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The Priyanka Chopra speech that caused India's latest outrage

December 28, 2017 08:15 IST

The star was chosen to deliver the Penguin Annual Lecture.

Priyanka Chopra Penguin Annual Lecture

Priyanka Chopra delivered an address on the theme 'Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Chasing a Dream' at the Penguin Annual Lecture in New Delhi.
Photograph: PTI Photo.


Priyanka Chopra may have had a dream run all the way from Bareilly to American showbiz via Bollywood, but says she is 'greedy' and doesn't want anyone telling her she can't have it all.

The 35-year-old actor was invited by Penguin Random House to deliver an address on the theme 'Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Chasing a Dream' at the 11th Penguin Annual Lecture in New Delhi on December 26. 

She spoke on the '12 rules of becoming the best version of yourself'.


'I want everything. There's nothing wrong with it as long as you're not harming someone or doing something wrong. Don't be scared to want more for yourself... I don't want anyone to tell me I can't have everything,' she said.

The former Miss World, who left the security of Bollywood stardom at the peak of her success to become a struggler again in Hollywood, continued, 'I want to dream of everything and I'll have everything.

'Be greedy, be hungry for your ambitions. Don't live on someone else's benchmarks. Who can tell you who you should be? Don't let anyone or any situation dictate to you who you are and who you can be.'

Adding her own spin to the Cinderella story, Priyanka said, 'Why do you want to fit into a glass slipper when you can shatter the glass ceiling?'

She said the term 'breaking the glass ceiling' annoys her as it takes all her achievements and hard work and puts it 'into a box', defined by a largely patriarchal society: 'To be honest, it was never my mission to break the glass ceiling. All I wanted to do was chase my dreams, my ambitions. I wanted to become the best version of me.'

For those who don't allow themselves to dream beyond their imagination, Priyanka's advice was to 'loosen up, let your dreams fly'.

She said one had to fight for one's dreams as no one else would do so: 'Today, I know my path is mine, the failures, successes mine. Don't settle on your dreams.'

Priyanka also spoke about failures -- how much she hates them and how she tackles them.

She said, 'When I fail in something that I do with all of my heart and mind, I don't wallow in self-pity, I roll myself in it. It's not a pretty sight. But then I cry a little, I get up and dust myself off and dive straight back again as the only way to push failure aside is to move ahead. Not ignore it, analyse it.'

The actor -- who has a National Award, an American TV show that's now in Season 3, and three Hollywood films -- said one has to recognise opportunities and then give one's best shot.

She elaborated, 'There was never a plan. The universe was guiding me through it, all I had to do was make sure that I worked so hard that I squeezed every drop out of these opportunities.

'No matter where you are, you have never arrived enough to explore opportunities. There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, ladies listen to me.'

Priyanka said people in the Hindi film industry had raised eyebrows when she played an antagonist in Aitraaz and when she chose to do a women-centric film like Fashion early in her career. She also said she knew her move to Hollywood would be 'career suicide' if it did not work but that did not stop her.

'People have written me off several times in my career... I went to do Quantico, when I was at the peak in my career here. The risks were huge, the stakes were high and the repercussions could have been, to say the least, career ending.

'But it was all worth it as I backed those risks with my 100 per cent.'

Penguin's choice of speaker, however, did not go down well with many, especially those in the literary world.

Though they all acknowledged that Chopra's many impressive accomplishments, the question that they raised was: What does she have to do with books?

In a column in Scroll, Krishna Shastri Devulapalli wrote, 'If breaking the glass ceiling was the theme of their annual lecture, couldn't Penguin Random House find one woman -- among the various hardworking writers, editors, publishers, poets, journalists, booksellers, literary agents, PR personnel -- from the publishing and literary field who fit the bill?

'Penguin Random House has on its roster writers as varied as Kiran Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tahmima Anam, and Shobhaa Dé. There are editors such as VK Karthika, who proved her mettle at Penguin, became publisher, HarperCollins India, for 10 years, publishing a Booker winner or two during that time, and is now publishing head of Westland.

'Weren't any of these women right in their backyard good enough examples of glass-ceiling breakers?'

Raghu Karnad, the author of Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War, tweeted, 'In the last ten years, Penguin’s speakers have included the Dalai Lama, Amartya Sen, Ramachandra Guha, Dan Brown...And the first time they bring in a woman, it’s Priyanka Chopa?'

'The real glass ceiling: the idea that women are only of public interest if they're beauty-queens or actors.'

Writing for Daily O, columnist Pathikrit Sanyal said, 'The fault of course does not lie not with Priyanka Chopra, but with our need to look beyond obvious role models.'

(With inputs from PTI)

Rediff Get Ahead Bureau in New Delhi