Priyanka Chopra, the Bollywood superstar who segued into Hollywood only to leave indelible footprints on all of her fans’ hearts, is a definite go-getter. Actor, producer, philanthropist, content creator, and businesswoman, among others, are just a few key words that can be used to describe the multi-hyphenate Indian actress.
Her “drive” keeps her focused and has fueled her through this journey, Chopra told India-West in an exclusive interview that touched on her personal and professional life.
Chopra is back to work after her big fat Indian wedding to singer-songwriter Nick Jonas and a bunch of vacations later, which ranged from the Swiss Alps to the Caribbean islands.
“I’m taking a second to sort of settle in marital bliss, I guess,” gushed Chopra when asked about the romantic sojourns. “The pace of my life is pretty much the same because we both are working so much and doing as much as we are. The only thing different is that you are not an individual anymore. You think for two people in every decision and now you are not just thinking about yourself but also about someone else, and that’s really fascinating to me.”
First up on Chopra’s radar is the Rebel Wilson (“How to Be Single”), Liam Hemsworth (the “Hunger Games” films) and Adam Devine (“The Intern”) starrer “Isn’t It Romantic,” which hits theaters Feb. 13.
In the romantic comedy, according to the official synopsis, New York City architect Natalie works hard to get noticed at her job but is more likely to be asked to deliver coffee and bagels than to design the city’s next skyscraper. And one day after an encounter with a mugger that renders her unconscious, she wakes up to discover that her life has suddenly become her worst nightmare — a romantic comedy. And she is the leading lady. Wilson stars as Natalie, alongside Hemsworth as Blake, a hunky client; Devine as her coworker and earnest best friend, Josh; and Chopra as Isabella, a stunning model and self-proclaimed yoga ambassador.
“I was in the middle of my hiatus from Season 1 and 2 of ‘Quantico’ and so I had a month and half off in New York. It’s like a quick part I did in this fun romantic comedy,” Chopra told India-West. “I love the cast of the movie. Rebel’s amazing in it and we’ve come out being really good friends. So it was a fun, amazing role. Isabella’s character is just so funny to me coz she’s a spoilt brat of rich parents and she thinks she’s a yoga ambassador when there’s no such thing. But she is one of those girls who gives herself unnecessary importance.”
After Josh’s classic rom-com meet-cute with Isabella, Natalie, who had been “friend-zoning” Josh, begins to see him in a new light.
“I don’t want to give away too much. But when you see the film edited together, you feel, ‘Oh! She’s a figment of Rebel’s imagination. She comes alive from a billboard in her imagination, in the alternate universe she’s stuck in,” she explained to India-West.
And the equation gets interesting since Josh had been ogling at that sexy billboard for months, she added.
Declaring herself as a “big mush pot” and a total fan of rom-coms, Chopra cited “Jerry Maguire” and “Maine Pyar Kiya” among her favorite films.
Chopra stated that one of the biggest draws of the film, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, was the presence of the song and dance numbers.
“I was like, ‘I’m on my home turf,’” she recalled to India-West. “All of us had so much fun. And that was actually my favorite part of the movie because it was so gratifying to me that something that we do all the time as second nature in Bollywood films, it was so cool to see that being a part of a fun Hollywood movie. It was like such a cross-cultural joy to my heart kind of thing.”
You see Chopra, Devine and Wilson dancing to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” at a pivotal moment in the story.
Another show-stopping number appears in the movie’s grand finale for which Chopra said all the actors underwent two days of prep.
“It was more like hanging out each other. We were like doing the steps, clapping and having fun… That was amazing,” Chopra said. “We had shut down the streets of New York except one which is why you see cars and cabs driving past us and looking at us like we are crazy. Like six people dancing with 60 backup dancers in the middle of New York. It was really fun.”
At any given point in time, Chopra appears to be driving onto multi-lane roads. And while it may appear that she is constantly etching out her next move, the reality, Chopra confessed to India-West, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“I’m not a planner at all,” remarked Chopra. “I’m not a believer of the destination. I think the journey is important and every milestone you have, like every day you create a milestone and are good at it, then your life is going to be successful any way. So what I do is, I live in the moment. I seek opportunities and I look around me, I keep my eyes and ears to the ground and if I find an opportunity which is interesting, and I can create an idea around it then I work on it. But I love the diversity and the variety with which my career has sort of bifurcated. I love doing that.”
Nonetheless, Chopra has built quite the career for herself. Along with her acting assignments, she is currently developing a YouTube original series titled, “If I Could Tell You Just One Thing,” where she will go on a personal journey to meet the world’s most successful and inspirational people; working on her memoir titled, “Unfinished”; producing content under her banner Purple Pebble Pictures; is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has been a National Goodwill Ambassador to India for 12 years; an investor in Bumble, the dating app; and a “bunch of other projects,” as she put it.
Chopra, who is set to essay the role of spiritual leader and Osho disciple Ma Anand Sheela in her next film, said it’s an “interesting” project but is in the very early stages right now.
Chopra also confessed that “drive” is the thread that binds Jonas and her together.
When asked if Jonas wants her to slow down a tad bit, Chopra quipped: “He is faster than me. We race whose faster, every day. We really enjoy it. The one thing we love about each other is our drive.”
With so much riding on her shoulders, does the intense pressure and scrutiny bother her? “I don’t work for people’s expectations, I never have,” Chopra told India-West. “My career has always been mine. If people like it great, if they don’t, great. I have always been about being true to myself as an artist with my choices and my decisions. I do believe that I have a social responsibility as a public person, and I take that very seriously, but my decisions are not influenced by what people think.”
Chopra, who became the first South Asian actress to headline an American network series, outlined the effort she put in to avoid being pigeonholed.
“A very definitive choice on my end. I have taken a choice to always play ethnically ambiguous parts because I feel as soon as our ethnicity defines our character, which it can, once in a while, but it can’t be always. As soon as that happens, you get put in a box. And for South Asians it’s very important to be put in a place where we are seen as mainstream,” Chopra told India-West. “Your storylines should not be defined by the ethnicity. I feel that ethnicity is something that we are proud of, unless it’s a storyline about India and I’m playing an Indian girl in it.”
She continued: “In a romantic comedy like this one, my ethnicity has nothing to do with the story. So I think finding that balance is very important because I’m extremely proud of the work I have done in India. I try and balance that as well… I’m doing Shonali Bose’s film. I like to be able to have that variety as an artist and to be able to play everything that I can and expand my portfolio in a way.”
In 2019, Chopra also updated her glittery resume to add yet another jewel: she got immortalized as a wax figure at Madame Tussauds in New York. The figure will also be launched in London, Sydney and Asia.
“The exciting part of that was,” Chopra told India-West, “to be the first person to get four figures around the world. That was really cool. I think it was a really big honor. And my figure looked just like me, so I was very happy and relieved.”