All the world loves Priyanka Chopra, or we would like to believe! She is a superstar who has straddled the East and West with élan – and has made a mark in both India and Hollywood.
From Miss India to Miss World, a pop singer, a television star and as a Hollywood actress, her crossover has been complete.
But as most famous lives do, hers too had humble beginnings. And that’s exactly what Aseem Chhabra has chronicled in the unofficial biography of the actor – Priyanka Chopra – The Incredible Story of a Global Bollywood Star.
In the biography, peppered with anecdotes and events on Priyanka’s life on and off screen, Aseem explores in great detail what led to her phenomenal success as a star. The chapters are divided based on different events and turning points like Post Miss World, Producing Films, The Hollywood Crossover, Quantico and Fame in the US and Life Post Quantico.
In an interview with YSWeekender, Aseem Chhabra speaks about the book and insights into Priyanka’s personality.
Aseem Chhabra: I think Priyanka Chopra's journey is remarkable - from a 17-year-old who came from Bareilly to Mumbai to participate in the Miss India contest, to winning the Miss World crown, her transition into Bollywood films, her evolution into one of India's finest actresses and then her move to the US, first through pop music and then playing the lead role on an American TV show. No other Indian actor has had such a fascinating professional life. That is why my book is called Priyanka Chopra: The Incredible Story of a Global Bollywood Star.
AC: I was very impressed by her work ethics, her dedication to any project she undertakes, how hard she has worked since she was a teenager, and her movie star persona.
AC: I was not able to talk to Priyanka Chopra since she is writing her autobiography. But I approached the project as a journalist - researching the internet for material on Priyanka Chopra; watching her films (in some cases seeing them again); and reaching out to a range of personalities - actors, directors, and those who observe pop culture in the US, to talk to them about Priyanka's career.
AC: I loved the early parts, where I write about Priyanka's childhood and her brief stay in the US as a student. And I enjoyed writing the chapter about the Miss India and Miss World contests and all that goes into preparing young girls for international beauty pageants. I learned a lot while I researched and wrote about how Priyanka became a star in America, the strategies that were developed to make her a pop singer and then a TV star on a popular show.
YSW: Did you find it challenging because it was not an official biography?
AC: It was somewhat difficult, but in a way it also freed me from the constraints of working with the star. But I felt a lot of responsibility in being truthful about Priyanka while also celebrating her life.
YSW: What has been the response to the book?
AC: The book just came out about a month ago. So far the response has been really good - major publications have carried excerpts from the book, plus I have been interviewed on radio, TV, as well as by online and print publications. All the reviews have been positive.
AC: Shashi Kapoor was alive when I started to work on his biography, but he was unwell and his career was over. Priyanka has a very active, busy professional and social life. Every day there is some news about Priyanka. So the challenge here was how to end the book and I knew all the while that I would miss out on some crucial stories about her life.
AC: I have met Priyanka a couple of times and have interviewed her three times before I started to work on this book. She is very poised, stylish, has a star-like quality, but she is also very approachable. There is a genuine, warm human being behind the facade of the movie star that we all know.
AC: I am very impressed with Priyanka's success in India and in the US. She's has broken so many glass ceilings - it is really remarkable. Plus I am a fan - I really like her work in some of her films, including Dil Dhadakne Do, Bajirao Mastani, Kaminey and Barfi.
AC: I have a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. My initial training was in writing about politics. My first job in the mid-1980s was with India Abroad, the largest circulating Indian American publication in the US - reporting on stories from India and also local news that mattered to Indian Americans. But I slowly transitioned to writing about films, interviewing filmmakers, actors, writing columns about Bollywood and global cinema, and covering film festivals. Occasionally, I also review films.