Priyanka Chopra Jonas on pushing boundaries for Indian talent globally in new memoir ‘Unfinished’

Priyanka Chopra Jonas on pushing boundaries for Indian talent globally in new memoir ‘Unfinished’

Priyanka Chopra Jonas is the actor-producer behind over 60 Bollywood and Hollywood films as well as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations’ children’s charity Unicef. Now, the 38-year-old Jamshedpur-born Global Indian has added another feather to her cap as the author of ‘Unfinished: A Memoir’.

In this interview with ‘iGlobal’, the star who usually divides her time between Los Angeles, where she lives with husband Nick Jonas, and Mumbai talks about what has been keeping her in London for an extended stretch, the vulnerability of opening up about her life in a memoir and feeling proud about being able to champion Indian talent on a global stage.

What was the writing process like for your debut as an author?

I have written all my life but I have never written a book, obviously. I've written columns and opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines. Writing is something I have tremendous respect for and was also afraid of, which was a big reason I wanted to do it. I'm always someone who likes to take my fears on and this was my way of doing that.

The process was insane. There were so many times when I am writing and I can't think about what I'm writing, my pages are empty and I don't understand the structure. You just wonder, why did I take this one? And, the publishers texting you, can I have some more chapters please. So, of course, there was all of that.

But when I got the first manuscript back, I was so grateful to have actually stuck it out and done it.

How difficult was it to dig up the happy as well as not so happy memories?

It took about two years but predominantly I wrote it during quarantine, six months that I was home last year. It gave me the time for the first time in life to be in one place. At least in 25 years, I must have not been in one place; since school. So that was very, very helpful.

I think it also helped me to write the book the way it is, which is honest and raw and vulnerable, maybe more than I have ever been and maybe more than I will ever be. It was because I decided that if the book was going to be interesting and if it was going to be something that is not already out there, because there is so much that is written about me, I have to talk about things that I didn't feel comfortable about.

I had to talk about my failures, my rejections, my fears and that's something that I have never sort of publicly talked about because being a woman in the profession that I'm in, you kind of have to be tough and build your walls up to protect yourself. I did that for a very long time; I didn't have anybody else protecting me.

What are some of the takeaways you hope will resonate with readers?

For the people who know me, I hope that they would see me as a person, as a girl, not someone who is made of steel and who can bounce off anything. I also get hurt, I also bleed red just like everyone else.

For people who don't know me, who might come across the book, I would say please give my first attempt at writing a chance because it's the story of a girl from a small town, an unassuming background and I've built a career on my own back. My own blood, sweat and tears and only through hard work, perseverance and consistency.

I hope that would inspire people to take chances in their lives and make opportunities for themselves; because if I can do it, anyone can.

Do you feel an added pressure about being representative of Indian women on a global stage?

It's not the pressure that worries me, I feel grateful for being able to break down doors where I didn't have any help when I first started attempting to join films. I was told girls are replaceable, they're always inferior to patriarchal existing rules.

Then when I started looking for work outside of India, I started seeing that having a leading actor or actress who was Indian in mainstream entertainment – not a genre movie, not an independent movie – but a mainstream movie or show was something that people didn't comprehend. And that's just five-six years ago and when we are one-fifth of the world's population.

So, I am actually grateful for being given an opportunity where I can push the goalpost for my community, and women specifically. I just feel sometimes, we as a community need to come together to support our own. That's also really important, instead of trying pull people down.

What are some of your highlight projects, recent and coming up?

The White Tiger’ is something I am extremely proud of. When I heard the book was being adapted into a movie, I was determined it is done right and gets the push and the exposure that it deserves because it is such a great piece of material. It's just really provocative storytelling. So, I chased after the movie and said I wanted to executive produce it, I want to help push the movie as far as it can go. Today, to see it as the No. 1 movie around the world on the largest platform [Netflix] with an all-Indian star cast, it's historic. This is what I set out to do and I am so glad that slowly but surely I am able to be at the forefront of making sure Indian talent gets that kind of global recognition that it deserves.

In London, I just finished filming 'The Matrix 4' and 'Text for You', which is a romantic comedy I am doing with Sony. And now I am doing a TV show called 'Citadel', which is produced by the Russo brothers and stars Richard Madden and I and that will go to November this year.

How do you balance all the different facets of your life?

All the facets are facets of my job, they are not who I am. I bifurcate my personal home life and my work life very clearly. Hence, I don't take the pressures of my work back home and also have the ability to juggle all the million things that I like to juggle when I go to work.

I feel it is important to work hard but also to play hard, and that helps you find the balance.

*‘Unfinished’ by Priyanka Chopra Jonas is published by Michael Joseph on February 11, 2021

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