Priyanka Chopra on ‘Baywatch’ and the Importance of South Asian representation

[Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon and Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds in "Baywatch". | Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]

by Priya Arora

If you read BG’s “Baywatch” movie review, you’ll know that Priyanka Chopra is by far the best thing about the new film. Brown Girl Magazine recently spoke with Chopra about her portrayal of Victoria Leeds, the film’s antagonist who comes off more as a strong, independent woman than a villain.

Indeed, Leeds dominates in a cast where the major characters and her own henchmen are all men. Chopra’s embodiment of the character is confident and smooth, making it seem almost too good to be bad—while turning on that charm and panache to top it off. We asked Chopra if this is what drew her to take on the character.

“I do consider myself independent, definitely, and strong, definitely—but Victoria takes it to another level,” Chopra told BG. And after playing such a positive hero in “Quantico,” Chopra said the role of a villain was even more enticing.”When you’re a villain in a comedy, you just have the liberty to do so much.”

[Read Related: “Priyanka Chopra Dazzles in Otherwise Mediocre ‘Baywatch’“]

Originally written as a male character named Victor, Chopra takes Leeds and completely flips what a villain should look like, playing up the flirtation, fashion, and mystique as a means of deception. (The role feels very “Aitraaz”-like, in both Chopra’s acting prowess and the embodiment her character in that film.) Watching “Baywatch” though, it does stand out that Leeds seemed to have a nearly flawless American accent, and we asked Chopra if this was a deliberate move, especially in the wake of South Asian representation in American media being what it is.

“Victoria’s accent—I wanted to keep global because she’s clearly a woman of the world,” Chopra explained. “I wanted to give her an accent which sort of suits her character. Alex [Parrish, of “Quantico”] is a pure American accent because she’s an American girl.” Invoking her talent with accents, including “Bajirao Mastani’s” Marathi flair, Chopra said she tweaks the accents according to the character. “I’m not playing myself, I’m playing what suits that character—so I would say it was definitely deliberate.”

[Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon and Priyanka Chopra as Victoria Leeds in “Baywatch”. | Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]
As a true trailblazer for South Asian representation in media, Chopra has redefined what it means to be a South Asian woman on-screen. She’s aware of this status, and all it entails—and yet, still asserts that she’s just a normal girl, not a game changer. Instead, Chopra asserted, it’s been a very diligent process to pick and choose roles that stand out.

With the conscious decision to make her Hollywood film debut with “Baywatch,” and her American television debut with “Quantico,” Chopra said both roles are not only strong female characters, they feature diverse casts and experiences. In the grander scheme of things, Chopra said the characters present “a very big step in the direction” of the kind of representation we seek.

“That’s what I loved about ‘Quantico’ and ‘Baywatch.’ That’s what entertainment should look like and I’m glad I’m part of that representation, that change.”

And even though Chopra’s growing presence on everything from magazine covers to commercials, and now films and television, are growing, she understands it’s all part of a larger picture—one that will take a village to truly create lasting change.

For instance, Chopra recalled meeting Aziz Ansari at the Met Gala earlier this year.

“We were just talking and he said he had been to the Met Gala a couple of years ago, and there was only him and one other brown person. This time, there were almost seven of us.”

Even though that’s not a big number, Chopra joked, she said Ansari “was marveling at the fact that at least there were seven of us. So, it’s gonna take a while, but I think people coming into the industry and not settling for parts which stereotype them will be a big step in that direction.”

Nevertheless, she’s gotten used to representing India on an international stage, from winning Miss World all the way to eating wings or playing Holi with Jimmy Fallon—it all comes with the trailblazer status.

“I’m very aware whenever I walk onto a film set outside of India, that I represent the country and the industry.”

Despite her success outside of India, Chopra holds on to her values when it comes to picking roles—it’s never been about working with big stars like Dwayne Johnson or Zac Efron.

“I’ve never been the kind of person to say I want to do a film because there is a certain star attached to it. I like doing films for the stories that are being told. It’s always very organic because I believe content is king.”

As a globetrotter, Chopra is used to traveling across borders and oceans on a moment’s notice. This aspect, she recalled, was her favorite part of shooting “Baywatch.”

