'People won't give me a chance just because I am Priyanka Chopra’s sister.'
It's quite tough to make a career in Bollywood, and Meera Chopra asserts that.
The actress, who has starred in quite a few southern films, was last seen in 2016's horror film, 1920 London.
Good roles, she says, are hard to come by.
So when she got a chance to feature in Section 375, starring Akshaye Khanna and Richa Chadha, Meera grabbed it.
"I kept working in the south because of the amazing money. But I never got that job satisfaction because I was never comfortable with the language. That was the attraction behind coming to Bollywood," she tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
Tell us something about your film, Article 375.
The film is about Section 375 (of Indian Penal Code).
It’s about rape and how it is used and misused in our society.
I received a call from Kumarji (Mangat, producer), almost a year ago.
I auditioned for the role but nobody was happy with it because it’s a Marathi character and I am a Punjabi girl.
But when I heard the script, I decided that I will do this role, no matter what.
It’s very difficult to get strong roles like this in our industry.
So I requested Kumarji for another round of audition.
I did five auditions before I cracked it and bagged the role.
What were the makers looking for in particular?
When you audition for a character, no matter how much you try, your real persona gets reflected in your act.
It took time for me to get into the psyche of a Maharashtrian girl, who lives in a slum.
But I was so passionate about it that everybody appreciated that.
How did you pursue them for the role?
I would go to their office and say, 'Let’s do another audition. I am ready today.'
I have never done that with any role offered to me before.
After 1920 London, I did not receive many offers, honestly.
I turned down whatever roles came my way because I was not interested in them.
I got offers from big banners and good filmmakers, for multi-starrers and comic-capers. But I could not see myself doing that.
I had already done that stuff in the south.
When you do not have any work, it’s very difficult to say no to what is coming your way.
It’s not easy to survive in Mumbai.
But I was constantly doing that -- saying no to the work offered to me -- for two years.
So when I heard the script of Article 375, I knew I had to do it.
Akshaye (Khanna) sir once told me, 'You will not get a role like this in your career, and if you do it perfectly, you will reap its benefit for the next four-five years.'
Do you think this role will change things for you in Bollywood?
I hope so.
But I have stopped believing in such things because they don't shape up the way you expect them to.
This character will definitely change my image in the industry.
I have always been offered glamorous roles and comedies with multiple girls.
I was not getting anything that was meaty and substantial.
I think this film will change that.
Has this character changed you as a person?
Yes. You realise people are going through such big problems in their lives but still, they have their heads high.
They are strong and living their lives.
On the other hand, people like us get agitated if the maid does not turn up or the driver takes an off.
There are bigger issues to look into and we should not pay heed to small problems.
How different is the Bollywood way of working from the southern film industries?
It's mostly the same.
The only difference is that there, they shoot from 9 am to 7 pm.
In Mumbai, they shoot from 9 am to midnight! (laughs)
Shooting hours are really long here.
Do you think Bollywood has tapped your talent fully?
The only difficulty I have faced in Bollywood is that my struggle is neverending here.
It's a very difficult industry to get a foothold in.
I am still struggling here.
It’s very difficult to get the kind of work you want.
The ones who get it are really lucky.
After 1920 London, I did not sign anything because I was not getting good films.
I think the struggle for somebody who comes from outside is really tough. You need to be really strong and persistent to just keep on going, going and going.
How are you related to Priyanka Chopra?
Our fathers are first cousins; we are second cousins.
Our families are very, very close.
We have literally grown up together.
We were in Delhi; they were in Ambala.
Didn't this closeness help you in your career?
Priyanka has always been very supportive.
She used to call me every two-three months and say, 'Babe, if you need something, let me know. Fayada uthao mera!'
She's an amazing girl, a girl with a golden heart.
But I am a self-respecting girl.
I always tell her, 'I am fine, I am sorting my things.'
Even if she had asked someone to consider me, it would not have made much difference because the industry is so professional.
People won't give me a chance just because I am Priyanka’s sister.
You were doing well down south before moving to Bollywood.
Oh, yeah! My debut film became a huge hit there.
My second film was also a blockbuster.
When your first few films do well, your journey ahead becomes smooth.
It did not happen in Bollywood though.
I kept working in the south because of the amazing money.
But I never got that job satisfaction because I was never comfortable with the language.
I just could not learn the language in spite of doing so many films there.
I wanted to work in Bollywood because I wanted job satisfaction from my work.
I wanted to work with my people, people who speak in Hindi, the language I speak.
That was the attraction behind coming to Bollywood.
And of course, Bollywood is widely visible and accepted all around the world.
How was it working with Akshaye Khanna and Richa Chadha in Article 375?
Both are amazing actors.
Akshaye sir has a very strong aura around him. Even if he is just standing in the frame, it feels like a wow performance.
He is an underutilised actor because he works so less.
People wait to watch him on screen because he is so choosy.
Akshay sir and Richa helped me a lot during the filming.
There were many scenes where they came to me and asked me to do it in a particular way.
Are you working in the digital space?
I am doing a Web series for Amazon called Kamathipura. It is based on Mumbai’s red-light area, Kamathipura.
I play a cop, and it's based on real cases, where girls are forced into prostitution.
You seem to be more inclined towards hard-hitting subjects now.
Yes. I have done 20-25 films in the south and almost all of them were commercial films.
I don’t feel like doing that anymore.
I want to do something which satisfies me, something which is relevant and something which makes people say, 'She has done something really good.'