Priyanka Chopra says she likes the option of doing typical and atypical roles

There’s a whole lot of Priyanka Chopra in the coming week. In close succession, the actor has a film release, Barfi! as well as the launch of a single from her new music venture. The actor was in town recently to promote Barfi!.Directed by Anurag Basu and starring Ranbir Kapoor, the light-hearted romantic comedy sees Priyanka play the autistic Jhilmil. And ‘In My City’, a single from her upcoming music album, will be launched soon. The track, which features rapper will.I.am, will debut in the US today where she will be the featured artist at a football game kickoff.

Barfi! was all fun,” she declared, at an interview. Portraying autism wasn’t easy initially, but once she got the hang of it, things went smoothly. While she had done her research — meeting autistic children and “a whole lot of homework,” she said — once the camera came on, she was quite blank initially.

“I’m really nervous,” she said of her musical venture; this, despite her having sung earlier, in the 2002 Tamil film Thamizhan. This time around, her audience is much more international. And while she isn’t making plans for a move to singing, say, playback for Bollywood, she’s open to future opportunities, and indeed, sees her album as a new prong to her show business career.

Despite her pageant-backed entry to the film world — she won the Miss World in 2000, and acted in her first film in 2002 — she hasn’t necessarily had it easy, she claims. She was still a newcomer, foreign to the family-networked world of Bollywood. “I had to learn on the job. It wasn’t just that I didn’t come from a film family; I didn’t know people, I had no friends. It’s a strange dichotomy, because I never had to struggle, to go out there and look for films.” After her Bollywood debut with The Hero: Love Story Of A Spy in 2003, she had a slew of offers coming her way.

Since she’s less than a decade old in the Bollywood industry, she doesn’t count herself an old-timer, but she’s seen the industry change. “Cinema shouldn’t change so much in such a short time, but it has. It’s a great time to be a young actor today.” This atmosphere especially helps her because she enjoys doing a variety of roles: mainstream ‘heroine’ archetypes, as well as slightly offbeat ones. Priyanka gravitates to the “outlandish” roles as much as to what she calls the heroine stereotypes. “I like being a heroine. I like doing the dancing, all of that.”

But she also likes the option of challenging roles, such as in Saat Khoon Maaf. “I guess it’s about putting yourself out there to take a risk. Now, I can pick any kind of part. I don’t have to fit myself into the stereotype of a heroine. I can do that, and at the same time, I can do things like Barfi!. This couldn’t happen when I started.”

With Aitraaz, the 2004 thriller in which she played a negative role, Priyanka had been warned that the film wouldn’t take off, since female-heavy films would not do well. But that’s changing now: she lists Vidya Balan’s recent appearances in The Dirty Picture and Kahaani as proof. “Today, female-oriented films are happening. At least they’re getting made. So it’s a cool time to be in films.”

She’s enthused by Barfi!’s light-hearted storyline, especially since it treats the differently-abled in a unique way. “Differently-abled people are portrayed in two ways; one is where it’s a caricature of their disability, for comic effect. Otherwise, the film is made to evoke sympathy. This film is neither. It’s all fun, sunshine, Roberto Benigni-Life Is Beautiful,” she trails off.