Priyanka Chopra confronts rumours and sets the record straight.
Finally, it's lunch break on Zoya Akhtar's sets. In a pair of hip-hugging trousers and a halter top, Priyanka Chopra steps into her vanity van, all geared up for an interview with Mirror. The grey sky outside is soon reflected in the mood inside. As the interview progresses, Priyanka gets as combative as Mary Kom in the ring. Read on...
We had spoken to MC Mary Kom's husband, K Onler, some time ago and he seemed clueless about what was happening. He said they hadn't been consulted on the script...
Our script is completely Mary's zabaani. I think he meant he wasn't aware of the progress in shooting. I don't know from where you get your stories. At the press conference they said something completely different.
There has been a lot of talk on Twitter about whether they should have cast a North Eastern actress to play Mary instead...
They should have...
But then it would have become a smaller film...
That's for the producers to say, I don't know. All I can say is that I was very excited when the film came to me. No actor would have said no to the chance of playing Mary Kom. Woh meri hum umr hai. I met her many times, stayed with her, and with her help I have tried to portray her personality, her work and her struggles.
Farhan Akhtar also worked very hard to get into shape for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Did you trade stories when you were on the cruise ship together filming Dil Dhadakne Do?
No, both the films were over and we had moved on. But Farhan had seen the poster and was very kind. He tweeted, "Mary Kom ko Milkha ka salaam."
You've taken up roles other actresses would shy away from, like Jhilmil in Barfi! Will Mary Kom match up to that performance?
I can't say. When you are doing a film you are in the moment, thinking of what you are creating and not the result. I enjoy my job. I love making movies. Mary Kom was a very hard shoot for all of us but the story was very inspiring to me as a woman. A rice farmer's daughter from a small gaon (in Manipur) reaching where she has today is extremely commendable. Mary inspired me as a person. I hope she will inspire others too.
It's said that certain changes were made in the film, with Mary's consent?
Every film changes ma'am. I have not worked in a film which hasn't changed over time. Filmmaking is not a solitary process, it's teamwork. If you like someone else's idea better than yours, you'll take it.
There was a lot of speculation about whether you would play a mother in a film. That's finally been laid to rest after we saw you with two kids...
On my back. And I've played a mother before, many times... In Pyaar Impossible, which no one saw, I was mother to a six year old. That was six...seven...eight years ago. There were other films too. I am an actress; I have no issues with playing a mother on screen.
In Zoya's film, we're told Rahul Bose plays your abusive husband
I can't talk about that film.
But you are in a bad marriage in the film?
I can't talk about the film. It's too early. It's only coming out next June. But what you've heard is false. There's no abusive husband. That's really funny!
What was it like being on a cruise, cut off from the rest of the world?
I was not cut off. I had just finished Mary Kom and I had to stay in touch. I had to dub. There was so much to do. But it was incredible being on a cruise ship for 60 days, watching the Mediterranean go by. My mom came with me, my brother came to visit. I couldn't have asked for anything better.
Were you seasick?
I'm not, I love the ocean, I'm a mermaid...
Buzz is, your brother is getting into production?
I've got into production, not my brother. He's a chef and is opening his own restaurant. It should be inaugurated in a few days in Pune. He may come on board to help me out with my production. My family is involved in everything I do.
What made you decide to get into production?
I'm an actor and I want to contribute to my sensibility of filmmaking. I don't think I can become a big producer like the other actors. I'll make smaller films, give chance to new talent. When I joined the industry, I did not know anyone and it was really tough. I want my production house to be accessible to people. I want to be there for anyone who wants to be in this business. I'm starting out with Madhur's (Bhandarkar) Madamji in which I am acting, but I'll also make films, which will not feature me.
Some weeks ago you came on Reddit and announced that anyone could ask you anything. But some of the questions made you run away. You later returned to complain about how cruel and hurtful people were before signing out.
I am a private person but this time I wanted to do something different and open myself up to people. But that didn't mean I was open to questions about my father, mother and friends. You wouldn't be either, if I commented on your family.
What made you take the step in the first place? Many celebrities have gone off Twitter because of such personal comments.
As much as some people spew hate at you, there are many who love you. I wanted to find a way to reach out to these people. But unfortunately, I reached those who didn't like me or hid behind the anonymity of the medium to say hurtful things to me. I went away because I didn't want to give them prominence.
