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Three releases- ‘The Girl On The Train’, ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’ and ‘Saina’- in one month! Such a thing happened in the days of Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz, Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna in the ’70s…
(Smiles) Honestly, it’s taken me very long to see this day. For four years, I have been hearing things like ‘Pari is not doing films that match her talent’, or ‘This is not the Pari we knew’. I won quite a few awards including a National Award (‘Ishaqzaade’) and then I didn’t do films to take that forward. When I signed these three films, the feedback that I am now getting is exactly what I wanted. I wanted them to say that this is the girl we had accepted when she started off. I wanted the critics to love me again.
Suddenly, things have fallen in place. I didn’t even dream that these three films will come so close together and get appreciated. I am reading comments about me that I am back. It feels like I am in a surreal bubble. It doesn’t seem real, but it is. I feel vindicated and validated. All the hard work I’ve done has seen the light of the day and translated well. Yesterday, I was talking to a senior filmmaker and he said, ‘This is the return of Parineeti’. I have lost sleep over how good I am feeling. I thank the audience and the critics for giving me my career back.
Take us through the period when the films were not choosing you or maybe you were not choosing the right films…
When I came into the industry, I didn’t know how it works and how films had to be chosen. I got spoilt from the first film and never saw a struggle to flag off my career. That went on for nearly 3-4 years and I thought that I was doing everything right. Then somewhere my choices dwindled and maybe I was using only my gut instinct. I was getting confused in my head. But somewhere I knew what the audience wanted from me. Anyway, today, I want to keep that difficult phase behind me and ensure that I will be Parineeti 2.0.
Anybody in particular who helped you overcome that period?
I think it was my own self. My biggest achievement during my failure time is that nobody gave up on me, nobody wrote me off. That kept me going. That helped me realise that it was I who was making the mistakes and I will have to fix it.
With me, Reliance, T-Series and YRF took a big risk to put their products on display. Of course, the box-office collection is not going to be what it would have been otherwise. It was going to be word-of-mouth and I am feeling really good about how it all panned out.
The news of you playing ‘Saina’ had come as a surprise…
I did ‘Saina’ because of badminton; the sports image was not associated with me; I was not known as a fitness and action girl. If you are doing romcoms, directors will not give you such kind of films.
You had been labelled as bubbly…
Exactly. I was doing just romcoms. I was doing just happy roles. I must add here that Amole Gupte (director of ‘Saina’) and Ribhu Dasgupta (director of ‘The Girl On The Train’) took the risk of swimming against my image.
How was your first meeting with Saina Nehwal?
It was incredible. My focus, as an actor, had shifted by then. If I had done a film on her life three or four years ago, maybe I would have done it without doing the level of homework I did. I decided I had to meet her, that was my first priority. I wanted people to see Saina and not Parineeti in the film.
What did you feel when you saw her?
Oh, many things. Her body language is vastly different from mine. She has a bit of an Haryanvi accent, unlike me. I had to pick up not just those things about her but many nuances as well. And whatever doubts I had during the shoots, I used to call her. It was all smooth sailing.
Did Saina have any reservations in what you’ll draft for the celluloid version of her life? Did she say no to showing certain aspects of her life?
Every little thing in the script that is written is as per what she gave us. And, it’s true to the hilt- her mom’s story, her dad’s story, her love story, her coach.
You mentioned that you used to say things to make people laugh and got misunderstood in the process. Have you become ‘guarded’ now in your media interactions?
I have a tendency to crack jokes. But I feel sometimes my sense of humour hurts people. I was putting out fires. I will just be careful in what I say so that people don’t misunderstand and I don’t have to make phone calls to explain myself. ‘Guarded’ would be a wrong word to use though, as I shall continue to say the truth to whatever I am asked.
You talk about honesty. That tempts me to ask you this one. You recently mentioned in Filmfare something to the effect that you are more focussed today since you are single now after three back-to-back relationships…
(Laughs) That was purely a personal statement. There are so many people who balance their professional and personal life well, even I can. But when there’s love life involved, I tend to give a lot of time to my love life and sometimes don’t put enough hard work in my professional life. It was said in a lighter vein. But having said that, if there are no distractions in life, be it love life or any other, you can work so much better. And, that’s exactly what I’m doing now. I am feeling highly motivated by the kind of films that I’m getting. My next film too has a lot of prep.
So, no love life for sometime at least?
I won’t say ‘no’ to it. If a good guy comes along, I shall say ‘great, welcome!’ (laughs), But no, I haven’t found anybody recently.
We were speaking to Janhvi Kapoor, a few days ago. We spoke to her a bit about the paparazzi and asked her if it’s dangerous when their cameras come too close. She said, ‘We, too, need the paparazzi’ and that they’ve been kind to her if she has asked them not to take a particular picture. Your take on this?
I feel exactly the same and I totally agree with her. They have been very kind to me too. There have been situations when I didn’t want to be photographed, say early mornings or late at night, and they’ve understood. Hmmm… sometimes there is a crossing of line that happens, but I think that’s the soul of paparazzi and I understand their job.
Does a film choose an actor or does an actor choose a film?
I feel a film chooses an actor. Actors choose from the stuff they’re offered.
But doesn’t an actor, too, choose a film when he/she calls up a filmmaker and says that he/she wants to work with him in his such-and-such upcoming project?
(Smiles) I was just about to say that. A recent case in point was ‘The Girl On The Train’. It was the first time that I had called a filmmaker like this. I had called Ribhu and said that I have heard about this film and I would like to do it. It is just incidental here that he said that he was just about to call me and pitch the film to me. Hmmm… today, I feel there’s no problem in calling up a filmmaker for a film and even auditioning for it, if required.
What did your sister Priyanka Chopra tell you between your 1.0 and 2.0 phases?
(Laughs) She was just as you would imagine a mentor and older protective sister to be. She has 20 years of more experience than me. She used to always pat me on the back and say that she’s proud of me when I was doing good work. When I was not doing my best work, she used to tell me that I needed to choose roles that prove me as an actor. Now, she has seen my three recent films and says that I am finally back to who I was. She’s very happy. I talk to her often, almost every day in fact.
I would like to conclude here with an interesting question. Many actors don’t like the media to refer to them as someone’s brother or sister. How do you feel if and when you see yourself being written as Priyanka Chopra’s sister?
Why would I not like it? I love it! I am Priyanka Chopra’s sister, the media is only writing the truth. Having said that, I understand where those actors are coming from. If you are going to be constantly overshadowed by someone, you might have a problem. But I have never had that problem. I am proud that Priyanka is my sister. Look who’s sister I am! Why would I have a problem as long as I have my own identity which I have certainly achieved through my work?