Priyanka Chopra: Proud to Be a Woman of Color

[Photo Source: ABC/Craig Sjodin]

I hope we’re all on the same page about the “I don’t even see color” nonsense because yes, yes you do see color. And it applies to everyone, Priyanka Chopra.

That phrase is a misinformed attempt at being inclusive at best or dismissive of actual experiences that people of color live at its worst. See, the thing is when you say you don’t see color you are in effect saying you don’t see me because there is a part of me that is different and you’d rather avoid addressing it for your own comfort. So please stop with this silliness.

Priyanka Chopra in ‘Quantico’ [Photo Source: Screenshot/ABC]
Anywho, Priyanka Chopra just discovered that while she might not “like the phrase woman of color” it doesn’t matter because that’s what she is in America. She’s a brown woman. Not a “green, blue, or pink – whatever” because human skin doesn’t come in those colors (oh this part especially, pisses me off when people add it like they’re so funny…STOP!), and as a smart woman she should’ve known better.

Priyanka sat down with Instyle Magazine and shared how last year she discovered that she was passed over for a role in a film due to her skin color.

Oh really? You don’t say? “Color us surprised!” (pun intended) Said no one else.

Once more for the people in the back, and you too PeeCee, just because it hasn’t been your personal experience, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

From the #OscarsSoWhite to the white-washing of role after role, from #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the pay disparity between men and women (not to mention women of color), it has been pretty clear since forever that Hollywood has a diversity problem. The lack of diversity across the board – in boardrooms where the casting decisions are made, in front of the screen, behind the screen – has caused the ugliness in the industry to fester. The reason we’re seeing a change now is because so many with power in Hollywood are shining a huge spotlight on it.

I’ve spoken about power and privilege in Bollywood many, many, many times before. The power imbalances that are caused by inequities entrenched in traditional and or colonial systems and institutions, exist throughout the world. Understanding this by recognizing and acknowledging your own power and privilege is crucial for true change to happen. That’s what has happened in Hollywood with Time’s Up and #Metoo.

Many women with considerable power in Hollywood stood up and said ‘no more’. They joined their voices with the less powerful women who had been saying ‘no more’ for years without being heard and used their power to ensure their collective voices weren’t silenced. They recognized their own power and privilege and used to bring about positive change.

I love Priyanka Chopra, I do. She’s a badass hustler. A smart business woman who has leveraged her privileged upbringing (the daughter of two well-to-do doctors from whom she gained her business acumen), her undeniable beauty (another privilege) to become a model. From there it was Miss India, then Miss World, and then the bright lights of Bollywood, which does open its doors and offer starring roles to beauty contestants when star kids are running sparse (please see Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sushmita Sen, Juhi Chawla, Zeenat Aman, et al).

She leveraged all of this, worked hard as heck and rose up to become a full-fledged star commanding top dollar, and then segued into Hollywood with a role on ABC’s “Quantico.” She’s even an UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. That’s pretty badass.

When I say Priyanka Chopra is privileged, I’ m not detracting from her work or her hustle. What I mean is that she has unearned benefits by virtue of her birth – her caste and class in a country where this matters, and her Bollywood superstardom again in a country where this matters – have given her tremendous power and privilege. What irks me is that until recently, she hadn’t acknowledged it.

[Read Related: “Priyanka Chopra Has Some Interesting Views on Diversity — We Break Them Down”]

Her power and privilege had protected her from recognizing inequities within her own industry in Bollywood and she carried it with her to Hollywood. Priyanka Chopra has said that she didn’t want to be pigeonholed in the exotic roles (despite releasing a song called “Exotic” where she was literally trumpeting her exoticism for the North American audience, but that’s neither here nor there) and enjoyed mainstream success with “Quantico” and then “Baywatch” (even if it wasn’t quite a hit).

Since she had never experienced it first hand, it didn’t exist for her, but now it does because it’s a part of her experience. This experience has shifted her understanding of what it means to be a woman of color in America. She finally understands what women in the diaspora have been saying to her for the past two years.

[Read Related: “Priyanka Chopra on ‘Baywatch’ and the Importance of South Asian representation”]

Representation matters. I love seeing South Asian women on screen, women who look like me, who have had similar experiences. Priyanka Chopra got flack for it because her comments were dismissive of the lived experiences of women of color in general and South Asian women in America in particular. She recognizes this now. Being a woman of color in America means “something very culturally different” in America than outside of America. I like that she’s amended her original statement.

There is always room for growth, for checking your privilege and recognizing your power, as long as you can shake free from the sense of entitlement and really see yourself. I like this new, more aware Priyanka Chopra, and I hope she continues to kill it.

By Sundeep Hans

Sundeep Hans was born in Toronto, raised in Brampton, with a slight detour via Punjab. She’s a social justice activist, … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Editor by profession, writer by passion, and a mother 24/7, Nida is a member of Brown Girl Lifestyle's editing team … Read more ›