Days after her appearance at the 88th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Priyanka Chopra is excited about the release of her latest Bollywood film, Jai Gangaajal (Hail the Holy Waters).
The 34-year-old star’s appearance at the Oscars – where she and actor Liev Schreiber presented the award for Best Film Editing – was the latest sign of her rising status in Hollywood.
Last year, she became the first Indian actress to headline an American TV series, crime thriller Quantico, in which she stars as a trainee FBI agent accused of a terror attack. It has already been renewed for a second season and Chopra has also landed the role of the villain in a big-screen reboot of 1990s TV show Baywatch, alongside Furious 7 star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Chopra has also been keeping busy in Bollywood. She starred in the recent hit Bajirao Mastani, and will next be seen in Jai Gangaajal, written and directed by Prakash Jha, as a tough-as-nails police officer who takes on a powerful politician.
We caught up with her the night before the Oscars to talk about her rising profile in Hollywood and Bollywood.
Do you think having you present an award helps to bring more diversity to the Oscars?
I definitely think it is a start. It is definitely not the end of the debate, though. There is a very long conversation that needs to be had. Diversity is a very important part of entertainment, especially today where entertainment is truly global. Representation at events such as the Oscars should reflect that. This is a step in that direction.
After portraying an FBI agent in Quantico, you play a police officer in Jai Gangaajal. How do the characters compare?
They are two completely different people and characters. The only common ground is that they are both female law-enforcement officers and I play them. The biggest difference is that Abha plays by the rules, whereas Alex creates the rules for herself.
How do you do cope with your increasingly busy schedule in Hollywood and Bollywood?
It is a balancing act. I stay up all odd hours and accommodate two very different time zones. That is my choice. I love Hindi films too much to not do them and I love the fact that I am making a foray into something completely new. As women, our superpower is multitasking – and that is what I am doing.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while making Jai Gangaajal?
Abha is a strong woman, born and raised in (the northern Indian state of) Uttar Pradesh. She has a lot of respect for the system. Prakash and I spent 12 to15 hours talking about Abha’s character before we started shooting. For me, the most interesting challenge was to not make her masculine. Just because a woman is wearing a uniform, or is a cop, doesn’t mean she needs to lose her femininity – and that for me was very important.
Do you think better roles are being written for women now?
I have been blessed with roles and films that have not just been written for me but which have characters that are very multidimensional. It a great time to be an actor in India – and an even better time to be a female actor.
What is it like seeing yourself on screen beating up men?
I didn’t think of it like that at all. As a law-enforcement agent, Abha goes after criminals, regardless of gender. Personally, I am from the land of (Mahatma) Gandhi and I believe in non-violence. I don’t like guns.
• Jai Gangaajal is in cinemas on Thursday, March 3