Something strange happened to me while reading this story of Priyanka Chopra which has never happened before. I have been mostly indifferent towards Priyanka Chopra in the years I have been a film journalist. I have interviewed her and come back unaffected.
But this account by Aseem Chhabra changed all that and I feel a decided admiration for the actor. Not for her talent or her looks but for her grit. Despite her support system, her mother, her family, etc., Bollywood has not been overly indulgent to her. More so, after her success in the west.
And reading between the lines, she must really be a lonely person making all her decisions herself without ever knowing the outcome.
Miss World at 17, answerable to everyone on every topic, from world affairs to current politics to the economics of the entertainment business, she has frequently faltered and never been forgiven. It must hurt but she digests the hurt and carries on. Not just grit. It also speaks of the generosity of spirit because one never hears her badmouthing her co-actors or critics in return.
Surprisingly, this book contains a lot of input from Karan Johar who has, in real life, treated her unforgivably but she shrugs it off as if it never happened. It makes me rewind to one of his Koffee with Karan episodes in which she featured alone after her big success in the US. Normally his coveted hamper is given to the star if he/she has appeared alone. But Karan Johar did not give her the hamper despite getting the TRP’s of having the now global star on his show. It spoke about his lack of goodwill.
Aseem chhabra’s account is an eye opener. He is actually educating us about how she has faced everything, the good, the bad and the, sometimes, ugly.
The credit goes to the writer for never brushing under the carpet her errors…viz her varying story of how she joined the Miss India contest among others but he puts it in perspective, neither accusing her of lying nor unconsciously making it up. Chhabra is an empathetic biographer. He puts her failures and successes in front of us to show that she rose beyond all that to become a star to be envied while honing her talent all the time to keep pace with her own expectations of herself. She remains grounded and relatable because she doesn’t get carried away by praise but does hurt when hurt comes her way.
From early life, her dark skin was the focus of everyone she met - in school, even in her own home in India where fair skin is seen as an asset. Her early years spent in the US also gave her a confidence she may not have developed here. But that didn’t take away from her the ability to work hard and do her best. She admittedly couldn’t handle failure and loved being on the top. Zoya Akhtar explains her beautifully “Priyanka is empathetic as a person, she genuinely has compassion for characters…even if you give her a flawed character, she will find humanity in it.” In an industry, where brickbats are easier to come by, a bouquet of this kind is to be valued.
The author has not overdone her American success either, he has presented facts only. It makes it clear that her career there is not going great. But there’s always a tomorrow and in the meanwhile, she has shown her admirable courage in moving from a comfortable position of being one of the top stars in India to a struggler in the US without so much as a whine. Aseem Chhabra makes us aware of the difficulties she has faced which make her so much more than just a star. She has turned into a true artist.
Her global celebrity status expects her to arm herself with information, have a world view and speak from real knowledge where she has frequently failed but she’s learning and will get there. What the reader can see is that it’s not all glamour and glitz being a goodwill ambassador for the UN, visiting refugees, speaking on the conditions around when the focus of her life has been films. But it hasn only given her more motive to cross these hurdles. She has a production company of her own in which she takes a keen interest in making regional films. So there is no end to her list of ambitious targets. One can only wish her luck and finish with her own words. When asked if your life were a book, what would the title be… she replied “unfinished”.
To get a true blue view of this actress, reading Aseem Chhabra’s book is a must. It will teach us to never judge people without knowing them well.
Book: Priyanka Chopra The Incredible Story of A Global Bollywood Star
Author: Aseem Chhabra, Publisher: Rupa Publications, Price: ₹500
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