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Don't judge, let women do what they want: Priyanka Chopra

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 18/03/2018 Arti Dani
Want equal opportunities for women: Priyanka Chopra © Provided by Khaleej Times Want equal opportunities for women: Priyanka Chopra

Dubai kept India's very own global superstar Priyanka Chopra very busy. In town to attend the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) 2018, the 'Quantico' star took part in three sensational sessions sharing her trailblazing success story.

She spoke about her journey from Bollywood to Hollywood, cross-cultural sensitivity and the objectification of women on screen. The packed room at the Coffee House, Atlantis, gave her a thundering applause when she taught a man a thing or two about feminism when asked about equality when a woman who is eve-teased slaps a man. Priyanka was in an upbeat mood and her cheerful energy was infectious. One of India's top most actresses and perhaps the most successful import to the West has currently wrapped the third season of her American TV show 'Quantico' and we hear that she will now spend a few months in Mumbai and possibly headline a Bollywood project there. A biopic on Kalpana Chawla might be announced soon but the superstar was in no mood to discuss any specific movie projects during her session at The Atlantis Hotel on Sunday afternoon. Excerpts from the actress, singer, film producer, philanthropist and activist's conversation at GESF:

On objectification:

Objectification of women is there across the world and not just in Bollywood. It's there in music videos, pop songs, big movies etc. Why do those things make money? Who is watching it? Who is buying those tickets? Who is saying it is okay to go watch those movies. It is called demand and supply. Don't demand it and don't ask for it. There are a lot of girls who say that they are not okay with that and then they get replaced. There is a big fight that's happening right now, between the demand and the supply. I think things are changing. I mean decades ago we wouldn't see a female-centric film opening the box office but today a female starrer is getting numbers better than the boys. That is the change that we have seen in our own lifetime.

On eve teasing and power play:

When a man eve teases women, then she slapping him is not an abuse of a man. I think physically men and women are different. Equality is not about physical power. We are talking about cerebral opportunity. We are not saying we want to be 200 pounds and beat the man. We want to have a job, be a CEO and we don't want anyone questioning us. Let us be able to get ahead of the game; support us. If you say that you are a feminist, then it means that you support women around you.

Don't pigeonhole Indian actors:

Bollywood was a name given to us because Bombay is where the Hindi film industry is based. I didn't have a problem with the word till I started working in Hollywood. It is disturbing to see how the world pigeonholes us into a box. For everyone in Bollywood is just song and dance. All of that was made up of people who don't understand dancing - changing light bulbs and cleaning toilets. If you don't understand dancing then we have to stupidify it. I think we need to change that and become a major part of the global entertainment. There are Bollywood flavour popcorns. I mean how can we have Bollywood flavour?! We are not taken seriously even though we are the most prolific industry in the world. I think Indian talent does not need to be stereotyped or put in a box.

A beauty queen who is a proud feminist:

Who decides whether a beauty pageant is part of feminism or not? As a proud feminist, I am glad that it was my stepping stone. We should let a woman do what she wants without judging her. I believe in destiny. I believe that destiny and hard work go hand in hand. I was not born with a silver spoon. You cannot replace hard work. Indian media says that models and beauty queens cannot act. But I think it's an organic or an individual process but the audience is very intelligent You don't have to be the most beautiful or talented person in the room but people want to watch you. I think that's called X-factor.

Time's Up:

I think it's such an interesting time for our generation now. With the vices and virtues of social media, what I think is amazing about social media is how it brought the globe together talking about the Time's Up movement. Time's Up to me means that we are not going to stay silent anymore. Time's Up means that you cannot silence your voice anymore because we all stand together. This never happened before. It's such a powerful time.

A desi girl who is a global citizen:

I think your roots define who you are. You can never erase where you came from. I am a proud Indian. I am as desi as I get but that doesn't mean I am not aware of what's happening in the world. I am a global citizen because the world matters to me. Everybody is making sure to work hard to make this world a better place. It is our responsibility to give back to the lesser privileged ones.

On producing regional movies:

While everyone is going international, I am going local. I was born in Jamshedpur, raised in Bareilly, went to school in Lucknow, and lived in Mumbai, Boston, and New York. I am a citizen of the world. I think storytelling is an art whether it's a giant Hollywood production or a Bollywood film or a regional film; it is just story telling for me. My company Pebble Productions gives the opportunity to young talent. I am making films in Punjabi, Assamese, Marathi, Gujarati and Sikkimese. I am also developing Hindi films, an American feature...

On being part of UNICEF:

I have been part of UNICEF for a decade. I get to travel around the world and meet such inspiring people who live in dire situations but live an inspiring life. If I was in their situation, I would be angry with the world but those kids, all they wanted was books, teachers and the ability to have some kind of a grip on the future. Each child that I met in Jordan wanted to go back and rebuild Syria. They were not angry but they were hopeful. I flew directly from the refugee camp to the Emmys that years. I was wearing a dress with a 50-carat diamond. I remember sitting in the make-up (room) and I had tears in my eyes thinking how little people have to survive on and how we have so much in this business. It shook me to the core as a human being. Have we become as a society desensitized to it? We see kids washing up on the shore. We hear about shootings in America or a bombing in Syria or genocide in India. My thoughts are that we cannot ignore the part of the world where this is happening and make noise as a global voice. I do think that leadership needs to change its gaze. I think governments across the world need to realise this is a humanitarian crisis and not a regional crisis.

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