Actress Priyanka Chopra will be unleashing a wave of girl power this month.
The release of her Bollywood police thriller Jai Gangaajal will be followed up by the UK premiere of her American TV serial Quantico. Both see the star playing fearless
characters taking on dark forces and reinforce the fact that she really is becoming India’s global face of feminism.
Priyanka will also be celebrating International Women’s Day and spreading the message of equality. In addition to all that, the busy star will take a break from her work schedule to present an award at this year’s Oscars ceremony on Sunday (28).
Eastern Eye caught up with Priyanka ahead of the Academy Awards to talk about Jai Gangaajal, Quantico and girl power.
I really enjoyed the trailer for your new film Jai Gangaajal.
I am really excited about this movie and glad you like the trailer, Asjad.
How did you find time to do such a demanding film with your super busy schedule?
(Laughs) You know, it’s amazing that I don’t have any time. I was in the middle of Bajirao Mastani and was leaving to work on Quantico. Prakashji (Jha) and I had been trying to work together for a few years. Then he approached me with Jai Gangaajal and very half-heartedly narrated it to me because he was like, ‘you don’t have the time to do this film’. But I had about 25 days, which eventually my team made into 35 days. I told Prakashji, can we do it in that much time, because no one else can do this role except for me?
What did he say?
He started laughing when I said no one else could do it but me. (Laughs) He said, ‘that is why I have been asking you to do this for six months’. I was like, ‘yes, we have to work it out’, and you know what, we did. He is a magician of a producer and scheduled something like nine scenes a day without making it seem like crazy heavy hours. But we knocked out so much stuff because his scheduling was great.
What about preparation for the role?
We did just one day of prep because I didn’t have time as I was doing both Quantico and Bajirao. But when I landed in Bhopal, we spent one day together, almost 10 hours
discussing the character and script. Just him, me and one of the writers. And you know what, I was ready. We just went ahead and it turned out so great. It is a film which is written so well and tackles so many relevant issues in today’s day and age. It is something I was very excited about and I am so proud of.
You have done a lot of kick-ass characters, so how does Abha in Jai Gangaajal compare to some of the others you have played?
The beauty about Abha is as much as she is a kick-ass character, she is very feminine and because she is from Uttar Pradesh, she has a lot of grace and manners. That is what I love about her. She might be a tough cop, but she doesn’t lose her femininity while doing it. She doesn’t need to swear and speak tough – she’s just all woman, but at the same time, a really tough cop, and I love that.
I love the moment in the trailer when your character has her arm around a woman she just saved. What’s your favourite moment in the movie?
Oh my god, there are so many, but that is definitely one of the most memorable. That moment made me really cry. We were in the middle of a marketplace and had about 5,000 people all watching while I was doing this action sequence, where a politically-powerful goon is beating up the girl’s father because he can, and trying to rape her and stuff like that.
It is so primitive that the rights of this family are taken away and a father is begging a man to not rape his daughter. When Abha gets there, it makes her so angry that there
is no one protecting women. She just beats him. Before she arrests him, she calls the girl over to slap him really hard and the crowd erupts with cheers. It is such a powerful scene. Without saying too much, you say so much about how law enforcement needs to stand up for women and how women need to stand by women. It’s not all right for us to be treated as commodities.
There is so much Prakash Jha says in the script without making it too dialogue heavy. It is a very special film.
You must be happy that Jai Gangaajal is being released the week before International Women’s Day (March 8)?
None of this was planned; even doing the film wasn’t planned. My show (Quantico) was extended so it is getting hard for me to even pro-mote the film. This was the best
release date Prakash sir as a producer thought we should have and it is coincidental that it is just before International Women’s Day. But I am really happy the film was actually made and is coming out because I think it’s important for people to see it.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is Pledge for Parity. How much of an issue is inequality between men and women, in your opinion?
That has been happening for aeons, right? Women forever have been told that that they are second-class citizens and you know, that is what feminism is about. It is not a fight or about berating men; it’s really not. Feminism is women saying, ‘give us equal opportunities and judge us based on our ability to do a job.’
That is something this film talks about as well. Abha is posted to this district because she is a woman and they think she will not interfere with a well-oiled machinery of corruption between politicians and the mafia. But she wears a uniform because she is the best person for the job and she proves that. That is why this movie is a testament for feminism.
You must be happy about Quantico finally premiering in the UK on March 10?
I am so excited about the show coming to the UK. I was really bummed that it was coming later [than in the US], but I am super excited and trying to see if I can make a trip down to the UK because I am still filming Quantico. I am also trying to do two movies during my hiatus as well so my scheduling is a nightmare right now on so many levels. But I really wanna come to the UK for some sort of promotion for the series.
Tell us about the character you play in Quantico, Alex Parrish?
Alex is such an amazingly empowered girl. She is unapologetic and that is what empowerment technically is. It means that you should be able to do whatever you want without
being judged. Men are never judged when they do what they want, so why should I be, and that is the way Alex thinks. She’s bold, she’s brazen, she wants to be the best at her job and she’s ambitious. At the same time she is super smart. She is the quintessential smart Indian girl. She wants to be the first in her class and it’s great.
How much has the success and [People’s Choice] award for Quantico meant to you?
It’s been six months since I’ve been on TV around the world, and the appreciation I have gotten so far has been overwhelming. It feels awesome especially since I come from a different country and am an entertainer in a country that I am not familiar with, but the acceptance I’ve got has been really really awesome. I feel very grateful.
You have been linked with lots of Hollywood films. Which ones are actually confirmed?
Like I said, my scheduling is a nightmare right now because the show has been extended from 13 to 19 episodes. There are a few Hollywood projects and a few Hindi films I
am considering, and soon I will know exactly which ones, but they have to fit into my timetable. So far the producers who have approached me have been all extremely amazing in trying to work around my schedule. I am very grateful for that.
So do you get any spare time at all?
I don’t get spare time at all. I don’t even get time to do homework on the work that I am doing. (Laughs) You know what, sleep is for the weak. I sacrifice a little bit of that and we’re good to go.
Finally, how much are you looking forward to the Oscars?
I am excited. I want to see so many things, like who will win Best Film; there have been so many movies this year that I love, like Room and Spotlight. I wanna see if Leonardo DiCaprio will get his first Oscar. It’s one of the biggest nights in global entertainment and I am happy that I will be seeing it live.
Jai Gangaajal will be in cinemas on Friday (4). Quantico premieres on Alibi (Sky channel 132/Virgin channel 130) on March 10.