Priyanka Chopra, who turned 22 this year, has lots to smile about. Two back-to-back releases in the next two weeks, to begin with. And a variety of roles in films that give her ample room to be the celluloid queen. She talks to Subhash K Jha in this exclusive interview.
Youíre shooting round the clock!
And doing challenging roles in every film. Take Aitraaz which Iím shooting for as we talk. It requires a maturity way beyond my years. And to make matters worse, I donít believe in the things that my character believes in. Each day before I shoot Iíve to sit for an hour to prepare myself. Itís a very bold subject.
But it isnít like some of those bold films that are coming out these days. The characters are extremely upfront. When I heard the role, I was worried. But when we started shooting the directors Abbas-Mustan never pressurized me to wear or say anything I didnít like. Itís been very challenging.
So Aetraaz starts your new performance-oriented phase?
Even in Asambhav, I was part of the main plot. I did my own bang-bang. I was not there just for the `nacho`, but also for the macho, ha ha. A lot of the footage was edited to make the film crisp. But itís not just me, everyoneís scenes have gone. Asambhav moved so fast you need to watch on rollerstakes, ha ha. I loved this role because I played a wannabe singer.
Youíre quite a singer yourself.
I try, once in a whileÖ No, I do enjoy singing. Rumours keep floating that Iíve sung for one or the other of my films. But that isnít true. Though a lot of my producers keep urging me to sing for myself, I havenít so far. Iíd only do so if itís a really special song and situation. Why just croon for crooning sake? (See Gallery: Priyanka with Akhi, Salman in MSK)
Singing is very close to my heart. I actually wanted to be a rock star. Instead I came into movies. Hey, that isnít so bad, is it? Instead of learning to sing more I started taking dancing lessons. Thatís more essential for our cinema. Iíll cut an album. But I donít know when or how. I need to do `riyaaz` for three months before I plunge into it.
But you are doing too many item numbers!
Where?! I donít do item numbers. The dances are all part of the character. After Plan and Kismet, Aasmbhav was the last film where I dance on stage. So thatís one more reason why audiences should run for it, ha ha. From now on I move into a different genre of cinema. In Aitraaz, Barsaat and Yakeen Iíve very performance-oriented roles. (See Gallery: Priyanka with Arjun Rampal in Asambhav)
The whole of Asambhav was shot in freezing Locarno.
Freezing? It was piping hot! While we shot there it was the hottest summer Switzerland had ever seen.
Maybe your presence precipitated the heat.
Could be, ha ha. We shot on the Italian side of Switzerland and it was 38 degrees. It was awful. We had to wear woollen clothes and pretend we were cold. My co-star Arjun Rampal got boils on his hands.
Thatís how things came to a boil between the two of you.
Very funny. Frankly I get along with all my co-stars, whether itís Akshay or Arjun. I choose roles according to the banner, not the hero.
Werenít you scared to have Mujhse Shaadi Karogi a week after Asambhav?
YeahÖvery scary to have two releases in two weeks. Fortunately I had totally contrasting roles in Asambhav and in Mujhse ShaadiÖ I play a totally sweet and innocent girl nextdoor. Salman and Akshay are the two boys who move into my locality and try all kinds of tricks to win me over.
The whole thing is hilarious, though unlike Andaz where I had a lot of comedy to do here I donít do anything funny. Iím the innocent babe in the woods. Till the end audiences wonít be able to guess who gets me. Davidji (Dhawan) is the fastest director Iíve ever worked with. We shot the entire film in 45 days. Isnít that quick?
Yeah, it is.
For one major schedule the producer Sajid Nadiadwala and David recreated a set in Mumbai as Goa. It was such a beautiful set. I was totally heartbroken when it was broken.
What about matters of the heart?
I know. Nothing happening there! Am I not lovable? Is there anything wrong with me?
Maybe with Akshay and Salman wooing you the guys are afraid to befriend you?
But thatís only in the movie! I had such fun working with them. And both of them treated me like a baby throughout. In fact I cut my 22nd-birthady cake on the sets with them. Theyíre so protective and sweet. When I first came on the set of Mujhse ShaadiÖ, Akshay was the only person I knew there. Intially I was a little nervous about working with Salman. Bound to happen the first time, as it did with Akshay during Andaz. Once I got to know Salman he was very easygoing.
Are you signing a lot of films?
Nope. Havenít signed one for six months. The ones Iíve on hand have kept me very busy. By October I intend to finish my old lot and start my new ones. Iím completing Aetraaz, Waqt, Yakeen and Blackmail with Ajay Devgan which his brother is directing.
Isnít there an awkwardness working with co-stars who are much older?
No why? Salman and Akshay hardly behave like theyíre another generation. I must admit it was more difficult with Sunny Deol during The Hero. I couldnít look him in the eye. The same happened with Naseeruddin Shah during Asambhav. They made it a point to try make me confortable. But I was like a schoolgirl with them.
You arenít tied down to any one particular camp in Bollywood?
Oh I made sure that didnít happen. I didnít want to get into any group. I just wanted to do quality work. Iím proud of every film Iíve doneÖ.. Even the ones that didnít work like Kismat. Iím not into camps and PR-giri. I canít play up to producers for roles. I donít go to film parties unless itís for my film. Iím friendly with all my co-stars male or female. In fact I get along like a house on fire with Kareena Kapoor whoís my co-star in Aetraaz. Everyone seems to find that hard to believe. But I believe you get as good as give to others.
How do you spend your free time?
Thereís none! No man on the scene yet. I canít afford the distraction. I canít come home at four in the morning to have a boyfriend badgering me about lack of time. Iíd rather get my proper sleep than get into a relationship. But I know love will come from behind and catch me unawares. For the past two months Iíve been doing double shifts every day. Sometimes Iíd be shooting till four in the morning and then go to another shoot three hours later.
This month five of my filmmakers had to put up sets simultaneously at Filmistan studio and I shot for all five together. Everyone teased me that Filmistan studio should be called ĎPriyankastaní. It was crazy, but sweet of the filmmakers and important for the films. All five required urgent attention. Everyone has been very accommodating with me. Even while I was shooting for David DhawanĎs Muhjse Shaadi Karogi Abbas-Mustan came to Film City to shoot a scene in Aetraaz with me.
But can you work effectively like this?
Oh yes. As long as youíre clear about your characters, you can shoot as many films as you like. Besides Iím caught in this rush-hour traffic only because Iíve to go for a World Concert in August with Shah Rukh and Saif. Iíve to finish all my films before I go. I donít want any film to be delayed because of me.
How do you plan to build on your career?
I love my work. I look at each day as a new adventure. Iím a morning person. Iím up and raring to go very early. Iím just 22. Iíve so much time to discover myself. In all my forthcoming films Iím different. My spectrum goes from the conventional heroine in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi to the totally unorthodox heroine in Aitraaz.
And my looks change likewise. Yeah, itís a very challenging time for me. And Iím enjoying every bit of it. Nothing in my career is ever planned. Iíve always been destinyís child. I leave it to HimÖ or Her.