“I was filming in Montreal while I was shooting ‘Baywatch,’ so I kept flying from Montreal to Miami. That was the best part—as soon as I landed, I would walk into the ocean and put my feet into the sand.”

[Priyanka Chopra attends the world premiere of “Baywatch” at South Beach on May 13, 2017, in Miami. | Photo Credit: Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures]

In the end, though, Chopra found little difference between Hollywood films like “Baywatch” and films back home.

“Films are films, whether they’re in India or America,” Chopra shared. “Eventually the science and technique of making a film, and all the madness, is still the same. TV is another beast entirely, so to me that was a big difference.”

And because her travels often bring her to New York City, Chopra shared that she loves Asian food and Mr. Chow, in particular, is her favorite restaurant in the city.

“If you want Indian food,” she added, “you get the best Indian food in my house.”

So what’s ahead for Chopra? Now that “Quantico” has been picked up for a third season, she’s spending time reading scripts to see what movies both in India and here can fit into the show’s production schedule.

“I haven’t been able to read [a book] in the last two months and it’s annoying,” Chopra confessed.

As a voracious reader, Chopra said she knows if she picks up a book instead of her scripts, she’ll give into that all-too-familiar procrastination.

Priya AroraPriya Arora is a queer-identified community activist, editor, writer and Netflix enthusiast. Born and raised in California, Priya has found a home in New York City, where she currently works as a Frontpage Editor at Yahoo. When she’s not working, Priya enjoys watching old school Bollywood movies, laboring over NYTimes crossword puzzles, reading books she never finishes, and eating way too much of her partner’s homemade Hyderabadi biryani.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Anita Verma-Lallian Talks Camelback Productions and the Need for Greater South Asian Representation

Camelback Productions

Award-winning commercial real estate and land consultant in Arizona, Anita Verma-Lallian, is venturing into the world of entertainment with her newfound production house, Camelback Productions, making her the first South Asian female in the state to do so. Verma-Lallian is a woman used to paving her own way, and now she’s committed to doing it for future generations.

[Read Related: Anita Verma-Lallian Launches Arizona’s First South Asian-owned Film Production and Entertainment Company ]

Through her production company, she aims to contribute towards greater South Asian representation in mainstream media with a focus on storytelling that’s relevant to the community. In a conversation with Brown Girl Magazine, the real estate maven spoke about what inspired her to shift from investing in land to investing in creative dreams.

Tell us more about Camelback Productions and what your hopes are for the company?

The intention is to help communities that are not being represented in the media. As you know, there are a lot more streamers looking for content so that presents an interesting opportunity for people to tell stories that are otherwise not being told.

For us it’s important to tell these stories that aren’t being told, and tell them in the way that we want them to be told. With South Asians, for instance, the roles typically given are stereotypical. There are only four or five roles we are playing repeatedly. I want to show the South Asian community and culture in a different way. 

You come from a business and investor background. I am curious to know what catapulted your interest towards establishing a production company?

Good question. There were a few things that inspired my interest. I was looking to diversify the different opportunities we offered our investors. We’ve done a lot of real estate, so we were overall looking for different investment opportunities.  And then, at the time when I started exploring this, the real estate market was in this wait-and-see for many people. 

Everyone was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens next. There was a slowdown at the end of 2022 which is when I started looking into this more. Film seemed like it was kind of recession-proof and not really tied to what’s happening in the economy, which I thought was refreshing and exciting.

Also, overall, I observed what was happening in the industry with there being a push to see more South Asians in the media. The timing felt right, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.

What kind of content are you looking to create?

Good stories and good quality scripts. We are looking at all types of content — movies, docu-series, comedy shows, and reality shows. We’re open to anything that has a good message. 

On a personal level, what hits home for you with this production company?

Growing up I always loved film and TV. We watched a lot of Bollywood movies because that’s what we related to and I always loved that. But I did feel there wasn’t a lot of representation of people that looked like me. Being able to change that — especially after having kids, and a daughter who wants to go into film — is important for. It’s a contribution for future generations. It’s important to me that as they grow up, they see people that look just like them.  

Is there a significance to the name Camelback?

Yes! Camelback Mountain is a very iconic mountain in Phoenix. It’s one of the most famous hikes we have here and a relatively challenging one.

