Priyanka Chopra: We South Asians are going to be a part of global entertainment; we’re demanding it

With an ‘Om’ tattoo on her hand and a temple in her room, Alex Parrish, the character played by Priyanka Chopra on the Hollywood TV show Quantico, has a clear link with her half-Indian lineage. And the popularity of the show means that her tough cookie act has won audiences over — no question about it. So, when Priyanka, the star of a major movie like Baywatch (2017), recently lost a Hollywood role to another actor because of her ethnicity, she was left confused about how someone’s race could affect their work like that.

“It made me feel confused,” the actor tells us, more so as that role didn’t require any specific skin colour or cultural background. “It wasn’t a character written for a particular type. There are some characters which are written for a particular type. This was a role of just a great-looking character, so I was very confused. It made me feel upset and angry, and it made me feel like I really wanted to make a dent in this system. I want to be mainstream as a South Asian actor,” says a determined Priyanka.

Though it appears that now Indian actors are going mainstream in Hollywood — Priyanka herself, of course, and also Irrfan and Deepika Padukone — Priyanka says, “Discrimination is a global problem. I think it has stopped Indian talent from being a part of global entertainment in a big way, because we’re stereotyped. Even with me, I was told — in not so many words — that they wanted a different ‘physicality’, and my manager then told me that the makers wanted a different race for the role.”

Priyanka, whose last Bollywood film was Jai Gangaajal(2016), has two more Hollywood projects — A Kid Like Jake and Isn’t It Romantic — lined up for release.

Naming a few global entertainment stars of South Asian lineage, Priyanka talks about how they’re actively working to change the status quo. “A few of us have come together — there’s Aziz Ansari, Riz Ahmed, Mindy Kaling, and a whole bunch of South Asians who’re saying that we’re going to be a part of global entertainment. We’re not asking [for] it, we’re demanding it. You’ll see us differently because we represent one-fifth population of the world, and how can we not be a part of global entertainment?” she says.

Priyanka, who was recently in Delhi to discuss maternal and infant health, wants every actor to vehemently resist stereotyping. “There are only four or five [very famous South Asian] actors in global entertainment, but that should not stop people,” she says. “A few of us have been able to make that dent and I hope lots and lots of South Asian actors come out there and try and demand parts and say that ‘no we won’t do the Appu from Simpsons (animated show) because we do not speak just like that’ and put their foot down because that is what I’m doing.”