Title: Priyanka Chopra: The incredible story of a global Bollywood star
Author: Aseem Chhabra
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Price: Rs 500
The author begins by responding to a question, which might arise in the minds of many readers whether Priyanka Chopra deserves a book. From the long line of Indian actors who tried to work in Hollywood, many failed and moved back to their comfort zone, while some like Shashi Kapoor and Om Puri succeeded in getting interesting films that satisfied their creative impulses while also working in mainstream Bollywood films. Today, Irrfan Khan happily straddles Bollywood and Hollywood. Priyanka is perhaps the only other major crossover success story after Irrfan Khan and as Karan Johar on the book’s cover says, “She (Priyanka) is our hugest crossover success story.”
Similarly, an observer of popular culture on seeing Priyanka Chopra with Sophia Loren had once said, “Just as Loren was able to balance being an Italian star and a global one decades ago, Chopra is walking that very tightrope today.”
Speaking about her childhood on Anupam Kher’s talk show, Priyanka who was born on July 18, 1982 to a middle-class doctor couple, said she was always very competitive as a child. When she was 13 years old, she visited Iowa, US, and studied at John Kennedy school in Cedar Rapids where she experienced the worst kind of racism. She also candidly revealed how being taunted by her family members, about her dark complexion, affected her until she became a teenager.
In 1999, she won the May Ball Queen contest in Bareilly, putting her on the path to becoming a beauty queen, actress, singer and a superstar. Her mother sent her pictures to Femina and she got a call that she had been shortlisted for the Miss India contest, when she was at home having her meal and watching the Raj Kapoor film Mera Naam Joker.
She hasn’t looked back since then, but one of the drawbacks of actors becoming famous is that fans want to know details about their personal lives — what they eat, what they wear, where they party and most importantly, who they are dating. Even Priyanka did not escape from this fate. While fans have admired her films, gossip magazines and social media reports have often carried stories about her rumoured relationships with some of her co-stars, right from Akshay Kumar, Harman Baweja and Shahid Kapoor to Shah Rukh Khan.
In terms of her films, in Aitraaz, inspired by the Michael Douglas—Demi Moore Hollywood film Disclosure, she bagged a Filmfare award for her portrayal of the negative role and critics who had till then been dismissive, suddenly began to take notice of her. Other defining films were Fashion, her seven roles for 7 Khoon Maaf and Mary Kom, which won a National Film Award.
As a testimony of her dedication, to play the role of a Marathi mulgi in Kaminey, she watched Marathi films and spoke the language with the film’s crew in order to pick up the cultural nuances of Maharashtrians. Also, after a scooter accident during a particular scene she chose to complete the scene stating, “Otherwise I won’t be able to sleep.”
Speaking about her Kashibai role in the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film Bajirao Mastani the author says, “It is when you watch her perform in films like Barfi! and Bajirao Mastani you realise that this woman has truly become an artist, one of the best actresses of Hindi cinema.”
As an instance of her go-getter attitude, in 2013 while at Heathrow airport and scanning through Elle magazine she saw an ad for Guess jeans and told Anjula, “Make me a Guess Girl,” to which Anjula replied, “Priy, you are not blonde haired with blue eyes. All Guess girls
(Claudia Schiffer, Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton) have been blonde,” to which she just shrugged saying, “I will be the first.” Her ads went on to appear in Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, etc. This incident speaks volumes about how she sets high targets for herself and then sets out to achieve them.
Then in 2015, ABC broadcast the first episode of its much-touted TV drama Quantico and New York was soon plastered with her posters from the show. A girl had once said, “In India real people don’t become movie stars,” but many years later that same girl became India’s biggest crossover star and now she can’t walk even in New York anymore without being mobbed.
Priyanka Chopra’s biography, whose real life is a blockbuster in itself, is peppered with anecdotes and events of her life behind the screen. This then is her incredible story, told with much flourish and great detail.