How Priyanka Chopra called out Bollywood’s failure post her Hollywood success, said she chose to head West over grovelling to Bollywood cliques
Actor Priyanka Chopra, who is making strides in Hollywood, has recently started speaking freely about shortcomings of the Hindi film industry and how it pushed her to seek a career in the West.
In 2018, when asked on Koffee With Karan season 6 which Bollywood star she looks up to, Priyanka Chopra boldly replied, “None.” Her response might have hit a raw nerve of many in the Hindi film industry, considering her success in Hollywood with the American series Quantico and roles in films like A Kid Like Jake and Baywatch. Many Bollywood stars dipped their toes in Hollywood waters and eventually returned, but Priyanka chose a different path, one that would redefine her career and make her one of the biggest female stars of her generation.
While she taught people in the West about India’s culture and how many here speak multiple languages including Hindi and not ‘Indian,’ she meticulously chose roles that didn’t typecast her as an Indian or South Asian.
Beyond acting, she took strides to build her brand, proving that she was much more than just a Bollywood actress. And it is only after finding her feet in the West that Priyanka became confident to speak freely about factors that made her exit Bollywood at the peak of her career. In her recent interviews, she has spoken about facing rejection due to politics and nepotism in the Hindi film industry.
Priyanka forayed into Hollywood as a singer. She crooned songs like In My City and Exotic, featuring her and Will.I.Am and Pitbull. In a conversation with Dax Shepherd on his podcast Armchair Expert, Priyanka spoke about being tired of the politics in Bollywood and saw these songs as her gateway to America.
‘I was pushed into a corner in Bollywood’
She said, “I was being pushed into a corner in the industry (Bollywood). I had people not casting me, I had beef with people, I am not good at playing that game, so I kind of was tired of the politics and I said I needed a break. This music thing gave me an opportunity to go into another part of the world, not crave for the movies I didn’t want to get, but I would require to schmooze certain clubs and cliques of people. It would require grovelling and I had worked a long time by then that I didn’t feel like I wanted to do it. So when this music thing came I was like ‘fu** it I’am going to America.”
According to Priyanka, her success wasn’t received well by some in the Hindi film industry as they attempted to undermine her career. Talking on The Ranveer Show, she said, “Very few of us are happy for somebody else’s success. I’ve also had people wanting to jeopardise my career—take away from work, make sure that I wasn’t cast just because I was doing well in what I was doing.”
‘I was terrified my films not working… I am not a nepo baby’
Nepotism has been a longstanding debate in Bollywood, and even Priyanka, with her two-decade-long career, acknowledged its prominence. She told Dax Shepherd, “I was terrified when those 6 movies didn’t do well because I’m not a nepo baby. I didn’t have that kind of support that exists in a big way in Bollywood movies. You know they are multi-generational actors that come in and get multiple opportunities versus the ones that come in from outside. You don’t have your uncle making a movie for you just because your last one tanked, right? You have to get it, and you have to hustle for it.”
Being an outsider, Priyanka knows the value of a merit-based work environment and she advocated the same during promotions of her international web show Citadel. She spoke to indianexpress.com about ways to make the Hindi film industry a safe place for outsiders and end the supremacy of certain camps.
‘Workplace should be merit-based’
She said, “I think having conversations around opportunity and merit is important. Now that we are living in the world of streaming, there is so much more. The Hindi film industry has changed so much in the last five to ten years. You have so many talents – writers, directors, actors that come from outside the industry. When I first started, that was not the case, at all. So I think having conversations around the fact that the workplace should be merit-based, that the workplace should be a positive environment, that casting should be a casting director’s job instead of the politics and the drama.”
In a career spanning 22 years, Priyanka was paid equal to her male co-star only in her recently released web show Citadel. During an interview with Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) 2023, Priyanka said, “I might get into trouble for saying this, depends on who’s watching. I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for now 22 years, and I have done almost 70-plus features and two TV shows. But when I did Citadel, it was the first time in my career that I had pay parity. I’m laughing about this, but it’s kind of nuts.”
After being sidelined by influential figures in Bollywood, Priyanka shifted her focus to Hollywood, and now, with her meteoric rise in the West, she is involved in fewer Hindi film projects, if any. While she was supposed to star in Farhan Akhtar’s Jee Le Zaraa, rumours about her exiting the film have been circulating. Currently, she is busy shooting for another Hollywood film titled Heads of State, alongside Idris Elba and John Cena.