The great thing about Priyanka Chopra is that nothing fazes her, nothing rattles her. Ever. You can ask her anything and she will have the perfect answer for you. So it was that we sat down in Manhattan for a brief chat but packed so much into it that we touched on everything: her new film
The Sky is Pink, Chandni Chowk papri-chaat, life with Nick Jonas, being a part-time New Yorker, topnotch businesswoman and her musings on life.
Yes, all literally in 15 minutes flat - with the clock clicking!
I had just seen her bittersweet new film The Sky is Pink, which is directed by Shonali Bose and also stars Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim and Rohit Saraf. It is based on the true story of Naren and Aditi Chaudury whose teenaged daughter Aisha died of pulmonary fibrosis. Chopra has not only starred in the film but her Purple Pebbles Pictures has co-produced it.
“I think the biggest challenge was the responsibility of playing a real life person – and the responsibility of the time span – they met when they were 16. And they're still together in their fifties. To be able to play their entire life in the movie with the right kind of justice – I think that was the most challenging to me,” she says.
The Sky is Pink.
“This movie showcases such an integral, vulnerable part of their lives that I wanted to be very careful with how I portray not just the character that I'm playing, but the entire movie as a producer as well.”
Asked how the vibes of
The Sky is Pink changed her thinking, she said, “What I loved about the movie was that it is not focused on how long Aisha’s life is but how big her life is, and how her parents decided that they were going to give her the best life that she possibly could have. And I love that the perspective of the film is joyful – it's happy and you laugh through it. Aisha stared death in the eyes and laughed. And so that’s the perspective of the movie and I love that juxtaposition.”
Priyanka Chopra and Lavina Melwani.
One interesting aspect of the film was how beautifully Chopra ages in this film and that comes from a place of strength. “In this film Aditi had an amazing philosophy which is when life sucks – look like a million bucks! It was very important for Shonali Bose that she breaks the cycle of aging women badly in cinema. When women are aged in cinema, you suddenly see gray, you suddenly see them overweight, where Shonali believes and she does yoga every day, she says I like maintaining myself, I like being healthy. I like being the best version of myself and I want my Aditi to age like that. And I found that so amazing.”
Chopra recalled that in her own life even when her dad was unwell, he hated to see his wife without kajal and lipstick: “My mom was always perfectly, impeccably dressed and I feel that circumstances should not define who you are and how you face life. It should be you who define that.”
This happens to be Chopra’s first Hindi film in three years because she has been away in the US working on television – but she’s still on top of her India game.
“I've been away from India but I keep going back very often. In the three years that I didn't do a Hindi film, I produced nine regional films. So it’s not like I wasn't there. But it was very, very exciting to do this film, speaking the Hindi dialogues – that was amazing! I did miss that! I ate so much chaat in Chandni Chowk -- papri chaat -- that I made up for all the days away.”
From chaat, we jumped to Priyanka Chopra’s marriage and life with Nick Jonas. She’s probably been asked about that a million times but she still had an insightful answer: “It's wonderful being married, to find a partner that is completely and fully supportive of every single thing that I want to do -- my ambitions, my drive, and my work. It's wonderful to have someone who looks at me in an extremely supportive way. I love that -- I love the comfort and the contentment that marriage brings.”
Chopra had lived in New York as a teenager and is now back again, as a part-time New Yorker. “My days are never typical because every day is different and I’m doing a different thing every day,” she says. Nick and she have adopted and there’s a new baby in the family – Diana, a Chihuahua-terrier, a cute rescue dog who accompanies Chopra on her walks. “I love walking with her, and walking to the movies. I love the romance of walking in New York because it is a city made for that.”
Finally I had to ask the big star the big question – how does she manage to mix Bollywood and big business? “I started with being a creative person and then I got interested in the business of entertainment,” said Chopra, who’s always been interested in technology and science and had once wanted to be an engineer.
“I feel like the diversification of everything I've done has come from my real interests. So at different times in my life, I’ve been very willing to learn about things that I might not know about. When it came to business, when it comes to tech, I asked the right questions, I got myself educated. And that's how I tried many, many different things.”
Chopra, who was on the 2018 Forbes list of Power Women, is a tech investor who has stakes in the dating app Bumble's investment fund and Holberton School for software engineering. What would be her tips for women?
“My mother told me when I was very young, that a woman should always be financially independent, independent in whatever way you can from your husband, from your father, from your brothers, from everyone. It's important to find your own safety net. And I really took that to heart.”
“I started doing that from a very, very young age. I think investing, educating yourself, creating your own fund which makes you feel free and liberated, and gives you something for a rainy day is very important. Taking interest in your own finances is giving yourself. It's the best gift you will give yourself.”
Women should be part of the tech world
She believes it’s really important for women to be part of the tech world, and Holberton is a coding and engineering school in San Francisco that gives women an opportunity to get an education in a peer-to-peer learning environment.
Chopra who recently partnered with NBA and took it back to India, says, “I love cross-pollination like bringing Indian films to mainstream America, taking American things back to India. I feel like I'm the gatekeeper of that -- and I'm really enjoying doing that.”
Asked what gets her through her bad times, Chopra turns philosophical: “Knowing this too will pass. That’s what life is about. Bad times will also go away, good times will also go away. Life is a series of ups and downs; you just have to know that. It's going to be both, you can never just have a completely happy run, and you can never just have a completely sad run. So you need to appreciate every single day because life is a gift. It literally is a present.”
Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who blogs at Lassi with Lavina. Read Lavina Melwani's columns .