From the time Indians started making movies, most of the actresses were used for their beauty and dancing. Without an actress, there’s no spice in the movie. Almost all the actresses went along with it, playing the role of “damsel in distress”. However, with time things have changed as some actresses started taking unconventional roles.
The most successful of them is Priyanka Chopra. She was born in Jharkhand to parents who were both physicians in the Indian Army. Due to the profession, the family was always moving to different places. However, Chopra enjoyed it as it gave her experience of the different places and cultures in India.
Later, she stayed in America for three years for high school studies. After returning to India, she finished her senior high school at the Army Public School in Bareilly. It was here that she won the local “May Queen” beauty pageant and then went on to participate in the Femina Miss India contest in 2000. Chopra won the Femina Miss India World title and was crowned Miss World 2000 and Miss World Continental Queen of Beauty – Asia and Oceania at the Millennium Dome in London.
This brought world recognition and naturally film makers began making her offers for film roles. Her first movie was in 2002 with the Tamil film Thamizhan opposite Vijay. She marked her Bollywood debut in 2003 with the film The Hero: Love Story of a Spy alongside Sunny Deol and Preity Zinta. After working in a couple of successful and not so successful movies, Chopra landed her first unconventional role in Aitraaz with Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor. She played the role of the antagonist Soniya Roy, a gold digger who accuses Kumar, an employee of her older husband of sexual harassment.
From there, she continued experimenting with different roles. In 2006, she played the role of Roma in the action thriller Don. The film was a remake of the 1978 film of the same name. She received martial arts training and performed her own stunts. Following a string of unsuccessful films, she finally had her breakthrough in Fashion, a drama centred on the Indian fashion industry. She continued with her trend of unconventional roles and in 2014, starred as the title character in Mary Kom. It is a biographical film of the five time world boxing champion and Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom. For this she spent four months with Kom and received boxing training.
She went on to Hollywood, working with ABC Studios in the American thriller series Quantico from September 2015 to August 2018. This made Chopra to be the first South Asian to work in an American network drama series. She continued working in Bollywood and launched her own production company Purple Pebble Pictures with a Marathi comedy-drama Ventilator, a low budget movie which won three National Film Awards. She continued to work in Hollywood in movies such as Baywatch (2017) and Isn’t It Romantic (2019).
Although a few Indian actors have also worked in Hollywood, almost all of them have failed to create a lasting impression there. This is because even after working in the Indian Film industry for almost two decades, Chopra has the strength of not giving into the usual “too old to work” trend. When most actresses stop getting offers after the age of 30 and therefore, settle down in marriage, Chopra crossed the barrier to Hollywood. Not even the superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan could achieve that feat. Bollywood biographer Aseem Chhabra commented that even Aishwarya couldn’t make it in Hollywood due to her unwillingness to do sexy roles. However apart from Chopra, actor Irfan Khan also achieved recognition not only in Bollywood but also in British and American films.
In 2016, she was one of the few celebrities invited to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner with the then US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Despite being media friendly, she has carefully guarded her personal life. There were rumours of her having relationship with some actors. She ended up being engaged to Nick Jonas who had proposed to her in 2018 on her birthday. They got married on 1st December 2018 in Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India. There were controversies surrounding their relationship and marriage such as their age difference and Chopra accused of being a gold digger. However, she has been happily married and posts pictures of herself with her new family on social media, not caring what the world says about her.
Chopra has been recognised as a sex and style icon. She has held many titles such as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights in 2010. She’s the supporter of many campaign and charities. She was named by Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi as one of the nine nominees called “Navratna” in 2014 for a national cleanliness campaign by the Government of India. Apart from receiving film and TV awards, Chopra had also been given the Padma Shri in 2016, the fourth highest civilian award by the Indian Government for her contribution in arts. She is also a singer and has been writing for newspapers. She intends to publish her memoir titled Unfinished which will be released in India, United States and United Kingdom.
Chopra is said to have signed for some upcoming projects both in Hollywood and Bollywood. Her zeal for life and continued efforts to achieve is a lesson for us all that we shouldn’t give up no matter what are the obstacles.
Garima Nabh is the founder of New Age Magazine.