India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Cover Story
September 21, 2013

Girl On A Wire

Text by Sitanshi Talati-Parikh. Photographs by Vishesh Verma. Styling by Nisha Jhangiani. Make-Up And Hair by Daniel Bauer. Special Thanks To Louis Vuittton. Special Thanks To Rose. Location Courtesy: The Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad.

She is touted as the industry ’s great new talent on the blo ck, on the watch list of every major director and actor. Six months after her first film released, she is already working on her third. It is a rapid start for any newcomer, parti cularly one who became an actor because she got a return ticket to Mumbai instead of Delhi! Parineeti Chopra is refreshingly easy to talk to and incredibly laidback in general, finds Sitanshi Talati-Parikh, as she chats with the banker who became a movie star

Alive wire buzzes with an electric current that creates energy all on its own, without sapping any other source. In cinema, the screen is ripped to shreds with the power of its intensity. She has a lovely structured face, instantly appealing with its generous smile, fiery light-brown eyes, and translucent skin. She has a particularly defiant tilt to her jawline – as she speaks, she unconsciously lifts her face upwards, as if willing the world to see where she is headed. And yet, she believes it’s all just destiny. After all, that is what her name means.

“I dreamed of being a very different person – the CEO of one of the biggest banks in the world.” And clutching onto that lifetime’s vision, Parineeti Chopra found herself floundering while looking for a finance job. “Twenty-one years of my life I dreamt of being a banker. I worked all my life for it; I went to London. The year I graduated, was a recession – a financial breakdown in the world. I’d taken an educational loan, followed my dreams and gone there to study… everything finished for me.”

That’s when she picked up the bits and decided to return to India. Used to working and buying her own ticket home, she found that it was cheaper to fly into Mumbai – a city she had never previously visited – than to fly to Delhi; staying with her cousin, actress Priyanka Chopra, before returning home. The day after Parineeti arrived into the city, Priyanka had a shoot at the YRF studios. She accompanied her to see the studio, out of curiosity. “When I came here, I saw things like ‘Producer’ and ‘Director’ written on the walls – and found it so strange. It fascinated me, as a fan. I haven’t grown up on films – I used to read finance books, I was very nerdy. When I saw this place (we are currently at the very same studios), I thought about applying for a job here – in finance or accounts, maybe.”

And so, using one of her other majors, Parineeti ended up doing marketing. “I started seeing the actors here, and initially I used to look down upon them – they put on make-up, go on set, earn so much money, they are in the biggest cars, best hotels in the world, everything is paid for….” Ironically, now, for her, that is a checklist with all the boxes ticked. “But with a very different frame of mind,” she insists. “Now, even if I hear that some actor is paid 25 crores, or some unrealistic figure like that, I don’t find it strange anymore – because working with them made me realise why actors are paid so much, why they are famous and so sought after, why their lives affect so many lives. I felt then that this is a creative field, requiring a lot of intelligence. Not only banking. I used to think that because I read out of a book and because I am making money for my clients, I’m very intelligent. That’s when I decided to be an actor.”

A staffer nervously hands her a cup of her special hazelnut coffee, profusely apologising for being late, checking if it is okay. She notices my amused expression. “I think it’s sweet. I’ve done this for people. I know I’ve not done anything to deserve it, but I know it is a natural thing. This importance is what I didn’t understand earlier about actors…but I guess, now I get it.” Parineeti says it without a sense of wonderment. “You work in an office,” she gesticulates, using me as an example. “Imagine if you were suddenly made the owner of the magazine! Yash Raj treats its actors like stars: you are given that much pampering and importance, freedom and decision-making power, however new you may be. I used to coordinate interviews and order food for actors (everyone from Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh to Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone, Rani Mukerji and even her cousin, Priyanka). I used to take care of them, be their security person when they were out in the crowd. Suddenly you are elevated to a pedestal that you only used to be a caretaker of.”

