The Extra Mile
Priyanka Chopra Jonas brings her extraordinary vision to The White Tiger.
That Priyanka Chopra Jonas is so mesmerizing in The White Tiger will come as no surprise to the millions (maybe billions) of fans who have followed the actor over her already decades-long career. In India, she is a superstar of the highest wattage. The White Tiger is poised to change her relationship with Hollywood: It underscores her range as an actor. It also announces her as an executive producer deeply invested in the stories she’s telling.The thriller, directed by Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Fahrenheit 451) and adapted from the 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Aravind Adiga, takes on no less challenging a subject than India’s caste system. Chopra Jonas stars as Pinky Madam, a wealthy, Brooklyn-born Indian American woman who plants the seeds for her driver, Balram (Adarsh Gourav), to pursue his greatest aspirations. The consequences are explosive.“This one man who just pushes himself out of the circumstances that he was born in, I related to that so much,” Chopra Jonas says. “I’m someone who’s always wanted to evolve, always wanted to grow. I’m very ambitious.”In December 2018, the actor married musician Nick Jonas and found a relationship compatible with her drive. “There’s such a freedom in having a partner that is invested in you professionally, and for your betterment,” she shares. “We have both found that with each other, which is a wonderful thing.”Chopra Jonas originally came to the United States from India as a teenager, and lived with family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa while attending high school. She began her career at age 17, when she won the title of Miss World and found herself thrust onto the international stage with a desire to make a difference. From there she went on to become one of India’s most celebrated actors, and in 2015, expanded her reach to an American audience with her role in the TV drama Quantico.“It’s not been the easiest for me coming from India to the U.S. and finding non-stereotypical parts,” she reflects. “It was a fight to say that I don’t always want to do My Big Fat Punjabi Wedding. I was proud of Quantico for many reasons, this being one of them: Even though I played an Indian American, I was just a girl saving New York in every episode.”As Chopra Jonas forges ahead, she does so with a clear vision. “I feel compelled to champion stories from South Asia,” she says. “As an actor, that’s my quest. As a producer, that’s my quest.”
Suit by Rowen Rose; Rings by Shay; Necklace by Anita Ko
Queue’s Krista Smith spoke to Chopra Jonas for her podcast Present Company.Krista Smith: I can’t even articulate what you mean to people in India. What is it like to walk onto the set of a film like this, about India but produced in America, as both an executive producer and a star?
Dress by Etro; Shoes by Femme; Rings by Shay
What was the motivation to become a producer?
PCJ: I always wanted to get into filmmaking somehow. It’s really funny in retrospect, but when I turned 30, my mom was like, “At the ripe old age of 30, you’re going to stop getting work as an actress! You need to think about a plan B.” I was like, Oh, she’s right. What if I stop getting work? That’s a concern as a female actor. The same rules don’t apply to the guys very often.
Evolution is the name of the game.”
Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Well, having met you in person, it is kind of true. With that beauty comes a certain power when you walk into a room, as well as certain assumptions about who and what you are. How do you navigate that?
PCJ: It’s so strange to be asked that question. I’ve dealt with insecurities my whole life. I taught myself my confidence, and I taught myself how to be the best version of myself physically, emotionally, intellectually. When I was growing up, I had major insecurities. I was gawky. I wore too much makeup. I didn’t know what fashion was. Now, closer to 40, I think about how much I have put into working on the person that I am today. That includes knowing what looks good on me, which also comes from working with the best people in the business — they can tell you: “This hair works on you. Don’t get a perm,” or, “Don’t pluck out all your eyelashes.”
In addition to acting, philanthropy is a priority for you. You’ve been working with UNICEF and a tech startup dedicated to providing more opportunities for young women. You’ve dedicated a lot of energy toward the betterment of young women and girls.
PCJ: That was inculcated in me at a very young age. It was just a duty. My parents had their own local hospital in Bareilly, and they used to always have free beds for anyone who couldn’t afford treatment. My parents would do free medical camps in villages.
Watch The White Tiger
on Netflix now.
Listen to Priyanka Chopra Jonas
on Present Company now.