Cover Story: Ahead of The Sky Is Pink, Priyanka Chopra Jonas gets candid about Nick Jonas, J-Sisters and staying ambitious
NINETEEN YEARS AGO, in 2000, Priyanka Chopra won the title of Miss India. Later that year, 18-year-old Priyanka was crowned Miss World. While the progression from modelling to acting seemed obvious, and she received a National Award for Fashion (2008) and three Filmfare awards (Andaaz, Aitraaz and Fashion), it was her marvellous journey over the last decade that took everyone by surprise, and established her as a global icon.
The last decade saw her releasing singles like In My City and Exotic, writing columns in newspapers, turning into a businesswoman, producing films and working on an American television series (Quantico) as well as films, besides doing some praiseworthy work in Bollywood, including 7 Khoon Maaf, Barfi, Mary Kom and Bajirao Mastani. The last year also saw Priyanka getting married to American singer and songwriter Nick Jonas in traditional Hindu and Christian ceremonies in Udaipur, and since then, she has been flying between India, New York and Los Angeles. As she returns to India with her upcoming feature film, The Sky Is Pink, Indulge catches up with Priyanka Chopra Jonas on movies, married life, business ventures and how she plans to commemorate the two decades that have gone by. Excerpts:
Q: Next year will mark two decades to the day that you won the Miss World title. Any special plans to celebrate this milestone?
Priyanka Chopra: Not yet, but I am writing a book. It is a memoir titled Unfinished and it is still unfinished (laughs), but I am hoping that it will be finished by next year. It recaps my journey from when I was a baby to now. I am hoping that it will be my gift and commemoration of my journey so far.
Q: When you look back, how do you see yourself, and how much have you evolved?
PC: Gosh... So much! I was a teenager, I was 17-years-old when I started, I didn’t know anything. I learnt everything that I know today on the job — it was my school of acting, entertainment, public speaking and everything else. I never had the opportunity to do it outside. Everything that I made over the years, and everything that I am today, is through the work that I have done and the experiences that I have accumulated. I have changed tremendously, as everyone does. I’m definitely not the 17-year-old I was, I was scared and nervous at that time... I found my confidence along the way somewhere.
Q: What was one thing that spoke to you so intimately about The Sky is Pink, that you came on board not only as an actor, but also as a producer?
PC: This film really got me! It is so lighthearted... it doesn’t feel heavy even though it deals with such a heavy matter. When I read the story, it was clever, well-written and had a very modern take on relationships, and had a real-life couple telling it to us. Every single scene in this film is told to us by Aditi and Niren Chaudhary (Aisha’s parents)... How Aditi (Priyanka) used to sneak into Niren’s (Farhan) house in Chandni Chowk, and he would put a helmet on her head so that people would think it’s a boy. Even the songs that you see; Aditi and Niren were and still are big-time Bollywood buffs — and most of Aisha’s (Zaira Wasim) video in the documentary that will come out, have her dancing to Bollywood music. These are their stories and we have just incorporated them in a film. I found that so amazing that I had to call Sid (Siddharth Roy Kapur) and Ronnie (Screwvala) and say, “If you will have me, I would love to co-produce it.”
Q: The film also deals with facing death. How personal was shooting that part?
PC: It actually healed me a lot. It helped me deal with my father’s passing away in a very healthy way. I can never compare that to losing a child, because that’s not the order of nature. It is something I cannot even fathom because I am not even a mother, but both Shonali (Bose, the director) and Aditi (her character) have lost children. I learnt from them and their experiences, but it helped me have a much healthier attitude towards death — which is to celebrate the life lived instead of (living in) the void that is created, and the sorrow of what is gone, because everybody has a journey and once it is over, they will go.
Q: From the time you started shooting the film to the time of its release, your relationship status has gone from single to married. How much has your life changed?
PC: (Laughs.) I didn’t even know Nick when I came on board for this film. I knew him as a colleague, I knew him from red carpets and parties. Shonali Bose met me in January last year. I started dating Nick in June. So, I got engaged while filming this movie, I got married while filming this movie — everything happened under Shonali’s nose, literally. Yeah, a lot changed, but this film has seen me through it all.
