Times and trends have changed in Bollywood. Yet, it’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to our female characters. The heroines are still majorly objectified in many of our films. Hence, one can imagine the state of affairs 20 years back when the scenario was not as progressive as it is now. Global star Priyanka Chopra shares a dramatic incident about this trend in Bollywood in her recently revealed memoir ‘Unfinished’.
Priyanka reveals that at the beginning of her career, she had bagged a big Bollywood film (she doesn’t name the film and its makers). She was supposed to perform on a seductive song, in which she was to remove her clothes slowly, one piece at a time. It was a long, four-minute song and in order to make it more tantalizing, Priyanka suggested that it’ll be great if she had lots of layers of clothes to take off like a jacket, stockings and even hair ribbon.
The director asked her to speak to the stylist which she did. Then she passed on the phone to the director who in front of her, told the stylist, “Jo bhi ho, chaddiyan dikhni chahiye. Nahin toh log picture dekhne kyon aayenge?” (Whatever happens, panties should be seen. Otherwise, why would people come to watch the movie?)
Priyanka Chopra then confesses that this statement by the director led her to quit the film the very next day. She said that she obviously knew that the script had this seductive song and that her character was supposed to wear her sexuality on the sleeve, and that she was okay with that. However, she found it unacceptable that she was used as a mere commodity for titillation. “I am not whatever character I am playing, and I wasn’t willing to be directed by someone who saw me that way. Instead, I trusted my intuition and exited,” she says.
Priyanka Chopra had shot for two days already when she quit. Hence, the producer of the film was livid. This is when she was shooting for another film. Though she doesn’t name the movie, it seems it was Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004) as she mentions that her co-star in the film was Salman Khan and that it happened in the beginning of her career. The angry producer arrived on the sets of her film and charged towards her trailer, where Priyanka was seated.
This is when Salman Khan came to her rescue. She writes, “My co-star Salman Khan, who was and is a huge star in India, understood the situation immediately and intervened on my behalf…when the producer arrived, he had a conversation with him that defused the situation. I’m not sure exactly what he said but the producer was in a much calmer state when he spoke to me.”
Priyanka Chopra then tells that she never told the producer the real reason for leaving the film. “I was a newcomer in a patriarchal industry and I’d learned that it was better not to poke the bear. Keep your head down and keep smiling was the rule for the girls, and I was already pushing the boundaries. So rather than explaining what had happened, I told him I’d misunderstood the character and wasn’t comfortable playing her, and that I’d send a cheque to reimburse them for the two days they’d have to reshoot with someone else.” She ends the chapter by saying that the money she returned amounted to as much as she would have been paid for 12-13 weeks of work, had she stayed on the movie.