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#GLORY: Priyanka Chopra on Mary Kom, women in Bollywood and becoming a producer

It's difficult to imagine that, at the tender age of 32, Priyanka Chopra is already a Bollywood veteran.

Quite apart from the sheer number of films she's appeared in since her acting debut in the Tamil film Thamizhen 2002, her resume boasts the kind of range and variety of an actor a decade or two older than the former Miss World. 

From the naive Rani in the blockbuster romance 'Mujhse Shaadi Karogi' through the aspiring model Meghna Mathur in Madhur Bhandarkar's 'Fashion' to her award-winning roles in 'Kaminey' and the unforgettable 'Barfi!', Chopra has stretched her thespian abilities farther than any other young Bollywood starlet.

With her latest role, she's taking things even further.

Many were caught by surprise when the glamorous actor, singer and model was cast as iconic boxer Mary Kom in a bio-pic about arguably India's greatest ever female athlete.

Born to a poor family in rural Manipur, Mary's is the kind of story that's ripe for the big screen: the story of a determined young woman who overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve the kind of glory that ordinary mortals can only dream about.

Initial reaction to Chopra's interpretation of the life of this extraordinary woman has been largely positive with Chopra stripped of all that glamour to really get into a role with plenty of meat: literally and metaphorically.

The UKAsian's Anita Britto caught up with Priyanka in Mumbai to talk female-centric roles in Bollywood and new ventures.

Many people are already describing 'Mary Kom' as a turning point in your career.  Does it feel like that to you?

I never have expectations from any of my films because as they say ‘Man proposes, God disposes.’  I believe destiny and hard work go hand in hand so you do the best that you can and the rest you have to let go.  Whatever happens, it is the destiny of your films.  Of course, I would like people to like my work, enjoy the film, and also get inspired by it because this story inspired me.

It's a wonderful time to be an actress in Bollywood these days with the likes of 'Mardaani', 'Khubsoorat', 'Creature' etc featuring women in the central roles.

Right now, the positive is that women are getting roles where they are equal to their male counterparts.  This has not happened for a long time, at least since the days of Madhuri and Sridevi.  For example, you can’t give me credit for 'Krissh' or 'Don' because I was a supporting actor in the film but you can’t deny Illeana and me in Barfi; the film is as much mine as it is Ranbir’s.  And I don’t think anyone could have played Deepika’s role in Chennai Express the way she did.

A-list actresses are doing more and more female-centric roles but why is it that when they do strong roles onscreen, the male actors opposite them are always newcomers?

See, we live in a very male-dominated world and as a society we think like that.  Even in Hollywood see the disparity not just in remuneration but in other things too.  I have supported big-budget mega films which had actors in the lead so I think there will be a day when somebody (actors) will support me in my movie.

Are you extra selective with the films that you do these days?

No.  Selection nahin hota mujhse.  You make me hear the story of a film and if I like it I will take it up.  I love all kinds of movies.  I get very confused when my films don’t do well because according to me it was a very good film.  I am an artiste, I am creative…I go with my guts. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I don’t.  The only conscious decision I make is to have variety in the roles I do because I get really bored doing the same things.

When first-time director Omung Kumar approached you for 'Mary Kom', was there any hesitation from your side?

I have worked with lots of first-time directors -- Nikhil Advani, Tarun Mansukhani and now Omung.  Some films have been super successful, some haven’t.  I judged the 'Mary Kom' offer based on Saiwan Quardos’s story and on the fact that I know Omung has a beautiful vision as a production designer.  The cherry on the cake was that it was produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who I think is one of the finest filmmakers in the country.  I am a huge Sanjay Bhansali fan, so I was very happy to work with him.

You are also about to embark on your first home production with Madhur Bhandarkar directing.

I am really happy that Madhur agreed to be my first director in my first home production.  Madhur is a great director and it’s a superb story. Producing films is a big step for me, a new step into a new direction.  I never thought I will become a musician or a producer but I have always looked to evolve as a person and an artist.  I like changing.  I am very spontaneous.

And you going to star in the film?

I never thought that my production house will make a film starring me.  I wanted to make small films that tell good stories but this film came as a great opportunity to establish the production house.  But eventually, I want to promote new talent - whether it’s writers directors or actors.

Now that you have turned producer, how much will box office numbers matter to you?

I get very confused with numbers.  On Fridays, I generally leave it to  someone or the other to tell me how the film is doing.  But as a producer I guess my maths will improve.  I just want to make good films…I have a good team to look after the rest.  And I trust them with my life.