The significance is being able to overcome challenges and barriers. I have a nice view of Camelback Mountain and it’s something I look at every day, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. It has a very calming and grounding presence.

To me the mountains signify being grounded and not being able to be moved by external factors. That’s what I want this production company to be!

What would you advise people interested in entering the entertainment industry?

The best advice I would give someone is to align yourself with people that you know are experts in the industry; that have a good track record. Learn from as many people as you can. I learn as much as I can, talk to as many people as I can, and I study different things to understand what was and wasn’t successful.

Photo Credit: Claudia Johnstone

By Rasha Goel

Rasha Goel is a 2X Emmy-nominated television host/producer and international correspondent. Her talent has led to opportunities such as giving … Read more ›

The Poetry Film Breaking Genres and National Borders

“After so Long” is a poetry film created for Simha’s EP, which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The poem was collaboratively written by Simha, a U.S. native, and Jae, who is based in India, during the 2020 lockdown. “After so Long” was recited by Simha and their parents. In 2022, I directed and produced the film through my studio, Star Hopper. “After so Long” premiered on Nowness Asia in March 2022.

This film is a worldwide collaboration among trans and queer south-Asian artists from the United States, India and Canada. It was recorded, shot and filmed during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021.

[Read Related: Poetry That Reflects the Fire Inside]

[Read Related: A Bengali Muslim Boy’s Poetic Journey Through Himself]

After So Long (English Translation)

Awake at 10 am but out of bed at noon,
I want to be here where I lose myself in these sheets
Glancing through half-shut eyes
At the gold pressing past my window
The glimmer remarks on the ledge of my bed
But the voices are so loud
Like dust collecting in the corner of my room
I am unaware to why I’m still here
With the chilling doubt of the breeze…
I’m swept into lucidity After so long

Mil rahi hoon mein aaj iske saang barso baad,
(Today, I’ll be meeting them after so long)
Koi paata nahi diya tune
(But with no destination sight,)
Kya karu?
(What should I do?)
Kaha jau?
(Where should I go?)
Shayad agar mein chalne lagoon,
(Perhaps, if I keep walking)
Inn yaadon ki safar mein
(Down this road of memories)
Mujhe samajh mein ayega,
(I will find out)
Yeh rasta kahaan jayega,
(Where this road leads)
Inn aari tedhi pakadandiyon pe baarte hi jaana hai,
(Through the twists and turns of this winding roads, I must keep going on)
Mujhe mil na hain aaj uske saath,
(I wish to meet them today)
Barso baad.
(After so long)

I feel like I’m retracing my footsteps
From these concrete stretches
To broken cement walls
Chips and cracks forge their way for new designs
I see the old abandoned buildings
That once held the warmth of bodies
Now just hold memories
Supporting the nature’s resilience
In vines and moss
After so long

Dhoondli shishe mein jaaga leli hai
(These isty mirrors have offered refuge)
Bikhri hui laatao ne,
(To these scattered vines)
Zameen pe uchi ghaas pe
(Amidst the tall grass stretching from the ground)
Lehrati kamsan kaliyaa
(The swaying little buds)
Bheeni bheeni khushboo bikhereti
(Spreading honeysuckle scent through the air)
Phir wahi mausam,
(I lose myself in reminiscing, the same season)
Wahi dil,
(The same heart)
Baarso baad.
(After so long)
Phir bhi mein chal rahi hoon aaj
(Still, I keep carrying on today)
Khudko khudse milane ke liye
(In the pursuit of my higher self)
Inn galiyo se guzarna hain aaj
(I must pass through these streets today)
Chaalte chaale jaana hai aaj
(I must keep going on today)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor paar
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
barso baad
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
barso baad
(After so long)

[Read Related: How to Follow Your Heart, Even When it’s Hard]


Poem by Simha & Jae
Produced by Star Hopper Studios
Directed by Varsha Panikar
Cinematography and grading by Tanmay Chowdhary
Editing by Asawari Jagushte
Featuring Vaishakh Sudhakaran
Music Production by Simha
Hindi editing by Rama Garimella
Recited by Simha, Rama Garimella, Annaji Garimella
English Translation by Nhylar

