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What's In A Name?

She’s an actor who busted the myth ‘models can’t act’. But she’s not only gorgeous, she’s also one of the top three actresses in Hindi cinema. It’s been just seven years in the business but Priyanka Chopra has not only won more popular awards than she can count but she’s also received a coveted National Award. Here’s the lady in a tete-a-tete with Parag Maniar

 For the last three years, you’ve had only two releases a year. Why?

(Pause) No specific reason.  I have been shooting round the clock.  But each film has its own process and timeline and the timing of the release of any film is in the hands of the producer.

Are too many endorsements and shows taking time away from your acting career?

I want to say that I am an actor, first and foremost. Films are my life and my priority.  Everything else comes after that. As I said earlier, I have been shooting round the clock for my films. I have a team that ensures that my life is well planned and that my endorsements, shows etc are slotted to fit into my film schedule. Films are my priority and that hasn’t changed since the day I started work on my first film!

Do you see yourself associated only with films in the future? Would you dabble in any other business?

My motto is ‘never say never’! Like I said, movies are my life and my priority and it’s what I’m pursuing wholeheartedly right now. But I do have other passions like music, and some day, when the opportunity is right, I just may pursue one of those passions seriously. You never know!

You mean singing?

(Smiles)

After seven years in the industry, are you ready to carry a film on your own?

I can’t be objective about myself.  I am just happy that a director of the caliber of Vishal Bhardwaj believed that I could essay the role of Susanna in 7 Khoon Maaf. And, of course, the producers, UTV, who backed it to the hilt. I’m a lucky girl!

Vishal Bhardwaj recently told the media that Shah Rukh Khan called you (S)hero after watching glimpses of 7 Khoon Maaf.

(Smiles) I am honored and touched by the comment… that someone who is such a big star considers me worthy of a title like that.

Were you or Vishal more confident that you could carry off this role?

Quite obviously, it was Vishal Sir. Apart from having the confidence in me, he also made me feel confident I could do it through workshops, script readings, look tests etc before we began shooting.

This is second time you’re playing a vamp after Aitraaz. How different is this role from the earlier one?

Susanna Anna Marie Johannes cannot be classified as a vamp. She is a woman who loves deeply and passionately. So when she’s hurt, she is just as deeply hurt, which makes her take drastic steps.  As you watch the film, you will begin to feel for Susanna and the pain she feels, and maybe even take her side! There’s a world of difference between the character in Aitraaz and 7 Khoon Maaf. 

In Aitraaz, my character was young and very ambitious and she would do anything to get what she wanted. In 7KM, Susanna ages from 25 to 65 and she is driven purely by her quest for true love and nothing else!

Was this role very complicated?

For sure! Not only was it difficult to weave the various aspects of a woman’s ageing process into my role – that’s 20 to 65 years – it was also the complexities of what drove Susanna to do what she did that was a huge challenge for me.  It is by far my toughest, most challenging role to date. 

Shah Rukh Khan has called you (S)hero; you’re also known as Piggy Chops, PC… Now after slaying seven men in this film, people might call you Bollywood’s Uma Thurman.

(Laughs) What’s in a name, seriously?  I just want to be known and appreciated for the work I do. As long as the audience is happy with my performance, no title or name matters!

Were you aware of Ruskin Bond’s short story?  What was the first thing that came to mind when Vishal Bhardwaj narrated the script or mentioned this film to you the first time?

Ruskin Bond was part of my school curriculum. So I have read a lot of his work. But no, I did not know about this story until Vishal Sir narrated it to me. I was transfixed and super excited at the same time. The story was so gripping and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a role as challenging as this.

Apart from their remuneration and scripts, today’s crop of actors also looks takes into account the viability of the product at the ticket counter. As they say, ,’hit hai to fit hai’. What about you?

I think a film’s commercial prospects are very important. We all make movies so that people come to the cinema to watch them. That’s the ultimate goal. So yes, while I think the script, director, co-actor and producer are very important, the product must be commercially viable.

Do you make it a point to go through collections or opening numbers?

Not at all! Once a film is released, it has its own destiny. 

You are Internet savvy. You have your own website. You are on Twitter. Do you think these things make a significant contribution to an actress’s career? Isn’t it more charming to be inaccessible and enigmatic?

It’s not about making a contribution to my career; it’s about a direct connect with my fans and well-wishers. We live in an ever-changing world where the status quo is challenged every day. Yes, I agree that these platforms increase accessibility but you have to put it in the context of how technology and social media have redefined relationships, including that of personalities and their audience.

It was rumored that you signed a three-film deal with Yash Raj like any other actor but that you did only one – Pyaar Impossible?

That is incorrect.  Pyaar Impossible was the only film I signed with them at that time.

According to the buzz, we’ll be seeing you in Dhoom 3…

It is definitely a great franchise that gets better every time and it’s definitely a film I would like to be a part of. I have however not been in any discussions regarding this film.

Is it true that you have been offered 2 States too?

That is something you have to ask Vishal Bhardwaj!

Tell us something about Don 2…

It is a continuation of my earlier character, Roma.  There is lot of action and thrills. But I  can’t say much more.

What other projects do you have on hand?

After 7 Khoon Maaf releases on February 18, I will complete Farhan Akhtar’s Don 2 with Shah Rukh Khan. I will then begin work on Dharma Productions’ new version of Agneepath with Hrithik Roshan and also Anurag Basu’s Barfee with Ranbir Kapoor.  This year, I will also start work on Krissh 2.  As I said many times, I’m doing movies round the clock!

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