(BBC) – Priyanka Chopra is tipped to pick up the Best Supporting Actress gong at this weekend’s International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, but she currently hasn’t signed any more Hindi films.
Instead, Chopra has spent most of this year in the US, shooting for her debut Hollywood movie – the Baywatch reboot – opposite Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Zac Efron.
She has starred in more than 50 Indian films since being crowned Miss World in 2000.
After a short stint as a Universal Music Group recording artist, Chopra found wide fame in America when she signed a talent holding deal with ABC Studios, leading to her television debut in Quantico.
The crime thriller has been renewed for a second season and bagged Chopra the Favourite Actress in a New TV Series gong at this year’s People’s Choice Awards.
But despite her success, Chopra says she wouldn’t describe herself as “a Hollywood star” just yet.
“I’m still very new, I’m not even a year old in America,” she told the BBC.
“I may be on the cover of Time [Magazine] because of 100 most influential, People’s Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards but I think there is such a long way to go.”
‘Indian actors are not a joke’
Chopra now hopes that she can use her wider profile to make Indian Cinema more accessible in the west.
“To convince another part of the world that Bollywood is not just jokers who break in to song and dance was very difficult. I’m literally ploughing the ground and making people understand that Indian actors are not a joke.”
Her time in America has also made her appreciate the campaigning of performers such as Amitabh Bachchan and Shabana Azmi who want to denounce the use of the term Bollywood.
“People think we’re a spoof of Hollywood and we’re not. We’re one of the most prolific film industries in the world. We speak Hindi which is spoken in one country, but 40% of our business comes from outside of India.”
In the last five years, Chopra has been at her most experimental in terms of Bollywood roles. She’s played an autistic girl, a boxer and a policewoman; all ground breaking female characters.
“We want our brains to be stimulated, we want to be entertained, otherwise we’ll not watch it. So now content is king, content is most important because now Indian films are also competing with content from around the world.”
Although Chopra says she has only just begun in the States, she’s certainly on the right path to stardom.
In the Baywatch reboot, she plays the antagonist – and she loves the role.
“First of all, my character Victoria was written for a man and second of all, it’s so good to be bad. My character is just evil, delectable and mean.”
‘Art is collaboration’
Deepika Padukone is another Bollywood star who is gearing up for her Hollywood debut. She will be starring alongside Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
Chopra believes the rising number of actresses exploring options globally is a great thing.
“So many people from the west are coming in to India, all the studios have come in to India and they’re making films here, whether that’s Fox, Warner Bros, Disney, everyone. That stands as testament for us so why are we afraid of sharing our talent with the world? We must.”
Nonetheless, some critics fear that Hollywood’s growing presence in South Asia could be detrimental for the existing film industry. Most recently, Hollywood has begun regularly using Bollywood A-Listers to dub over big blockbusters in Hindi. Chopra replaced Scarlett Johansson in The Jungle Book.
However, she says such collaboration is a good thing.
“Art is collaboration, we are artists all over the world. I believe that people are always going to watch Hindi films… that’s never going to die, but I think it’s amazing that collaborations like that are happening.”
In the past, Bollywood actresses have been limited with offers in America.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (AFP photo)
Another former beauty queen, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, starred in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride & Prejudice in 2004 and also appeared alongside Steve Martin in the 2009 comedy, The Pink Panther 2.
However, her refusal to do sex scenes or scenes with nudity saw her lose out on big blockbusters like Brad Pitt’s Troy.
Chopra’s conditions for choosing films are different.
“I always look for the same thing which is a story that I would want to go watch and a character that would inspire me and women around the world.”
And she now hopes to “divide [her] work” between both film industries, getting the best of both worlds.
“I’m going to be doing one Hindi film and one film in America probably.”