Priyanka: I like the idea of being called Exotic
Ten years in Bollywood and 31-year-old actress Priyanka Chopra has everything going for her -- a hit career where she has worked with the superstars of the film industry, lots of awards, including a National Award, a massive fan following and plenty of interesting movies in her kitty.
But when some people reach the top of the game, they want more.
That seems to be the case with Chopra, as she attempts to launch an international music career as well as acting opportunities in Hollywood.
One such opportunity came her way in Disney’s new animation film Planes, where Chopra does the voice-over for an Indian aircraft called Ishani, who participates in a world flying competition and is also the love interest of the film’s main protagonist plane, Dusty Cropper (the voice of Dane Cook).
Directed by Klay Hall, who has previously worked on hit TV shows such as The Simpsons and King of the Hill, Planes also features the voices of Terri Hatcher, John Cleese, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Val Kilmer, Sinbad and Cedric the Entertainer. Clearly, Chopra is in esteemed company.
Chopra spoke to Aseem Chhabra by phone from Los Angeles, and discussed her Exotic plans.
It was really interesting to see an Indian character in an animation film. And if I am not mistaken, you probably are the first actor from India to do animation voice-over in the west.
I think so. I haven’t heard of anyone else who has done it.
Image: Priyanka Chopra in Exotic
'Klay Hall liked that I had an Indian accent'
Tell me about the experience of acting in front of camera, as opposed to expressing your emotions in front of a mike in a sound studio. I know you sometimes dub your dialogues in Bollywood also.
That was the biggest challenge. Actually, it wasn’t a challenge but it was fun. We do dub, so I am familiar with dubbing lines for my movies.
The beauty of doing an animation film was here, I had to create Ishani’s character and she was based on my expressions, the way she moved is how I moved. So that whole process was really magical.
You speak in the same accent, as you are speaking right now.
I was very clear about that.
You know that stereotypical accent that most people see Indians speaks with? I was clear that I didn’t want that. That’s really not how all of us speak. I wanted to keep it real. And (director) Klay (Hall) was fine about that. He actually liked that I had an Indian accent. He was glad it wasn’t exaggerated and stereotypical. I tried to get a few Hindi words here and there and that made Ishani unique.
I am sure it was written in the script, but did you have anything to do with Ishani and Dusty taking a trip to the Taj Mahal and the use of the AR Rahman composed song Dum Dara Dum (Tere Bina) from Guru?
Klay loved that song so the sequence was a part of the script from a very long time. It is a beautiful song. It is one of my favourite songs.
Image: Priyanka Chopra in Exotic
'Planes is a really cute film'
Did you think of choosing a song from your own film?
No, not at all. I don’t think it was necessary. It was a Hindi film song, so I already felt it was a part of my industry.
I think it works very well…
It was important that it should have been a song that worked for the moment in the film. And it didn’t have to be restricted to be from one of my movies.
How do you think people in India will react to the film and your role? It is very different kind of work for you.
I hope they like it. It is a really cute film. They should enjoy the film for what it is. There is a world of planes and very interesting characters. I think people will enjoy Ishani -- she’s a tough chick and is not afraid to fly high in the sky. She’s very spunky.
Image: Priyanka Chopra in Exotic
'I like doing things that excite me'
Talking about a tough chick, who wants to fly in the sky, you have a successful career in India. But how are you charting your career, this move to the west with the two songs and now this film? What are your goals and how are you making these decisions?
It is very organic when it comes to my career, whether it is at home or here.
If an opportunity comes my way and I find it interesting, I explore it. It is not really planned like I say to myself “abhi main yeh karoongi or I should not do that.”
The Planes offer came to me three years ago, before I even done the songs and the music. I like doing things that excite me. I like living in the moment of it.
You will next be seen in Zanjeer, Krrish and the Mary Kom film. Those are major projects in India. But with broadening your horizons, you are clearly opening up to new opportunities.
That is what life should be about. When you are young, you should broaden your horizons and grow as much as you can. That’s what everyone wants to do in their careers anyway. They want to grow into different things, move with time. I want to be creative person like that. Not limited to one sort of thing.
Image: Priyanka Chopra
'I don't live in fear and not go out because I feel people will mob me'
I saw images and the video of you at the milkshake place, and you were mobbed outside the store. Obviously they were mostly your Indian fans but I am wondering with this film and the songs, will you be able to expand your fan base?
I haven’t thought about it that way. But I always had a tremendous amount of support from fans and audience. I didn’t come into the film business with much help. I started really young and learned everything on my own. I am what I am because of their support. I hope that along the way I can keep on doing things that people expect me to.
What does it feel to be mobbed -- even in India, you can’t just go to have bhelpuri in Chowpatty or being on your own. Is there any part of the world where you can go to a Starbucks, order a coffee, sit and look out of the window?
But even in Bombay, I go out for coffee and movies. Nobody is going to shoot me. People just show their love and affection and I am not afraid of that. I live my life and I enjoy it. I don’t live in fear and not go out because I feel people will mob me. I am grateful that I am shown so much love.
I understand that, but I kept thinking that in Bombay or at that milkshake place, if you could just be out without people staring at you. Don’t you desire that sometimes?
Ah, maybe if I am in a pajama kind of mood. But it is the price you pay. This was my choice. I don’t understand people, who want to be famous and then they don’t want to be recognised. I don’t get that. It is something that comes part and parcel of the job, what we do. I enjoy it in fact.
Image: Priyanka Chopra at Millions of Milkshakes, Hollywood
Photographs: Joe Kohen/Getty Images
'The ingredients in the milkshake were chosen by me'
Did you have anything to do with the ingredients of the milkshake or they had decided it?
It was my choice. I was really nervous about it because I don’t know how to cook at all. I kept thinking, ‘Oh God people will say I don’t even know how to make a milkshake.’ I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
But was it your choice of using the almonds and caramel?
I wanted to make it with almonds because that's my favourite. This was just an expansion of badam milk, added with caramel and bananas.
Can we talk about Exotic? There is some flak you are getting in India that you are pandering to the west. How do you react that?
I don’t know how that is so, considering I have Hindi lyrics in the song. The song is very me. This is an English album. It’s an international album with Hindi lyrics. So how does it mean that I am pandering to the west. I think that’s wrong.
It maybe because you a going along with the western perspective of India being an exotic land and Indian women being exotic as well.
I like the fact that I am called exotic. I like the idea of that.
Image: Priyanka Chopra in Zanjeer