Think of an ecstatic celebrity bride who had a ball at her own big fat Indian wedding and Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ radiant face is likely to pop up in your head. But did you know that less than a week before she got hitched to American pop idol Nick Jonas in a dreamy destination, she was immersed in a poignant role that took her to ‘deep places’ and was like a ‘punch to her gut’?
“The most difficult part was that I was getting married while shooting for this film [The Sky is Pink]. From being in the most beautiful time of my life to playing a role in such a difficult movie — that was difficult,” said Chopra Jonas in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!
Chopra Jonas plays Aditi Chaudhary, a tenacious mother who has to grapple with the loss of her teenage daughter Aisha Chaudhary to a terminal illness, in director Shonali Bose’s life-affirming venture ‘The Sky is Pink’, out in the UAE on October 10.
However, the ‘Quantico’ star has no regrets because her life partner and ‘Sucker’ hit-maker stood by her like a rock. Their whirlwind courtship and their lavish nuptials in Rajasthan last December are the stuff of fairytales.
“I had a great time at my own wedding. I had a lot of help from my husband and my mother to set up our wedding. Nick came earlier to India and he was in Delhi while I was filming so that I could focus on my work. I have a partner who makes you feel like you are on top of the world and I am lucky to have him in my life. With him around, I can conquer the world.”
Her faith in her career and personal choices are rock solid. ‘The Sky is Pink’, also starring Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim and Rohit Suresh Saraf, got a 12-minute standing ovation at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival in September.
“It was amazing to see 2,000 people from diverse backgrounds standing up to give us a standing ovation for such a long time. There were people who read subtitles and understood the emotions behind each and every scene from the film. The emotions shown in the film transcended language. Eventually filmmaking should be about that. Every film should transcend language and make an audience feel something.”
But this bittersweet drama is no weepy, claims the actress whose Hollywood foray include Baywatch (2017) in which she played its chief antagonist and the hit TV series Quantico in which she played an FBI agent.
‘The Sky Is Pink’ spells the return of Chopra Jonas to Bollywood after her underwhelming turn in director Prakash Jha’s cop drama ‘Jai Gangajal’ (2016). The film seems tailor-made for Chopra Jonas who excels in emotional films [Think ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ and ‘Barfi’] and is based on the life of an actual feisty Indian couple who rallied around their young daughter to manage her disease, while grabbing life with their two hands. It’s carpe diem without clutching at tissues, you could say.
Chopra Jonas adds she had massive reference points gleaned from director Bose (who also lost her son to a freak accident in Los Angeles in 2010) and the real-life Chaudhary couple who documented everything about their precious daughter, who finally succumbed to the illness.
“Shonali as a filmmaker doesn’t have the sensibility of being dramatic and is real, truthful… I had a chance to meet Aditi and she is an extremely glamorous mother. She has a saying: In life even if your cards are down you must look like a million bucks. She and her daughter Aisha had a relationship where they loved doing their make-up and getting dressed. They love dancing and Bollywood… At any point in the film, we don’t try to manipulate your emotions here,” said Chopra Jonas, who remembered being hugged by the real-life parents after a screening.
“They said that the reason why they trusted Shonali with their life story is because she understands the sentiment behind losing a child … There’s no addition of gimmicks and is sold as we were told.”
Chopra Jonas — who is one of India’s biggest cultural exports to the West and is fast becoming America’s sweetheart — claims that her method towards her craft is different.
“I am not an actor that derives my acting from my personal life because then I will be portraying Priyanka on screen. I like to shed my skin and get into the skin of the character I am playing and that is my job. I take from the empathy that I derive from the character I am playing.”
But what fascinated her was that Aditi and Niren [Akhtar] battled all odds and remained sturdy as a family unit.
“Almost 80 per cent of marriages break up after the loss of a child… I am not a mother or a parent yet, but I derived a lot from Shonali on the kind of toll it takes. This relationship also shows you what Indian culture always teaches us. No matter what happens, you stick with each other. Aditi and Niren are such an inspiration to modern day relationships,” said the actress.
Speaking of inspirations, the 37-year-old ChopraJonas hasn’t done too shabbily herself. Besides being one of Bollywood’s most recognisable faces, she’s a glamorous force to reckon with in the West. The former Miss World comes across as this proverbial duck who paddles like crazy underneath the water, but keeps a calm facade up top. Her loved ones are the only ones who are privy to her “human side”.
“I am not someone who lashes out on people. If I do lash out, it is because I am also human and emotional and that happens only with my loved ones… If I am feeling low, they sense it and then they see my human side. But I usually keep it curtailed,” she said.
But does she ever analyse her own new-found global fame and adoration? It took a generous dose of humility and persistence, says Chopra.
“Like you said, I am like a duck. On the outside, it may look like it has been an easy journey, but it hasn’t been. It has been arduous. Imagine going into another country in your 30s and introducing yourself to people all over again and say: “I am Priyanka Chopra and an Indian actor who would love to work in a film.’”
But the toughest part of her journey was trying to break out of stereotypes.
“It took a lot of knocking on doors and saying that I won’t be a stereotype people expect me to be… It took a lot of work. While I am grateful with the reception that I have got in the US, there was a lot of chasing and adhering to the cultural parameters set in America and India and the kind of work that is expected out of me.”
‘The Sky is Pink’, told from the perspective of the ill daughter Aisha Chaudhary, ticked all those boxes.
“I know that The Sky is Pink is a good movie and it’s the kind of a film that the audience wants to experience. You don’t have to leave your heart or your brains behind for this one. You will be moved by the material… While I know every film has its own destiny, you will find ours bittersweet. ‘The Sky is Pink’ is hilarious, sardonic and touching.”
‘The Sky is Pink’ releases in the UAE on October 10.
“The beauty of working with Farhan is that ‘Don’ was one of my biggest films in 2005 and he was the director and producer of that film. Now I am producing him. Life has come full circle and I am very happy,” said Chopra Jonas.
“I don’t believe in platforms, I believe in storytelling.” said Chopra Jonas, when asked if the competition from web platforms were a threat to actors from mainstream films.
FARHAN AKHTAR ON…
Award-winning actor and director Farhan Akhtar, who plays Niren Chaudhary, is the perfect foil as the stoic husband in ‘The Sky is Pink’. The actor on…
…his role: “I am married to Aditi and we have been childhood sweethearts from the age of 16. Niren has this kind of inner strength. His dignity, grace and sheer love for his family stands out as an example of how a father and husband should be.”
…death being a grim leveler: “They don’t address death grimly and that is what makes ‘The Sky is Pink’ so incredible… They lived every single day leading up to Aisha’s death to the fullest. They gave their child so much joy and provided as much as a parent can possibly provide.”
Read the full interview with Farhan Akhtar in Gulf News tabloid! soon.