The daughter of an NRI mom and Haryana’s Ambala-bornand-raised dad, left home at the age of 15 to study, and is fiercely independent and self-sufficient. “I had a very balanced childhood. Six months of the year I used to be in Ambala as a small-town girl with a very conservative, disciplined upbringing and six months I would live the life of utmost luxury with my billionaire grandparents abroad. I am a good-mannered, good girl, yet very open-minded in life. I get to see my parents thrice a year. They let me take my own decisions – all I have to do is inform them.” And yet, the 23-year-old admits she is not a great judge of people. “I’m not naive, but with people I do go wrong. Someone needs to come and tell me, ‘Why are you saying this to so-and-so, or why are you being so-and-so with so-and-so…’ and until someone tells me, it won’t occur to me. And I’m not a big star that people need to suck up to me!”

She stops, takes a sip from a glass full of green liquid – spinach juice, she reveals with a wry grin, a formula she is using to improve her near-perfect skin so that she can face the camera without make-up for her next film. It’s a big step for a girl who has a chronic weakness for pizza – averaging four a week – to watch what she eats. “I don’t want to lose a lot of weight. But I like to be fit and I like to get into a regime before my next film so that I don’t get tired on set. Sometimes the director asks for 15 takes – and if I don’t have the energy to give that I may regret it for the rest of my life.”

As she murmurs approval over my bright coral bag, I’m certain there must be a girl in there who reads the fashion blogs and watches her choices being torn to shreds with the appearances she has made – including the big one at a film magazine’s awards ceremony where she stepped up to receive the best actress debut award for Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl. “I’m wearing jeans today. It’s a big thing – people think I’m dressed up when I wear jeans. I have a whole pile of track pants and ganjees. That’s all I wear in my personal life. My hair is always in a mess.” She takes a breath, giving a clue to the fact that this may have hit home. “I don’t care about clothes. But I know that when I step out I need to look a certain way. Unfortunately, I don’t have the acumen to dress well. I’m just not that person. So now I do have a stylist to help me. I would never want people to say, ‘She is horribly dressed; she only knows how to act!’ I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes, because I’m so illiterate about what looks good on me or what’s in fashion. I have a very tricky body – I am not a very thin girl, so it is hard to dress me. But I am going to make an effort and try and look better. Just give me that time. I don’t have the vision of me as the actor, which needs to be sold in the industry. I wish I had grown up wanting to be an actor – I would have been so much more prepared.”

Prepared or not, she’s clearly gritty and hard-working to the extent of being tenacious about her roles, her characters, her life. Her screen presence has been remarkable and yet, apparently effortless. She enjoyed Ricky Bahl… and that created ripples on screen; she “gave my heart and soul” in Ishaqzaade and received critical acclaim. “There is a rule in the industry where actresses don’t get all the good roles. I would never say it is male-oriented, but there are better roles for men, which makes men huger stars than women. There are very few huge female stars, because they have been blessed with three or four really great evergreen roles. In my films, I think both characters are memorable – in absolutely different ways. I hope I get more such characters. I want to be a successful actor, which comes with successful characters, good characters.” An admirer of Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji’s author-backed roles, she automatically shies away from ‘package films’ that rely upon a single selling point like money or a famous actor or a director on a winning spree. She needs something to keep her interested, to keep her wanting more. “I have a very short attention span. If you put me in similar kinds of characters I couldn’t do it. Something that is not meaty enough for me as an actor bores me. I can’t work on those films – except when I’m tired and need a break between two intense films…I should use the energy I have right now until I start tiring.”

