'I am very ziddi. I think for anyone to be successful in any field, you have to be ziddi. If you are not ziddi, you will not be successful.'
Priyanka Chopra is ready with Mary Kom.
"I had never been to the gym before I did Mary Kom. I hate gymming, it's like a punishment," Priyanka Chopra claims, when asked about her latest role in a biopic on the Olympic boxer.
But like it or not, the actress has put her 'blood and soul' into Mary Kom, and now, she's scared about the audience reactions.
"I want people to love the film," Priyanka tells Sonil Dedhia in this interview:
Several questions have been raised about you being cast as Mary Kom. Were you expecting this?
I did not want to imitate Mary Kom. Director Omung Kumar, Sanjay sir (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, producer of the film) and the team knew that my face would never look like hers.
We tried a lot of prosthetics. I saw some of my leaked pictures with the prosthetics and I’d like to kill the person who leaked them (laughs).
But we were aware of the situation. We are making a Hindi film and we wanted the reach of the film to be worldwide. I speak a lot more in Hindi than Mary speaks, and not in Manipuri.
I have given my blood and soul to this film, to make sure I represent Mary's spirit and her personality to the best of my ability.
Sanjay said that the film had to be about the spirit of Mary Kom and the story needs to be told.
Mary has seen the film and she cried during some scenes. She has given me her affirmation and I guess for me that is the biggest test won.
Omung is a first-time director. How much did you believe in him and the film when he narrated it to you?
I have worked with many fresh directors -- Tarun Mansukhani (Dostana), Nikhil Advani (Salaam-e-Ishq) and now Omung Kumar.
I am a complete director’s actor but I don’t judge the film based on who is directing it. I take it up based on the story.
I would to give full credit to Saiwyn Quadras (the scriptwriter of Mary Kom). It was his idea to make a film on Mary Kom.
Writers are not given much importance in our country nor are they paid well. That's so tragic.
Did you have to raise your fitness level and train hard to portray Mary Kom?
Being an actor, I am supposed to train but I am very lazy. It is horrible.
If I look fit and athletic it is because of genetics -- my parents did not put on weight till they were 45 years old. I am blessed that way.
I had never been to the gym before I did Mary Kom. I hate going to the gym. Going to the gym for this film was my punishment.
I didn’t have to up my fitness levels because this is not about fitness. Fitness is very different from being an athlete. For us, fitness means healthy living, eating healthy and walking.
But this was about determination, focus, diligence -- it is a lifestyle, a religion, to be a sportsperson.
For me, this experience was spiritual. I will never be a sportsperson. I will never be able to represent my country in a competition.
As an actor, I got this opportunity to feel that. I did not have to act like a boxer but I had to become one.
And you also went bald for the film…
(Interrupts) I didn’t go bald. We used prosthetics. It was just a couple of scenes in the film, so I was not required to go bald.
But if a film requires me to go bald entirely, maybe I will do it.
Is it true that all your opponents in the film are real boxers?
Yes. Initially the plan was to use actors and teach them boxing. But we realised that it would become a task to teach boxing to 100 people.
It was difficult enough for me to learn the sport. So we decided that my coach and I would learn boxing and then use real boxers.
They hit me really bad (laughs). The problem was that these boxers don’t know how to act. There was one boxer who kept hitting me on my face as you get the maximum points for that. One blow landed on my forehead. There was a big clot and my mother, who is a doctor, had to be called on the sets.
She burst the clot because of which my entire face was filled with blood. But it was all in a sporting manner. I was so enthusiastic that every time I got hit I would get up and say ‘C’mon hit me more’ (laughs).
There is a song in the film Dil Yeh Ziddi Hai. How ziddi (stubborn) is Priyanka Chopra?
I am very ziddi. I think for anyone to be successful in any field, you have to be ziddi. If you are not ziddi, you will not be successful.
In most of the female-centric films today, new actors are cast opposite big actresses.
We live in a male-dominated world. There is disparity in Hollywood as well. But there is a positive change coming.
I get irritated when people categorise films as female/women centric films. Do we ever say male-centric films?
Let me give you an example. Anurag Basu’s Barfi! is as much about Ranbir (Kapoor) as it is about me and Ilena D’Cruz. Deepika (Padukone) did a fantastic job in Chennai Express and so did Kangna (Ranaut) in Queen. I think the credit should go to them.
At the same time, I should not get credit for Krrish, as I was a supporting actor. I supported big budget films which had male actors in the lead. I hope the day will come when male actors will support us and it will happen very soon.
What are your expectations from Mary Kom?
I am not confident about Mary Kom. I am really scared. I am the only person in the film audiences know; the rest are all new.
I hope I have done enough for the audience to like the movie. I never have expectations from my films. I believe in destiny. I feel destiny and hard work go hand in hand.
I want people to love the film and get inspired. The film has personally inspired me a lot. For me, every film of mine is my Mughal-E-Azam. None of them will get less or more from me. I enjoy the process of film and the work that goes behind it.
You play a mother in the film. Any plans to get married in real life and have kids?
It's every girl's dream to get married and become a mother.
Ever since I was four, I’ve wanted to get married and have kids. In school fancy dress competitions, I used to dress up as a bride with all the jewellery and a red bindi on my forehead!
I have not met the right person with whom I would like to settle down. I set my standards pretty high and every girl should. Unfortunately, no guy has been able to match those standards.
You are turning producer with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Madamji. Will the box office matter to you now?
I don’t understand numbers... I get confused. I am really happy Madhur agreed to be the director in my first home production.
It is a big step for me. As a producer, I want to make great films. I’ve wanted to make films, but I never thought I would make a film starring me.
I want to tell small, good stories. Madamji is a great opportunity to establish the production house.
I want to promote new talent whether it is actors, directors or writers.
Tell us about Bajirao Mastani.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali came to me a year and a half ago and narrated my role to me.
I am grateful he gave me this role. I am proud to be part of it.
Sanjay sir has been a guiding force since the time he has come into my life. I admire him; he has been wonderful with me -- kind, very generous and very loving.
I have looked for reasons to work with him and I am glad he chose me.