Women need to be pushed into important roles, be ambition-driven & follow their dreams: Priyanka Chopra Jonas at TIFF

#PriyankaChopraJonas, #TIFF, #TorontoInternationalFilmFestival, #TIFF2020, #Cinema; #CameronBailey

Toronto, Sep 13: The global actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, had a live interaction with Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Sep 11 at the 45th edition of TIFF where she had been invited as an Ambassador of Share Her Journey. This event had been hosted by Cameron who said in his introduction that Priyanka had been a great friend of the TIFF for the past several years, and Share Her Journey, which needs much support in raising the importance of women in films. Asha Bajaj, IBNS Canada’s Special Correspondent brings the excerpts of their conversation.

Excerpts:

Cameron ©: You have been associated with TIFF for several years. What are some of your favorite memories of TIFF?

Priyanka (P): I have some very fond memories of the Festival. Toronto is like a second home to me. “I feel very connected with the festival because of its global representation, meaning that TIFF includes movies from all over the world. The movies have a real perspective and TIFF has a slot of amazing movies to watch, Yet another favorite memory is Toronto’s thirst for art. Toronto people love art.”

I also cherish the memory of question and answer session with the audience which shows the interest and curiosity with which the audience watches the films. The enthusiasm of the audience is very encouraging and motivating. The work which you are doing at TIFF is commendable. The Share Her Journey organized by TIFF binds the women and gives them a lot of hope and encouragement.

C: How important do you think is the decision-making process for women not only as a director and a producer but also as a writer and an actor?

P: It is very important that the women make their own decisions, create their own content. Cinema needs women representatives outside their skin color and their selection should be based on their merit. Women are needed to be behind the female directors, behind female producers, behind the cameras. Women have a long way to go. Women need to be motivated and pushed into powerful roles.

“Although many people are taking large strides, around the world and in Hollywood females need to be pushed to get to the place where we want to be with equal pay and gender equality and to be able to watch cinema which truly represents us because we represent cinema in a large way.”

I am pleased that of all the titles in this year’s lineup, 45 percent are directed, co-directed, or created by women, including Black, Indigenous, or People of color (POC) filmmakers. I am very proud of what you guys at TIFF are doing to champion the cause of women.

C: You have been associated with the film “The White Tiger.” Can you throw more light on the film and your role in it?

P: The director of the film is Ramin Bahrani and I am the executive producer. I had read the book a long time ago and was really affected by it. It was a prominent book and at that time and I was living in India then.

“The story of the film is based in India but the film is all about ambition, especially ambition in the society where you are not supposed to have ambition and you are supposed to live life the way you are supposed to in poverty and hunger.”

I did not know Ramin at that time as the book was dedicated to Ramin and when I found out I called my agent and told him there was no way that I cannot be part of this movie. Although I was aware that there is not a massive female part in the movie, I somehow pushed myself to be a part of it. I met Ramin, took an audition, and begged him to make me part of the movie and I was then made executive producer of the movie.

I will lead an adaptation of the Man Booker-winning novel ‘The White Tiger’, which will release on Netflix and Rajkummar Rao will star alongside me. Newcomer Adarsh Gourav would be in the feature, and the shooting for which will begin in India in October.

C: What are some of the other projects in which you are involved?

P: At present, I am involved with highly anticipated Matrix 4. It is being filmed now and I would be joining the shoot in October. I am also working on Citadel for Amazon with Richard Madden, which they hope to film safely in Europe next year in a virus-free environment. I am also developing and producing content with Amazon slated for next year, including a sangeet show with my husband, Nick Jonas for Amazon as well. I am also working with Robert Rodriguez to produce some movies for kids, like ‘We Are Heroes’ with Netflix.

“My idea as a producer has always been to cross-pollinate cultures and to tell stories from around the world, for people around the world. Not a specific audience, but just great stories, and with Amazon, I am getting the ability to do that. They are amazing partners.”

C: Of the many stars in India who are very successful in the Bollywood industry, there are very few who had got global success. What have you done that others have not chosen to do or cannot do?

​It must have been at some point humbling experience as well.

