Priyanka Chopra, popularly known as PC or PeeCee (no, it does NOT stand for politically correct or polite conversation), is India’s first and, so far, only global star. This much is accurate. Seeing the wall-to-wall coverage she received recently, as she swept into the grounds of Windsor Castle to attend her Hollywood gal pal Meghan Markle’s spectacular wedding, it was obvious our PC was up there with the international roster of A-List celebrities like Amal Clooney and Victoria Beckham. Even though I didn’t go gaga over her lavender Vivienne Westwood suit and those rhinestone-studded killer heels, she managed to attract a great deal of attention among 600 invitees from across the world. How does she do it? I think I have the answer: she is smart, and hardworking. And, she works with a fantastic team—from managers, stylists to PR people. She hires the best, and leaves it to them. For her part, she focuses on the job in hand and gives it her all.
PC is always on top of her game, and leads her team with a smile and very specific instructions. I have observed this enviable trait in a few of our Bollywood stars—the ones who come from an armed forces background. Think Lara Dutta, Preity Zinta, Sushmita Sen, Gul Panag and Neha Dhupia. These ladies understand discipline and the benefits of team spirit. Most of them have schooled across India, speak multiple languages and think on their feet. They are accustomed to change and fitting in, thanks to their fathers’ postings. They possess the all-important killer instinct that our pampered star kids totally lack. One disadvantage? These girls are dealing with, what can loosely be termed, a Bollywood mindset, which is chaotic and unorganised most of the time. Despite that, the fauji girls manage to do well, once they crack the system.
In PC’s case, both her parents played a key role in shaping her choices. Today, it is her mother, Madhu, who is her pillar of positivity. Between the two of them, they run an impressive business empire, with Madhu handling day-to-day affairs and PC taking the lead in fronting deals that are as diverse as producing regional films to investing in real estate. Industry sources say she is an important stakeholder in the luxury flats market, here and abroad.
I have interacted with PC several times over the years. When I invited her to deliver the Annual Penguin Lecture 2017, it was at a time when she barely had a spare minute, what with her insane travel/endorsement/shooting schedules. She was not getting paid a dime for delivering a 45-minute address to close to 4,000 people in the audience. That’s a lot of work, especially for someone who makes astronomical amounts by way of appearance fees. And yet, she agreed. No fees. No fuss. Once committed, she stayed committed, flying in for the lecture held in Delhi and flying out the same night to attend Virat-Anushka’s wedding reception in Mumbai. Once at the venue, she was electrifying and passionate, as she talked about her life and the values that shaped her. She took questions from the audience most sportingly, and dazzled even hardened critics.
As a world celebrity, PC is aware of her role in the scheme of things. She is a UN ambassador, and makes sure she lends adequate support to causes. Her innings in Bollywood are at an interesting point: she can afford to pick and choose her next big project, provided producers here can afford her fee. Quantico has dwindled out after three seasons, but it established her as a Hollywood star with a strong identity. When we meet, I joke about her American drawl and she laughs good-humouredly, explaining it comes and goes, depending on which part of the world she is in!
It will be interesting to monitor what’s next for PC. Frankly, I see a great future for her in politics. She is capable, intelligent, articulate and loved by the youth. Why, even our prime minister made time to meet her in Berlin last year. We need women like her in Parliament. But will PC bite? Watch this space!