Parineeti Chopra, academic nomad and former Bollywood sceptic, on why movies are her home now
In Ishaqzaade, the most recent movie from Yash Raj Films, the character of Zoya, played by Parineeti Chopra, indicates several times her desire to become an MLA, in the image of her father. She is gullible enough to believe this is possible, despite the constant ridicule of her brothers and father.
But while Zoya is trapped in and ultimately consumed by the fictive patriarchal universe of Almore (a lived reality in several parts of the country, nonetheless), Parineeti is cut from a sterner cloth, she insists.
Speaking on the sidelines of ‘Consumer Computing 2012’, an event organised by HCL Infosystems Ltd. at Shangri La’s Eros hotel in New Delhi recently, Parineeti observes she is similar to Zoya only insofar as they’re both “small town”. “I am a sorted girl, and have a very real approach to things,” she adds. She entertains comparisons between herself and Dimple Chaddha, her character in Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl who is conned out of Rs. 20 lakhs by the eponymous protagonist, only up to the point of them being Punjabis. “The similarity is merely theoretical; I am not as immature as Dimple.”
Born in 1988 in Ambala, Parineeti, a cousin of Priyanka Chopra, spent 17 years there before moving to UK for a triple honours degree in Business, Finance and Economics from Manchester Business School. “I’ve always been a really good student and wanted to become an investment banker in London,” says Parineeti in the rehearsed tone that successive interviews can bring about.
But the recession played spoilsport and forced her to return to India. She arrived in Mumbai eventually, joining Yash Raj Films as a Public Relations Consultant.
“I always used to hate actors and dislike acting. The whole profession of acting seemed to me like an excuse to wear excessive make up,” she says. But this distanced judgment changed quickly when she was required to observe actors from close quarters and co-ordinate interviews with them. “I realised I never understood acting and my respect for the profession increased,” she adds.
“Actors bring a lot to the table. For instance, when a Shah Rukh Khan cries, the audience believes he is crying. To convince someone of an emotion, or in an idea, is an extremely powerful thing,” she clarifies.
It is the conviction of her performance in Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl that has been rewarded with a string of awards and nominations, with the IIFA awards for Star Debut of the Year and Best Supporting Actress being the most recent. “Awards are important to me because they are great motivators,” she says.
Having decided that “Bollywood is long-term”, Parineeti says she is not willing to box herself into a particular range of characters to play.
“I am a very greedy actor,” she adds. Close to finalising a third film, Parineeti’s improbable career trajectory resembles the stuff that movies are made of. She is acutely aware of this and will not let manipulative forces cloud her better judgment.
The room is filled with voices by now and a clearly distracted Parineeti demands silence. “I will be the person I want to be,” she asserts.