I love Twitter, I was on it before most people. It's a great support system and puts me in touch with those who love me. And for those who don't, there's a beautiful little button called 'block' which I use quite often.
There was a phase, about six months ago, when you were almost written off, before you signed Zoya's film and created a buzz with the Mary Kom trailer...
Every two years I am written off and then for two years I'm lauded and applauded. It hasn't changed me. Neither am I dependent on someone else for my career, nor does someone else's career affect me. I'm happy for my co-actors but what they do or don't do does not affect the work I am doing. My cinema is meaningful to me.
Mary Kom, Zoya's film, Krrish 3--they are all very big films and I don't see the need to do a two-bit role in a film with a big hero. If I do a Don 2 or a Krrish 3 where the title role is being played by my co-actor, then it's because it also has a great role for me.
People can say what they want, as long as they watch me, I'll be around. There is no permanence in the movie business. Iss saal kisi ka phase hai, pichhle saal kisi aur ka tha, agley saal kisi aur ka hoga. It's all about being there, about consistency. I think I'm like Rahul Dravid.
But on one hand you're playing the title role in a Mary Kom and on the other you are doing a Bajirao Mastani...
Why shouldn't I do a Bajirao Mastani?
Well, for one it's not the title role...
Who has read the script? Have you? I would be stupid to accept the film if it didn't have a great role for me. My colleagues, Deepika (Padukone) and Ranveer (Singh), have great parts, so do I.
You were the first actor to be signed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali...
I still haven't signed the film. Yes, Sanjay sir spoke to me about the film a long time ago. He offered me the part of Kashi and I was very excited.
But apparently you were unhappy when you learnt that Deepika had been finalised as Mastani?
Why would I be unhappy? I always knew that someone would play Mastani. It couldn't be played by a ghost.
But you hadn't expected it to be Deepika, you perhaps thought it would be a younger and junior actress?
I think you need to go back and do your homework properly, read the story of Bajirao. There's no age gap between Kashi and Mastani. So why would I expect someone new to be signed for the part? When Sanjay sir spoke to me about it, he categorically told me that it was about two girls and a boy. And I always knew he wanted two main lead actresses for the roles of Kashi and Mastani. I knew it would be one of my contemporaries. (After a pause) Do you know who he was making the film with before?
Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor?
No, for Kashi's part?
Was there someone... Madhuri Dixit?
I can't speak about it on record.
Ok, what made you decide to flag off your production company with Madamji? Was it because Madhur's Fashion had won you a National Award?
It had nothing to do with anything. I really believe in the story and in Madhur as a director. I thought it was the best collaboration to flag off my production company. It was as simple as that, everyone is not convoluted, you know.
There has been talk...
Yeah, yeah, we know your paper runs on talks...
That you wanted some of the intimate scenes in Madamji toned down, even deleted, and the script is being reworked...
This film is not about sex so there's no question of asking for changes.
We got that bit of news from an inside source...
All your dumb questions so far came from inside sources and most of them are nothing but rumours. You should check with your source again. Ask Madhur who's only given me a narration so far. If you were to ask me, I've still not got the final script.
And what's happening on the music front?
Another single will be out. Right now, with everything that's happening, I'm in a chaotic space. Once I'm done with my films, I'll think of my music.
Playback is always an option...
You don't do your homework or what. I've just sung a song for Mary Kom. That's playback. Picture mein gana tha, ga diya.
I meant you could consider becoming a singeractress and sing for all your films?
I could, I probably will. This is a different way of singing from pop. You're singing for the person you are playing. It's a different experience. I'd like to sing for another actress actually. I hope that happens.
People often hit out against you, yet you have always taken it in your stride...
I never take it in my stride but I don't say anything when I think it doesn't matter. When you are successful and beautiful, people like writing about you. I don't like giving consequence to stories that are nothing but rumours. There is so much of stupidity being written, one shouldn't give them importance through discussion. It's more dignified to be silent. But if it's something really upsetting, I take it up.
Have you moved away from typical commercial films?
What do you mean? Isn't Bajirao Mastani and Zoya's film commercial? Besides, there was Krrish 3 and Gunday.
Gunday was more of a special appearance...
Gunday a special appearance? Have you watched the film? I was the solo heroine, I was there in every scene... in 65 scenes...and you call it a special appearance!
But it was promoted as the story of Bala and Bikram, two goons who ruled Kolkata in the '70s?
I was promoted too; I was in every poster and 112 scenes...