the future.

The good thing is that I can work for perhaps a little longer and I have the capability to venture into something different when I give up films.

Rajeev Masand: Are there other things that you have thought of taking up? We know that you sing very well.

Priyanka Chopra: Yes I do sing well. I think of that as an alternate career for myself. Who knows I might even try my luck as a journalist like you.

Rajeev Masand: Krrish is one film that got huge box office success. But you ran into criticism despite the fact that it did well. How do you look back at the film now?

Priyanka Chopra: The film has done immensely well at the box office. It has been a huge hit and my biggest hit so far.

Its true that it did come with a bit of a criticism for the way I looked and I was told that people did not like my clothes.

But thankfully I was not criticised for my performance in the film. People said that my makeup was bad, my clothes were not up to the mark and that my hair looked awful.


Rajeev Masand: Were you satisfied with that criticism ?

Priyanka Chopra: Yes, absolutely. I think that Krrish has been an eye opener for me. It did take away to a certain extent the flight of success that I was experiencing. I could not be as excited with the success of the film as I could have been because of all the criticism.

But it’s a good thing. I have reached a point in my career that I need such eye openers. These things say that hard is not hard enough.

You need to think of not just your performance but also things that attribute to your performance. People observe everything minutely now. Hopefully, they will not say such things in any of my next few films.

Rajeev Masand: One of your most interesting films that is coming up is Don. The film is a remake of yesteryear’s mega hit that starred Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman in the lead roles.

While, it was a big pressure for Shah Rukh Khan to step into the shoes of Amitabh Bachchan, was it also difficult for you to step into the shoes of Zeenat Aman who had played a very sexy character in the original film? Did you feel that pressure while doing the film?

Priyanka Chopra: When Farhan (Akhtar) asked me to read the script and do this film, my only apprehension was that perhaps we would never be able to recreate the character played by Zeenat Aman because we would always fall short in matching up to that performance.

There was no way that we could make Roma exactly the way Zeenat ji had done it. You cannot replicate a cult film. What we decided was that even if the plot of the film remains the same, it would be shot in completely different manner.

My character in terms of behaviour and traits is very different. I play a martial art fighter in this film.

Zeenat’s character in the original Don had trained to be a fighter because her brother was killed. Here I play a martial art fighter who is trained in the art of fighting for no special reason.

Even if the story is same, the way I have portrayed this role in terms of character is completely subtle and controlled. After playing a bubbly character in Krrish, it was a great experience for me to play this serious role.

Rajeev Masand: Did you resent all the working out you had to do to get into shape to fit into the character of a martial art expert that you play in the film. It’s not conventional for a girl to do in a film, isn’t it?

Priyanka Chopra: Not at all. I think learning martial art was the greatest part about playing the character of Roma. I admit that I don’t like working out. But when playing a character demands something, you have to do it. I liked playing Roma who is not skinny but muscular.

I really wanted to get into the shape to play this character of a girl who is well trained in martial arts. I was trained for almost a month and half while shooting for Aap Ki Khatir in London to prepare myself for the character of Roma. I had a lot of fun. Perhaps I can now ask Jackie Chan to watch out.

Rajeev Masand: Were you flattered to have been offered such a role. It is in a way testimony to the fact that you are sexy enough to step into Zeenat Aman’s shoes, isn’t it?

Priyanka Chopra: It was Zeenat ji who had somewhere mentioned that if there was anybody who could do justice to that role, it was just me.

To me it was a great feeling and the motivation to go ahead and play this role. But honestly, I don’t see myself as ‘sexy’ the way people call that.

I don’t see what people see in me for giving such a tag. I quite don’t agree with this opinion that most people have.

Rajeev Masand: I was flipping through this film magazine when I saw your name on a so-called ‘power list.’ You are called one of the most powerful women in the film industry, someone who is able to do the kind of films that she wants to do. What does power mean to you? Do you really feel powerful?

Priyanka Chopra: I think I am really lucky to have the option of picking the film that I want to do. Not many people get that chance to pick and chose in Bollywood.

It’s just been three years since my first film released, and today I am here doing the kind of work I want to do. I am really grateful to the film industry to give me such a status.

It’s scary at times because when people give you the power to take various kinds of decisions it means great responsibility.

When a director is listening to all the different suggestions that have been given by you, it means to a great extent that he is relying upon your sensibilities. Its’ scary to know that if something goes wrong it would be completely on your shoulders.

Rajeev Masand: We just hope that you continue to hold your power position and do lot more exciting stuff in Bollywood. Thank you for talking to us.

Priyanka Chopra: Thank you.

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