Priyanka Chopra Jonas returns to Hindi cinema after three years with The Sky Is Pink. The actress-producer talks to Box Office India about the film, being a producer, husband Nick Jonas, taking up direction and more
It has been only three years that we saw you doing a Hindi film but it seems like a lifetime. Everyone expected you to come with pomp, but you surprised us with this beautiful and subtle drama. Was there a thought behind it?
I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to tell stories that move me. As soon as I read the script, it really touched me and moved me, especially because it was based on a real-life family. I think in a cynical world like today, it’s amazing to see stories of families that thrive under extreme pressure instead of succumbing to it. Life is uncertain and you have to live life to the fullest.
As an actor, what did you absorb from Aditi Chaudhary?
Empathy. The willingness to celebrate life. I think this character has changed my perception and has helped me heal in a lot of ways.
Shonali Bose had said in an interview that you had broken down while filming one of the scenes. As an actor, how difficult is it to separate the emotions of the character from yourself?
I’m pretty good at separating emotions from my character because I never play Priyanka, I never play myself, I’m always playing a different person. So I try and get under the skin of the character that I’m playing and the emotions that they would feel, but for this particular movie, I had to go into really deep dark places and there were times where I couldn’t separate how I was feeling emotionally. This particular scene, I empathised so much with Shonali, because I kept saying to her I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry you had to go through this because she lost her son when he was 16.
What was your process of approaching this character who grows from being a young girl in love to a mother to someone who has lost her child?
I imbibed the character through and through, and being a director’s actor helped me do that. Once you’ve fully absorbed the character, then the transitions come naturally.
What prompted you to be associated with this project as a producer too?
The story was extremely moving, substantial, and powerful - and those are the kinds of stories that I love to produce. After reading the script and meeting Shonali, I knew this had to be Purple Pebble Pictures’ first Hindi production.
The film got a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival. Tell us how it was being there with Aisha’s parents.
It was a humbling experience - I was so overwhelmed with the response. Being in a theatre full of people with so much diversity - these were not people that were just Hindi speaking or people who understood Hindi - but Americans, Canadians and they were reading the subtitles and reacting to the movie. It just goes to show that this movie transcended borders and languages and that was really amazing.
Aisha’s mom, Aditi, came up to me and said to me after she finished watching the movie that she felt that Aisha was reborn again because the entire movie is from Aisha’s perspective. It meant so much to me to see the smiles on their faces after seeing the work that we have done
How was Nick Jonas’s reaction after he watched the film? Have your in-laws watched it yet?
Nick very sweetly held me after the film and asked if we could Facetime Shonali, as he wanted to tell her that this is the reason we become actors, for films like this. I thought that was extremely sweet and profound. I don’t think my in-laws have watched it yet, but I’m going to arrange a private screening for them as soon as I get back home (US).
Playing a mother on screen is not a popular choice among actresses, what kind of convictions should the character have for you so that these norms don’t matter?
I’ve played a mother many many times before, in Pyaar Impossible, Bajirao Mastani, Mary Kom… it’s never been a reason for me to choose or not choose my characters. I like to play strong characters, I like to tell stories that I feel are important to be told and that is the reason why it has never mattered to me. I like storytelling, I like playing women that are extremely profound and strong, and Aditi in real life is a ferociously protective mother and I thought that was incredible.
In an interview, you had said that you would want to give a push to stories based on women. Is this decision influenced by the dearth of such stories especially in Hindi cinema?
Initially, it was. But off late there have been more women-centric films and stories - but that’s precisely the issue, right? You wouldn’t call a good story a male-centric film or a women-centric film. My intention is to produce good stories - and if it restores the balance and makes the number of male and women-centric films equal, then so be it.
You had also expressed your desire for directing a film in the future? Did working on a film like The Sky Is Pink and a director like Shonali Bose bring you closer to your decision in any way?
Direction is something that makes me nervous because it’s a lot of responsibility. But slowly, I have moved from acting to production and hopefully, I’ll make that (directing films) transition too someday.
The film has released not only in India but in other countries as well. Do you think the reach that you have globally will help take the story to a larger audience?
I would hope so because besides acting in this movie and producing it, I definitely want to make sure that I create reach for the movie and give it as much flight as I can. After that, every film had its own destiny and I hope that the audience would respond to it the way we feel about it. We think that it’s a very very special movie and an impactful story.
A lot has changed in the Hindi film industry since the time your film Jai Gangaajal that released three years back. Do you see any imminent change in the kinds of films that are working?
I love the new films that are being made and how people are reacting to them. It’s more about the story itself, and less about the names attached to the film. People are more open to a variety of stories and genres, and filmmakers are also willing to experiment and push the boundaries of what is typically considered to be the norm.