There were murmurs about why someone like Priyanka Chopra has been invited to deliver the annual lecture for a publishing house, but the actress-singer-producer had one answer to that — “Because Shobhaa De invited me. Those who don’t want listen to me, are welcome to leave.”
Priyanka’s session was divided into two parts — the first half, where she told her many fans how they can be like her, motivating them by sharing anecdotes and second part, where she interacted with moderator Sonia Singh.
Being fierce, fearless and flawed
Dressed in a pink jumpsuit, delivering The Penguin Annual Lecture on ‘Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Chasing the Dream’, the 35-year-old began, “My father used to say, ‘why do you want to fit in the glass slipper, when you can break the glass ceiling’. But I never wanted to find any glass ceilings and smash it. All I wanted was to become the best version of myself and smash the obstacles that come my way. But the glass ceiling exists and I hope by sharing my experiences, I can motivate you all to aim higher. I reached here by being fierce, fearless and flawed.” She ended the first half sharing a thought that has stayed with her — “Life’s journey is not to reach your graveyard safely in a well-preserved body, but to look back and say ‘that was some ride. I want it to end that way.”
‘Zeroes on boys’ cheques are ridiculous’
It was the second part where the UNICEF’s global goodwill ambassador showed her gritty side, often cross-questing the moderator, training her guns at media, politicians and the society at large. “I always have the same dream that manifests into different things and my biggest dream is to leave behind a legacy,” the Bareilly girl said when asked about her plans in 2018. At this juncture, the actress, who reportedly was paid `5 crores for a performance at an awards event, was asked about the zeroes on her cheques and pat came her reply. “Those zeroes matter because I worked really hard for it. It’s funny that people talk about my fees. The boys are never asked this question — their zeroes are ridiculous. Have you even seen the zeroes that they get on their cheques? We should be celebrating that at least there’s one girl who has gone out there. I am proud that I can stand shoulder to shoulder to my counterparts in that (Forbes top ten) list, but it brings out the question why there is just one female actor especially when actresses are so integral to our movies.”
She mentioned that she stopped playing arm candy long time back. About her comeback to Bollywood, she quipped, “Nobody asks the boys about when they will make a comeback. They can take time to find right movies and nobody questions their relevance. Why my relevance be less?”
‘Everyone in Hollywood comes on time’
While talking about the culture difference between Hollywood and Bollywood, the Quantico star said, “My problem there is yaar sab time pe aate hain (everyone is so punctual). Rest, the craziness of filmmaking is same. Why are we comparing? Hollywood, as we are seeing, has its own set of problems. We need to clean our own home. Meryl Streep can slam the President there but we have different cultural boundaries and we need to respect that.”
The moderator mentioned that novelist Shobhaa De had stated that Indian actresses don’t speak about Harvey Weinsteins of India. PeeCee retorted, “She seems to know a lot more. Why isn’t she taking names?” But ask how she faced it, she said, “I am very fierce. Yes, I have been thrown out of films because the girlfriend of the director or the hero was recommended or because I didn’t cater to whims and fancies of powerful men as I had the backing of my parents. Many women don’t have that support system.”
‘Need a world where women can thrive, not only survive’
In the same vein, she added, “#MeToo was not restricted to America. We live in a mostly patriarchal society and so, we need to teach our sons to respect women and not tease them. Women are often told that they asked for it, when they didn’t. We need a world where women can thrive, not only survive.”
‘I was called curry’
She said that she faced racism in high school. “I was the only Indian girl in my class. I was called brownie and curry,” she reminisced. She added, “This year I realised South Asian actors in global entertainment is still a novelty. At the after party of Emmys, in a room full of 400 people, there were only four South Asians. Aziz Ansari said that eight years back there was one. I hope our efforts open the door for talent from South Asia.” She added that she did not want to be the ‘Big Fat Punjabi Wedding stereotype’ and rather be seen as ‘a kickass actor’.
On the Padmavati controversy
“I called Sanjay sir and Deepika and told them that I support them. I hope the art is viewed by everyone,” she said on the uproar over the film. But why not speak publicly? “Because celebrities are used. See, at a lecture about my life, I am being asked questions about another film. Ask the Government. I may have an opinion but I don’t need to be pushed in a corner to give it and become a scapegoat,” she said with a tinge of frustration.
Mere layak ladhka milna chahiye
Her friend Anushka Sharma got married and another friend Meghan Markle will be walking the aisle soon. When will we hear PeeCee’s wedding bells? She answered, “Of course, I want to get married. I am a cancerian. I love home. I want to have a cricket team of kids. But I am not apologetic for my career. I will do it at the right time par mere layak ladhka bhi toh milna chahiye. Woh thoda mushkil hai (but I’ve to find someone who suits my personality. That’s a bit difficult).”
Biggest achievement and regret
“My biggest achievement is the ability to get over my fears… to turn my vulnerability into my strength because I’m usually emotional and I get affected by a lot of things. I know I come across as tough, sassy and witty. That is a big part of protecting myself. There has not been anyone holding out a safety net for me. So, I trust my instinct, so that even if I fail, it’ll be my failure. My biggest regret is I didn’t spend as much time as I did with my dad,” Priyanka signed off as she got a standing ovation.
PeeCee’s 12 rules of becoming the version of yourself:
* Know your unique self.
* Let your dreams fly.
* You have never arrived enough to explore new opportunities.
* Be greedy for your ambitions.
* Don’t compromise.
* Fail but then rise like phoenix.
* Be bold and take risks.
* Surround yourself with the right people.
* You can’t please everyone, all the time.
* Don’t take yourself so seriously.
* Give back wherever whenever you can.
* Never forget your roots.