The opinions expressed by the guest writer/blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brown Girl Magazine, Inc., or any employee thereof. Brown Girl Magazine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the guest writer/bloggers. This work is the opinion of the blogger. It is not the intention of Brown Girl Magazine to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please follow the guidelines we’ve set forth here.
By Varsha Panikar

Varsha Panikar (they/he) is a filmmaker, writer and multi-disciplinary artist from India. They are the co-founder of Star Hopper, a … Read more ›

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History — A Review of Sundance’s ‘Polite Society’

Polite Society

For any of us who have siblings, the relationship with them can be one of the most fulfilling ones. And also one of the most bloody frustrating. No one can quite stroke the fire like someone who knows you extremely well, or sometimes not, but have a familial bond with that neither one of you chose. In “Polite Society,“directed by Nida Manzoor, sisters Ria Khan and Lena Khan’s loving, sweet, and sometimes tumultuous relationship takes center stage. 

[Read Related: Poorna Jagannathan and Richa Moorjani of Netflix’s ‘Never Have I Ever’ on Womanhood, Racism, and Issues Generations of Desi Women Still Struggle With]

Played delightfully by Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya, respectively, the evolution of their relationship is one of the film’s greatest and simultaneously weakest points. It’s also pretty cool to see two South Asian actresses in an action-comedy movie — how refreshing it is to mention the art of choreography and praise it in regards to fight sequences vs. dance sequences for a film centered on two South Asian women — that itself shows progress. 

Set in London, Ria is an aspiring stunt woman who already shows massive talent in martial arts. She looks up to her older sister Lena, who is enrolled in art school and, also holds remarkable potential in a somewhat less traditionally acceptable field. Their relationship starts off as supportive and sweet with no inclinations of jealousy or resentment that sometimes plagues sisterly bonds. But this also means that they are quite protective of one another, almost to the detriment of their well wishes for each other. 

This all happens when Lena gets engaged after dropping out of art school. Ria feels betrayed. They were supposed to be on this journey together in fighting for their dreams. Ria decides that she knows what’s best for her sister and enlists the help of her friends to rescue the damsel in distress from her own wedding. Her deep animosity towards the prospect of Lena getting married is also fueled by Lena’s fiancé and his mother acting extremely suspiciously. The twist that ultimately brings the two sisters back together is both shocking and weirdly somewhat progressive in the motive behind the villain’s origin story. But the twist, unfortunately, is too ambitious for the movie as it tacks on another genre and theme earnestly, but still clunkily. 

“Polite Society” tackles not only what it means to fight for one’s dreams but also what it means to have just one ardent supporter. As Lady Gaga famously said, “There can be 100 people in a room and 99 of them don’t believe in you but all it takes is one and it just changes your whole life.” Well, Ria’s Bradley Cooper was her very own sister who seemed to abandon her, and her faith in her, when she chose a different path. For Lena, the film opened up the question of marriage and the weight it bears in the life of a South Asian woman. Ria’s lack of understanding of the pressure it places on Lena is the start of the change in their relationship — the start of Ria’s coming of age and the start of Lena settling firmly into her adulthood. 

Polite Society
Director Nida Manzoor, cinematographer Ashley Connor and actor Priya Kansara on the set of their film “Polite Society.”

Standouts from the cast include Ria’s best friends, played by Seraphina Beh and Ella Bruccoleri, who commit to the story and characters with such hilarity and conviction. They add the lightheartedness and playfulness the film needs, and it is refreshing that never once do they use Ria’s cultural background as a way to make fun of her or dismiss her.

[Read Related: Ms. Marvel’s Iman Vellani and Mohan Kapur Talk Cultural Pride, Hollywood and Brown Representation]

It is also heartening to see Lena and Ria’s parents being some of the most supportive South Asian parents seen on screen. At the end of the day, it is not the external family pressure that impacts the decisions made by the sisters but rather their own satisfaction, or lack thereof, with their own lives that become the driving force of their actions. 

“Polite Society” is written and directed by a South Asian woman for South Asian women, and is definitely worth a watch when it releases in theaters this April. 

Photo Credits: Focus Features LLC

By Nimarta Narang

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Nimarta grew up devouring Hindi movies, coming-of-age novels and one too many psychology textbooks. … Read more ›