P: I just wanted it. A lot of Indian actors are extremely happy in the Indian film Industry, which is supremely powerful with audiences around the world. After more than a decade of working in India. I had to walk to the room to introduce myself to get global success because it takes a lot of “pounding the pavements.” I had to take risks as I am a bit of a gambler.

For example, when I wanted to be associated with the movie ‘The White Tiger’ I had made my agent call Ramni that I am going to do this. My aim is to create opportunities, which does not have to be limited and make opportunities for people as well to spare them the trouble of “pounding the pavement” that I had to do. It will be an honor to take this responsibility on my shoulder on which the next generation from around the world can stand on.

“It really is my drive. I want to influx Hollywood with talent from around the world and work so hard that I would become irreplaceable.”

C: Tell me a bit about your journey to Hollywood.

P: After being one of the most successful Bollywood stars, I had a great ambition to join Hollywood. It was a very risky decision at that time to leave Bollywood because it was one of the most powerful and the largest film producing industry in the world. After being an actor in Bollywood for more than a decade, I just wanted to join Hollywood. Of course, there was a fear of my not getting the same recognition in Bollywood when I return. My career in the Bollywood industry was at stake.

But the risk was worth taking. I had to take a step back from Hindi movies. “I had the intention and the drive to do global work as well as to work in India.” I had to basically go to people to introduce myself. I pushed myself to go and meet people, introduce myself, and expressed a desire to work in Hollywood films. Then there were parties that I attended and did not know anybody. I had to arrange meetings with people whom I wanted to work with. “It was my ambition, the drive, and going behind my dreams even though there was a great chance of failure that led to my success.”

C: When we watch TV shows now we find a much diverse range of creators. Does that give you hope that the work you and others are doing would actually have an impact on women?

P: 100 percent. The conversation now is larger and lounder. Obviously there is more work to do, and so much more that can be done. “We need feminism in men. We need people around the world to recognize that women, who constitute 50 percent the population of the world, to be represented in every industry, especially entertainment, especially at the rate it is being consumed.” There are so many incredible female filmmakers, writers, producers, and actors from around the world who need doors to be opened for them. So many people nowadays are seeking the right kind of casting. We need to be sensitive about who should be writing the story. Things like these are happening in Hollywood. For example, I was developing a female-driven movie with a bunch of other directors The writer was a man, and when he learned that this is a female-driven movie he said that it would be better that there should be a woman writer for this movie.

When I joined the Bollywood industry 20 years ago I had no choice. I had to figure out my schedule according to the main co-actor. If I refused, someone else would replace me. It was such a struggle at that time that it really stuck with me for a very long time and made me feel very devalued. I told myself when I walked outside the office that I would work so hard that I would be irreplaceable.

C: How hopeful you are about changes like sexual harassment and people coming forward in India?

P: I am much hopeful. From the time I started working to the time that I started making women-led films, I noticed that female-led films now make box office more successful as there are more audiences that are going to watch these films just because they are good movies and are not female-centric. There are great filmmakers like Gauri Shinde, Zoya Akhtar, and female writers, producers, and directors who are honored in the film industry because they created their own content. It is, of course, a long journey and I am proud to be part of this journey. I am proud of the changes that I have seen for the last 20 years to the film industry which was male-dominated. Now it is so much more inclusive. Many people coming from outside Mumbai city, like talented directors, producers, actors, and writers, and the content they are producing are so different.

C: I can feel the change. More international voices, fresh perspectives as well. The concept of a hero as the center of the film is being challenged.

Now tell me about how you pass your time during the quarantine. What are you watching, listening, and reading nowadays?

P: The biggest achievement for me during quarantine is that I could finish my Memoir. I called it “Unfinished Memoir” and it remained unfinished for 3 years. Finally, I could get time to finish it. The “Unfinished Memoir” is now finished. It is with Penguin Random House and is expected to be released sometime next year.

“Basically it is not my story. It is a story like me prospecting 20 years of what happened. I did not have time to think about what my journey was and what happened and what did I feel. It is sort of my own perspective on my own life as a 38-year old woman in my life right now.

I have been watching a couple of fun stuff too as I was under a lot of anxiety. Every day I wake and watch the news on the internet not knowing what to expect. I am excited to be back on the set but am scared as well as I am asthmatic and Nick is diabetic and we both are vulnerable to infection.

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