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On pictures and pop
David Light (email@example.com) / 13 September 2012
With her debut single, In My City, and latest movie, Barfi!, coming out tonight, we caught up with Priyanka Chopra to find out more about both while Ranbir Kapoor provided the laughs
ARGUABLY THE FIRST Bollywood star with a shot at crossing over into Western popular culture, Priyanka Chopra, by her own admission, is never one to obey convention. While commentators have often stated that those who have made their name in the Hindi movie business will remain obscure to many outside the South Asian expat community in Europe and the United States, Priyanka looks set to tackle this misconception head on with the release of her first pop single In My City, this season’s theme for America’s National Football League. Gearing up for the potential notoriety that no Indian film industry actor has yet experienced in the US and the simultaneous release of her latest film Barfi!, in which she takes on one of her most challenging roles to date, the 30-year-old began by trying to explain her thoughts regarding her current position.
“I don’t know the adjective to use to describe how I feel. I’m excited, but also nervous about both projects,” Priyanka said.
Brought to the Khaleej Times office with co-star Ranbir Kapoor and UTV executive Siddharth Roy Kapur by Dream Advertising and Ministry of Events during the promotional tour of Barfi! earlier this month, the actress’ anxiety did not, however, detract from her trademark coquettish demeanour. Looking every bit as glamorous as one would expect from a leading lady - swathed in a form-hugging dress and proudly displaying her new tattoo (‘Daddy’s Little Girl,’ written in her father’s handwriting) - the Fashion star answered questions in a soft melodic cadence, those big brown eyes peeking out from under her fringe.
“It’s funny that the single and film are coming out on the same day because the journey for both of them started around the same time,” Priyanka intoned when asked if either venture held greater significance. “The two are equally close to my heart.”
Featuring renowned hip-hop artist will.i.am, with In The City Priyanka looks to draw the world’s attention to Indian culture, the same way Shakira and Jennifer Lopez have achieved in bringing their own Latina roots to their tunes.
She previously stated when visiting City Times to discuss Teri Meri Kahaani that, “Every country has a personality that sums up their pop music, so why can’t we in India have that? We are a musical nation. I want my music to have a representation of where I am from,” and despite including an American on her track, maintains that is still her aim.
“Working with him (will.i.am) was great,” the performer said on his addition. “He is very easy to get along with and knew exactly what I wanted to do with the track.”
Just as this record and the rest of her album are reportedly being released in English, the reasoning behind the former Black Eyed Peas front man’s role is to maximise a Western audience’s interest. Once the following is established, an exploration into Priyanka’s background is inevitable.
“I got the opportunity to hear it (the song) and it will blow your mind. Unfortunately Barfi can’t hear it – too bad for him,” a typically on-form Ranbir Kapoor interjected, his comments as usual bringing the house down.
It may have been that we were straying a little too far off topic (they were here for Barfi! after all), or that Ranbir wasn’t content with not being centre of attention; either way it is difficult to ignore such an affable character if he wishes to get in on the act and we had no complaints.
Playing the jester throughout the meeting, Ranbir declared his presence by first bringing boss Siddharth down to size. Surreptitiously fiddling with the height adjust lever on his chair while he was speaking about cinema’s financial climate, Siddharth could only chuckle as the sinking feeling befell him.
Trying to regain an element of composure, it was put to Ranbir whether he felt any trepidation in taking on the role of a differently-abled man.
“That thought doesn’t cross your mind because when you hear something like it then you instinctively want to do it. Anything can backfire. A ‘sure thing’ doesn’t exist when it comes to movies.
“But the director was very clear that he didn’t want to make Barfi such a technical character. He wanted to base him on Charlie Chaplin - expressing himself physically. The audience has to understand exactly what Barfi is going through just by looking at his facial expressions and mannerisms. That was the challenge for me rather than worrying about whether people would be disappointed with my portrayal of a deaf and mute part.”
Priyanka added that the challenges her and Ranbir’s characters face are actually incidental to the plot.
“The norm is when you watch a film with differently-abled people, it evokes a sense of sympathy or pity. Having seen this one, it is not like that. It celebrates every kind of person that exists. Barfi’s philosophy is so great. He doesn’t need much to be happy. We complain about so much and he is always happy. It’s a love story, it’s not about the characters’ abilities.”
Yet, in an industry obsessed with glamour, was there any hesitation on Priyanaka’s part to don a curly wig and refrain from putting on any makeup? Her response revealed more about her philosophy on life than anything else, drawing us to conclude that, whatever awards Barfi! may collect, In My City is also more than likely the start of something big.
“I’m just generally glamorous anyway!” was her tongue-in-cheek riposte. “No, I have always believed in being a rule breaker. I get bored doing the same things in life generally.
“If I believed in ‘the norm’ I wouldn’t be an actor today. I was supposed to be an engineer. I was a science student on the honour roll. The things that have happened in my life have made me believe that you can do anything you want if you put your head to it. It’s fun to surprise people.”
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