Q: Nick and you come from different cultures. Have you ever been surprised or shocked by each other’s customs or traditions? Especially Nick, since we Indians are a little overboard with everything that we do...
PC: I think Nick is very Punjabi like that. He has a big family, he loves having friends and family around, and it’s all about the food and the music. But, yes, I think culturally, we are a bit louder. Nick speaks at a very low decibel, while we (tend to) talk over each other.
Q: Did he ever think that you guys are always fighting?
PC: Yeah, especially when I talk with my friends and family. Initially, he used to be like, ‘Is something wrong?’ And I used to be like, ‘No, no, we are just discussing...’ Also, he always used to think that I am fighting while I used to be telling him something passionately. Now, he has understood me, but initially, he used to be like, ‘Why are you attacking me?’ And, I’d be like, ‘I’m just being passionate’ and he’d be like, ‘But why are you yelling at me?’ and I’d say, ‘I am not yelling at you. I am being emphatic’. He’d still say, ‘But you are still yelling!’. Now, he has understood that I am just being emphatic.
Q: We all love firsts. So, tell us about plans for your first home together with Nick. Where will it be?
PC: I don’t know. We haven’t found it yet. We are looking for our first house together. Right now, he has a house in Los Angeles and I have a house in New York. We are based out of the house in New York at the moment, but we are looking for something in LA.
Q: Who coined the term ‘J-Sisters’?
PC: Might have been me. It actually happened at my bachelorette. It started as a joke that if they are Jonas Brothers, we can be Jonas Sisters, since there were all three of us (Danielle, Sophie and Priyanka). It just became a thing.
Q: How do you bond with them?
PC: My jethani-devrani? (Laughs out loud.) Sophie calls herself ‘jethani’ (elder sister-in-law). She’s like, you have to listen to me, I’m the jethani. She loves being jethani.
Q: What does a day in your life look like, when you and Nick are not working?
PC: When we are not working, we put our phones aside. We don’t like to do much actually — we wake up late, take the dog for a walk, go for a movie or explore the city wherever we are, sometimes we golf. Also, we like talking and spend a lot of our time updating each other on our lives — we have date-days and not date-nights.
Q: You are also a fashion icon. Tell us about your favourite designers, and what you like about them.
PC: I am not a ‘designer’ person! I am someone who will wear an outfit if it looks good on me, it doesn’t matter who the designer is. I am a mix of high street and low street. I wear custom clothes and at the same time, I wear casuals. I have to wear a dress that works for me. I don’t follow trends, I set them (smiles). Besides that, I am a big fan of Sabyasachi, Valentino and Chanel.
Q: Any low street brand that gets your attention?
PC: Zara! I really like Zara.
Q: Not just an artiste, you are also a terrific businesswoman. What prompts you to put your fingers into so many different pies?
PC: I know that I can, and that is why. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could. I only do things I can give my 100 per cent to, and I feel like I have set a standard for myself where I seek excellence, and not anything else. I seek something where I can leave my footprint behind, my legacy for my future children.
Q: What is it like to wear so many hats?
PC: You are strapped for time, all the time. You have a million things that you need to do in one day, while doing something else. You don’t get enough sleep or enough personal time, but I’m an ambitious girl. I’ve always been driven, and my ambition drives me.
Q: Lastly, tell us about your upcoming projects...
PC: There are some things that I am doing and there are some things that I am developing. I’m working on two Netflix films — We Can Be Heroes with Robert Rodriguez, and The White Tiger with Ramin Bahrani. They are both American movies. The former is a kid superhero movie, and I just finished shooting it, and the latter is an English adaptation of the book of the same title, where I play the character of Pinki Madam. I am super excited about it, as Ramen is an amazing director and I really want to have another immersive experience as an actor. The things that I am developing at the moment are — a project with Mindy Kaling, which is for Universal Studio, and I will be a ‘buddy’ comedy. Then there is Ma Anand Sheela, which we are writing at the moment and we’re looking for partners with whom we want to do it.
Watch: Priyanka Chopra Jonas on motherhood, Nick's reaction to being the 'national jiju’
The Sky is Pink releases on October 11.