Bollywood actress Parineeti Chopra isn’t a fan of selective rage directed at certain movies.
We are in her hotel room in Dubai and we are discussing how certain films such as Shahid Kapoor’s blockbuster ‘Kabir Singh’ or Ranveer Singh’s epic period romance ‘Padmaavat’ evoked polarising reactions.
Recently, Kapoor’s landmark hit ‘Kabir Singh’, a troubled romance, has crossed the Rs2billion mark at the box office, but has been blasted for glorifying male privilege and peddling toxic relationships.
“I find it disheartening that the audiences are not judging films equally. They are picking and choosing which films to attack and which ones they don’t want to attack. I am not OK with their lack of consistency,” said Chopra in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid! during her visit to the UAE to open a store for local supermarket chain Al Adil Trading.
While she understands that the viewers are an actors’ ultimate “boss”, she reminds you that an artist does not always endorse the stories that they bring to life on the big-screen.
“We are just faking it on the big screen to entertain you. We are giving you a variety of stories. I may play a murderer, but it does not mean that I am endorsing murder. I may play a rape victim, but does not mean I am endorsing the rapist. I might tell you a story about a kitten in space, but that doesn’t mean that I am chucking kittens into the orbit. As per convenience, some stories are judged for endorsing reality and some are enjoyed as ‘mindless entertainment’,” said Chopra.
The actress, who made her debut with a riveting romance about honour killings with Ishaaqzaade in 2012, feels that certain creative experiments are weirdly insulated from scathing criticism.
“We watch ‘Narcos’, but why aren’t we judging ‘Narcos’? ... In a film, if there’s a song of me dancing against a snow-clad mountain. Why are you OK with that?”
Unless it’s a biopic on real-life personalities like 'Raazi' starring Alia Bhatt or her own forthcoming biopic on Indian badminton champion Saina Nehwal, a filmmaker isn’t compelled to stick to the absolute truth.
She should know. Currently, all her energies are invested towards playing badminton like Nehwal, the first female Indian badminton player to have won an Olympic medal. The filming for that biopic will begin in October.
“She has all my respect … She’s strong as a man physically and it’s awesome … Her thighs and arms are rock solid. If I had to lose weight for the film, it would have been easy. But to get a fit body like hers, it isn’t … She’s a tigress on court,” said Chopra.
Before training for the biopic, she was under the impression that she knew how to play the game.
But she was wrong as she had to unlearn everything she knew about that sport.
“Badminton is that sport which everybody plays… It’s like gully cricket [street cricket] in India. When I signed up, I thought I just had to brush up on my skills. Cut to the day of training, I was told I was holding my racket wrong. Just because you know how to connect a shuttle to a racket, doesn’t mean you know how to play badminton. Players like Saina have their own technique and style.”
Chopra, who will soon release her zany comedy ‘Jabariya Jodi’ with Sidharth Malhotra in August, will also mix things up by playing Emily Blunt’s role in ‘A Girl On The Train’ in Hindi. The filming for the Bollywood adaptation of the Paula Hawkins best-seller will begin next month. Blunt played a slightly unhinged, emotionally derailed divorcee in this hit thriller.
“It’s a part of my personality that I have not explored on the big screen … That vulnerable side and not-in-control side … I read Paula Hawkins’ book years ago and it was one of my favourite books. I have read all her best sellers and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think of playing a character that she wrote.”
As far as dream runs go, Chopra’s career has hit a roadblock of sorts. Her recent films such as ‘Namastey London’ didn’t enjoy a glorious run at the box office. But she isn’t letting the downturn affect her. Proudly pragmatic, Chopra says “ups and downs” are the only constant in an entertainment industry.
“I don’t think any actor has been successful constantly or given 10 hits in a row. There are some actors who try for many years and explode one fine day, while others find success in their first few films. There are different journeys for everyone. When my first [unsuccessful] film 'Daawat-e-Ishq' didn’t do well, it came as a shock. But today, I am better at dealing with any kind of failure — be it in films or life.”
She has another big advantage. Her cousin is Priyanka Chopra Jonas who is self-made and self-taught global celebrity and superstar. Their closeness is well-documented and was on full display during Priyanka’s big fat Indian wedding in Rajasthan and the glitzy hen party in Europe.
“She’s my biggest inspiration. The kind of attitude she has towards works and her sheer talent is amazing … She’s super human and she’s the hardest worker I know... I don’t think we will get a Priyanka Chopra again. As an outsider, she’s a rare one.”
Chopra constantly takes a leaf out of her famous cousin’s book. She claims her thoughts aren’t biased because Priyanka is her sister.
“She has been in this business for over 20 years and I have been here for around eight. If I achieve 50 per cent of what she has achieved in her life, I will be happy.”
While that remains unknown, Parineeti rivals her cousin in being utterly charming and gracious. Parineeti is the kind of star who envelops you in a warm hug. She makes it a point to introduce us to herbrother Shivang Chopra, who was accompanying her to Dubai.
“We have just come back from a day of shopping... He loves Dubai too. His birthday was day before so I want him to shop more,” said Chopra laughing at her brother’s embarrassed face.
Does her work holiday in the UAE involve eating lush gourmet food? Chopra’s physical transformation as she toned up her body is the stuff of Bollywood legend.
But she keeps it real.
“I have yo-yoed in my weight throughout my life. I have always struggled and it goes up and down. The only secret is to balance it out with exercise and food. I work out a lot and a great metabolism is not something that I have... I have to work towards it all. Nothing has come easy,” she said.
WHAT PARINEETI IS WATCHING
“'Big Little Lies' Season 2. I watch web series a lot. It’s my jam, my way of unwinding after a hectic day of work and travel.”
“I am sad that a film has to make a certain kind of noise at the box office to be called a conventional hit,” said Chopra, on how films are celebrated and rated based on box office numbers alone.
“The Chopra clan doesn’t get jet-lagged. We can all travel like crazy, but we never get jet lagged. It’s in our blood,” said Chopra.