Breaking stereotypes, Bollywood style


Priyanka Chopra, who is gaining popularity in Hollywood because of her lead role in Quantico, is making India proud in other ways, too. Besides being named in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People list, she also cleared out a talk show host's presumptions about India.

After her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she next appeared on Chelsea, a talk show hosted by comedian Chelsea Handler. As per the usual drill, where American talk show hosts get curious about India and what Indians do, Chelsea expressed her interest in visiting India. She also said, “I don't want to go to India and do anything offensive.” Chopra retorted saying, “Good luck with that!”

Chelsea then went on to wonder if Chopra knew the English language during her first visit to the US, which was at the age of 12. To this, Chopra informed Chelsea with a patient smile, “About 10% Indians can fluently speak English,” and added that this accounts for “1.3 million people”, much higher than most countries where English is not the native language.

In the past, whenever Bollywood celebrities break the mould and take up a project overseas, they have served as ambassadors of Indian culture.

For instance, in 2005, Aishwarya Rai was invited on the Late Show with David Letterman to talk about her film, Bride and Prejudice. Besides fawning over the number of languages she (and by extension, any regular Indian) could speak, Letterman approached the subject of staying with parents.

“Is that common in India, for older women to live with their parents?” he asked. Rai gave it back to him, saying that it was fine to live with parents because in India, “we don't have to take appointments with our parents to meet for dinner”. Letterman, humbled and floored by her response, said that he had “learned a little something”.

The question of living with parents cropped up again on The Oprah Winfrey Show four years later, where Rai was with Abhishek Bachchan in their first television interview together. The topic of discussion with Oprah Winfrey leaned towards their family life, and how it was to live in the Bachchan household. They were asked how they still lived with his parents, and Abhishek wondered aloud, to much applause: "You don't stay with parents? How does that work?"

Amid racial slurs and cultural misunderstandings about India, it is often up to Bollywood stars to break the stereotypes. 

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The Week

Topics : #Bollywood

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