She’s been speaking rapidly, without hesitation, with a certain amount of lightheartedness that highlights her relaxed but upbeat demeanour, even as her work life steamrolls on. “I don’t mean to sound philosophical, but I’m just really happy in life. There are people – with due respect to them – who wait years and years for this to happen to them. I’m probably one of the more thankless ones, because I just got it – instead of running after it. I’m just plain happy.” She sounds dangerously blasé. “No – I’m saying this right now, but in three hours I may be crying saying I don’t know why I am an actor. I am a very extremist person. At this point I am content. I know this has happened to me. Life isn’t the same. But I haven’t dreamt about wanting to be an actor, so what has happened isn’t do-or-die for me. It’s not the hugest thing in the world. If I am successful, great. If not, I have my degree to fall back upon. The good thing is I don’t come from a film family. Today, my parents still say – do whatever you are doing until it makes you happy. When it doesn’t, do something else. Who knows – I may get bored of it, get married someday!”

There is something defiantly free spirited about her, that leaves one with the impression that she is in control, she needs to be in control, but occasionally spirals into the unknown ready to experiment at a moment’s choice. And she can surprise you with the things she says. “I’d like to believe I am very different, because nothing in this world means the world to me. Nothing. No one. Nothing. It could be my parents. People say you can’t live without your parents, but I know one day everybody is going to die and we are going to separate. I’m very realistic.” There is a moment of shock. Is there a little romantic girl? “I’m not a romantic person at all – I am very practical and realistic. Very. I will fall in love. And I know that the people that I love, I r-e-a-l-l-y love.” But these are people you can do without? “No! Not at all! They are very important to me. All I’m saying is that I don’t want anything to be the centre of my world because I’ll end up hurting myself. It’s just the kind of person I am. Whether it is money, or success in my career, or it’s my family or friends – I love everything and I want everything all the time till the day I die. But if something doesn’t work out, it’s okay. I don’t want it to shatter me. Whatever has happened to me is enough for it to go to anybody’s head. Because it’s happening so fast and happening so well. My name means ‘destiny’ and I really believe in destiny. I know that tomorrow if it is not meant to be, it will all be over, so I shouldn’t let it be the most important thing in the world to me.”

Parineeti’s Wedding Diary
The actor, who has so far had unrequited love on screen, is ready for a happy ending in real life.THE GROOM“It’s a cliché, but I want my man to be like my father – I fi nd every other boy too pansy for me, because they are not brooding Punjabi Jatts.”

THE WOOING “My idea of romance is when a guy gives me no importance. I love it. I hate it when I get gifts, or when someone says, ‘Come, let’s go for dinner.’ But, ‘Just come over, we’ll watch a fi lm and order food’ – that’s fun. Just being a regular Punjabi man.”

THE RELATIONSHIP “I’m 23, I hope now I get into a good relationship. I’ve never been in a serious enough relationship to experience any kind of heartbreak. And that’s why I love Band Baaja Baraat – it says ‘Pyaar aur vyapaar ek saath ho sakte hain’.”

THE PROBLEMS “The privacy thing. Rumours in the papers link me up with various people – all friends; and now I can’t be seen with them! Even if I tell my mother there is nothing going on, there will be some seed planted in her mind. When I do have a boyfriend, I could never hide it. The problem now is if I am seen going on a late-night drive, or to the movies, people won’t think ‘how much fun they are having’, it will always be, ‘what is happening?’ It will always be negative, sleazier and shadier. But…it doesn’t deter me.”

THE LOCATION “A beach wedding! Water really turns me on…it could be a fake lake under a building, or even a rivulet, but I love water. Not sexually. It’s so strange; any sound of water – even a running tap – can calm me.”

THE CEREMONY “The wedding can be casual, where all my friends are bunked up in one hotel for three days. I’m not really into the ‘traditional, let’s do it the Hindu way’ or whatever. I’m not very religious. I just want a big party, with lots of food and…swimming!”

THE CLOTHES “The kind of looks we’re doing for the Verve shoot is exactly something that I would like to wear for my wedding. Something Indian, something beautiful, but not the usual traditional stuff. I think I look okay in Indian clothes.”

THE COLOUR “Onion pink. I like onion pink, a lot.”

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