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#ReBoot: ‘A Fault In Our Stars’ to get the BOLLYWOOD treatment

Despite the recent glut of mega-blockbuster action flicks, Bollywood's heart has always been with the soppy melodrama and Fox Star Studios has revealed plans to adapt one of the most deeply affecting films to come out of Hollywood in recent years.

The Mumbai-based studio has reportedly bought the rights to 'A Fault In Our Stars', the critically acclaimed drama about two teenage cancer sufferers who fall in love.

Fox Star Studios CEO Vijay Singh told the Hollywood Reporter:  “We think the story will have an emotional [connection] with Indian audiences  The original English version was released (in India) a couple of weeks ago and is still running.

"The film has done a business of about $1 million. We had actually thought of adapting it locally even before the film was released here.”

Details about the adaptation, including cast and crew, are still being worked out.

'A Fault In Our Stars' is adapted from the novel of the same name by John Green and has been a huge commercial success as well, raking in nearly $300 million on a shoestring budget - at least by Hollywood terms - of just $12 million.

Directed by Josh Boone, the film stars Shailene Woodley as a cancer sufferer and Ansel Elgort as a cancer survivor. 

The two meet at  a patient support group and embark on a deeply moving journey that even takes in the Anne Frank Home in Amsterdam.

The Hindi version of the film will be the latest adaptation by Fox Star Studios who are on a bit of an adaptation binge at the moment: the studio was behind 'City Lights', Hansal Mehta's moving re-boot of 'Metro Manila'. 

The studio also recently unveiled the teaser for Hrithik Roshan's peculiarly-named 'Bang Bang', a re-imagining of the Tom Cruise action flick 'Knight and Day'.

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#LGBTQ: Celina stars in UN’s Bollywood-inspired gay rights campaign

The United Nations this week unveiled a new music video inspired by Bollywood in a bid to raise awareness about gay rights in India.

The two-and-a-half minute clip could have been taken out of any Karan Johar movie and features actress Celina Jaitly and a family preparing to welcome a young man and his "special friend".

Much to the family's - initial - shock, the special friend turns out to be the young man's same-sex partner.

The ravishing Celina then breaks into a rendition of the unforgettable 1979 classic 'Uthhe Sab Ke Kadam Tara Ram Pam Pam' in a bid to appease the family's matriarch, who - in true Bollywood tradition - eventually comes round.

The video is part of a campaign called 'Free & Equal' spearheaded by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and is a response to the re-instatement of 'Section 377', a Colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality.

“Now I am a mother of two-year-old twins, I do not want my sons to grow up in a world where one is judged on your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Jaitley who has been a long-term campaigner for LGBT rights in India.

“No setback is irreversible,” said Charles Radcliffe, chief of the global issues section at OHCHR referring to Section 377.

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#LondonCalling: VisitBritain launches “BOLLYWOOD IN BRITAIN” app to lure B-Town fans to UK

Britain’s biggest tourism promotion body has launched a mobile app aimed specifically at fans of Bollywood as the government continues its efforts to encourage India’s burgeoning middle-classes to come spend their money in the UK.  Theresa May notwithstanding. VisitBritain’s ‘Bollywood in Britain Destination Movie Map’ will help users find destinations …

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#TheUKAsian List: Bollywood in 2014 – An Alternate List

The 100-Crore, 200-Crore and now 300-crore success of films such as 'Chennai Express', 'Krrish 3' and 'Dhoom 3' didn't deflect from the fact that 2013 was a hugely successful year for films that are not the usual Bollywood fare.  The critical and commercial Films such as 'Shahid', 'The Lunchbox', 'Ship of Theseus' and 'Kai Po Che' were testament to the fact that filmmakers aren't merely interested in marginal special effects and boy-meets-girl-then-beats-up-lots-of-bad-guys narratives.  

2014 is going to be an equally intriguing year for fans of movies that don't numb the senses on the way to massive box-office collections.  Yes there will be a HUGE Salman Khan release; there'll be yet another Shah Rukh Khan fleecing at the box office at Diwali and a Hrithik Roshan romance at Christmas.  In between, there's going to be some choice cuts. 

Here's a taster.

UGLY

The perfect start to 2014, Anurag Kashyap's psychological drama promises plenty of thrills. Set in Mumbai, 'Ugly' has multiple themes, from child abduction and family breakdowns to police corruption and ambition. The film marks the return to the director's chair for Kashyap - India's pre-eminent independent filmmaker - after producing a string of critically acclaimed films, including 'Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana', 'Shahid' and 'The Lunchbox'. 'Ugly' is also seen as a return to Kashyap's gritty, Mumbai roots after the two-part, 7-hour gangster epic 'Gangs of Wasseypur'. The film boasts a stellar cast, including Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhat and Vipin Sharma. 'Ugly' is in cinemas 3 January.

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