Priyanka Chopra: People want to be shaken, stirred and moved while watching a film
Priyanka Chopra on her comeback Hindi film, The Sky Is Pink, her production plans and making her long-distance marriage with Nick Jonas work
From becoming the face for desi talent in the US by headlining the ABC show, Quantico, to her marriage to pop star Nick Jonas, Priyanka Chopra Jonas is evidently in a content space. And yet, for anyone who knows her well enough, she is always hungry for more.
We catch up with her at Mehboob Studios, Bandra, and chat about why film sets need to go plastic-free given the alarming state of the environment, but soon enough, we nosedive into a conversation about what made her choose a fairly non-commercial filmmaker Shonali Bose's The Sky Is Pink even when industry bigwigs were lining up at her doorstep.
"I have never picked up conventional or mainstream films. To me, a good story matters the most. I am a movie buff and this was a story that sucked me in. Be it a Bajirao Mastani or a Mary Kom or Barfi! they aren't conventional. Of course, I do tentpole films but that's not the only thing I depend on. Now, the audience is different. A few years ago, when we were marketing our films we would say, 'leave your brains at home and watch the movie'. People don't want to leave their brains behind at home anymore. I understand that people want to shaken, stirred and moved while watching a film," starts off Chopra.
She admits that she has not watched Bose's films. "She keeps telling me, 'How did you say yes to me without seeing my work?' Chopra says that the story moved her to bits. The Sky Is Pink, in Shonali's words, is the love story of Niren and Aditi Chaudhury, the parents of Aisha, an author and motivational speaker who died of pulmonary fibrosis.
"This story is profound and funny. It hits your heart. I have been acting for 16 years. I have worked with many new filmmakers. When I talk to a filmmaker, I can sense how much they know a subject. The script spoke to me. When I met her in New York, I knew instinctively that I wanted to be directed by her. There are filmmakers I have worked with and have not been able to trust. I wanted an immersive experience and Shonali had clarity. She told me how she lost her child. There is a certain lightness about death. She told me that people go when their work on Earth is done. You shouldn't mourn their death but celebrate their life. I hadn't dealt with my father's death as well. But she made me realise that I didn't need to mourn him. People who love us don't want us to grieve. This film discusses a heavy subject but is told by Aisha who is light-hearted. Her parents decided to give her every kind of adventure and love that they could think of. I was amazed that these real-life people who created an extraordinary life for their daughter. It was incredibly inspiring for me as an actor. I went through a roller-coaster of emotions, laughing my guts out and crying a little through it. The film made me call up those I love and tell them how much I cherish them."
Chopra was attracted to the story of enduring love of Niren and Aditi who met as high school sweethearts. Now, at 55 they still hold hands, give each other a peck and survived the loss of two children. "Their chemistry is overpowering, 70 per cent of couples separate after the death of their children. To be happy and have compassion is hard in such scenarios. Life is not a pursuit of rage but happiness. When my dad was suffering, I remember the toll it took on mom [Madhu]."
She derived the character from her mother as much as she did from Aditi and Shonali. "My mother is similar to Aditi, fiercely protective and her own person. We are taught as girls to have that kind of independence, have opinions and have a voice. I want the world to see that a free-spirited family can be well-knit and doesn't take away from sanskars."
Though Chopra is back with a Bollywood film after a gap, she says, "I always had films coming my way. But during Quantico, I had to give 11 months of my year to them. This is why I did Baywatch, A Kid Like Jake and Isn't it Romantic because one month is not enough to finish a feature. Post-Quantico, I knew what kind of film I was looking for. I knew Alex Parish so well that I needed a role to scare me. I wanted to be on my toes, get sleepless nights. I knew I wanted to be fed as an artiste. It's a responsibility to play a real-life person. I had to play a mother which I am not yet. I remember a scene required me to go so deep into me that once cameras stopped, I held Shonali and cried. I was getting married when I was shooting, so there was no time to plan the wedding in between the film."
With The Sky Is Pink, Chopra also turns a Hindi film producer too. "I want to do web series and features across languages. I am an EP on the Netflix film, The White Tiger. I am producing the Mindy Kaling film as well as web shows. I like taking chance on new talent because I never had that."
'We inform each other of every tiny detail'
Priyanka Chopra Jonas and husband Nick Jonas lead hectic lives thanks to their professional commitments. PeeCee says, "We have rules. We don't go two weeks without meeting each other, no matter where we are in the world. We have to stay in touch. We have to inform each other of every tiny detail. Our schedules are opposite when we are in different time zones, but we FaceTime our way through this. It's a modern-day long distance relationship, which is hinged on how much we want to make it work. We love each other's company and we are each other's best friends. Sometimes, I wake him in the middle of the night and shriek out something that happened with me and he's there. We get how important our work is to us. We are ambitious and driven and in love in equal parts."
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Watch: Priyanka Chopra Plays Dandiya While Promoting The Sky Is Pink In Jaipur