“I never wanted to choose between the two,” he says Priyanka Chopra, a Bollywood and Hollywood star as we record an episode of the Chatter podcast The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards.
Chopra, who can currently be seen in Ramin BahraniOscar-nominated Netflix, which she was also executive producer on and whose memoir Unfinished is now a best-seller, adds, “My career in India will always be a big part of who I am – it is my identity – but I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. “
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You can listen to the episode here. The article continues below.
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Chopra was born in Jamshedpur to military doctors and grew up across India before moving to America without her parents at the age of 12 to live with an aunt. She wanted to stay in the US while studying, but encountered “toxic” bullying and racism which brought her back to India at the age of 17. “I kind of broke up with America at that point,” she says. “My heart hurt.”
Within a year, the blooming beauty was submitted by her mother and brother as a candidate for the Miss India beauty pageant. She was accepted and won and catapulted her to the Miss World competition, which she won. It was a remarkably quick series of events that, as she puts it, meant “suddenly growing up and finding your way in an industry that is not easy”.
Chopra had planned to become an engineer but has now been inundated with offers to appear in films in Hindi and quickly became a star that anchored both blockbusters and prestige productions, including one for which she won India’s best actress Oscar . She also tried singing, which drew her attention to the American music mogul Jimmy Iovine. “Jimmy was a big reason and motivation for me to work in the US,” she says.
Although her music career never quite began in America, her acting career soon did. Keli Lee from ABC in an effort to add diversity and international appeal to her network, Chopra asked if she would consider working on American television. “The only thing I wanted to be part of was mainstream pop culture,” says Chopra, “and I haven’t seen a lot of people who looked like I was part of mainstream pop culture.” So she signed a talent deal that ultimately resulted in her playing the first Indian starring role on an American primetime network show, Quantico, that ran for three seasons. “I played an Indian whose ethnicity wasn’t defined by the show,” she says. “I was just an FBI agent. It was extremely liberating and exciting for me.”
Chopra isn’t nearly as big a star in Hollywood as she is in Bollywood, but she’s sure to make headway with The White Tiger – a film with an all-Indian cast that at times became Netflix’s most-watched offering in 161 countries. “I was a huge fan of the book,” she says, referring to it Aravind AdigaThe 2008 Booker Prize-winning novel about class tensions in modern India. “I desperately didn’t want this film to go into a box of independent theaters. It’s a mainstream story and it deserves that kind of attention and I just wanted to use my platform to do that.”
Chopra, the singer married Nick Jonas In 2018, she looked back on her life to this point for Unfinished, but she looks forward to doing enough significant new things – both in India and America – to eventually warrant another book. “I feel very privileged to be able to span both worlds,” she emphasizes. “The only other person I am [know of] who ever did that was Sophia Lorenand I admire them immensely. Most importantly, she adds, “It’s a responsibility to represent an audience that is consuming this entertainment, and I want to – hopefully – be able to do that. “