Priyanka Chopra of ‘Quantico’, Future EGOT Winner
I laughed. "Of course I knew!"
"How is it? How is her music?"
"Well," I said, taking a sip of my coffee and choosing my next words carefully, "it's trashy fun."
"Well, she's trashy fun, so that's fine."
"Trashy fun" is, of course, a term of endearment when I use it reference to the stunning and prolific body of work Chopra has produced for the past 15 years that she's been an international superstar – ever since that Miss World crown was laid upon her head.
From films like Dostana to Dil Dhadakne Do, to dance pop singles like the Pitbull-featuring "Exotic," to her starring role as Alex Parrish in Quantico, Chopra has done globally what stars like Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé have done in Western and largely English-speaking markets: She's built a reputation as a high priestess of fluffy escapism.
This is why her turn as Parrish is so pitch-perfect–the soap opera's mechanics are nearly Bollywood-esque in their absurdity, but equally gripping. Quantico is trashy fun, and it's what millions of Americans need the night before they go back in for another week-long shift in their respective coal mines.
Then there is the character of Priyanka Chopra, the actress who's presenting herself to the mainstream American media and public for the first time in her career. She's graceful, poised, hilarious, and warm. She has no qualms about stopping by Live with Kelly & Michael to whip and nae-nae. She tells Jimmy Kimmel about how she was supposed to be the original Mrs. Tupac Shakur. America's falling in love with her, and quickly.
With Chopra, we enjoy a luxury that we don't get with break-out television stars. We don't have to guess about whether she has acting range, whether she can kick ass, whether she can dance. She's filmed just under 50 films in her 15-year career – and there's something for everybody in her oeuvre.
Past roles have seen her play everything from the girl-next-door, to a serial killer, to 12 distinct characters in the same film, to boxing legend Mary Kom. Versatility isn't an issue with Chopra – and it's why she's able to keep up with the twisty pacing of Quantico's genre-bending episodes.
Sometimes it seems miraculous what she can accomplish in a film: Several months before the series premiere of Quantico, Chopra starred in Dil Dhadakne Do, a sudsy Bollywood rom-com with colorful, buoyant song-and-dance sequences. Not only does she dance, but she also sings the title track of the film.
That Chopra has the makings of a future Emmy and Grammy winner is undeniable. Both honors are known to be given to performances and pieces of media that revel in the escapist ethos of "trashy fun."
The Oscars, however, despite their best attempt to make the Best Picture category "relatable" by incorporating big budget films, will always be reputed for their predilection towards pretension. That's fine, too. It's here, however, that Chopra's story gets interesting.
What many may not know – and what she remains humble about herself – is how, with the right film, she has the makings of an Oscar winner, too: Smash-cut to 2012 Bollywood hit Barfi!, where Chopra plays a 19=year-old autistic woman who falls in love with a deaf man.
The film's structure is a break from traditional Bollywood, with a notable lack of song-and-dance sequences, high fashion, and melodrama. Chopra herself is nearly unrecognizable, and completely disappears into the role. It's the kind of casting that would make the Academy foam at the mouth – a Bollywood demigoddess deglamorized down to a role that required her to communicate with subtle facial tics, noises and gestures.
To be able to sustain a two-plus hour film without a single line of dialogue is an acting coup that most would not expect from a bombshell like Chopra, judging entirely by the biggest films she's starred in. Yet, if Barfi! had been submitted to next year's Oscars instead of the 85th Annual Academy Awards several years ago in a pre-Quantico world, it would've stood a real chance at landing a nomination for Best Foreign Feature.
This film stands tall as a testament to Chopra's stunning acting chops, and her recent media blitz is a testament to how easily she can make herself endearing to just about anyone if you give her a few minutes.
Luckily for Chopra, Hollywood likes rewarding warm, diplomatic celebrities like her – so long as she pulls in the audiences and respects the game. With a global army of loyal devotees and the ability to make America fall in love with her one interview at a time, her Oscar opportunity might fall squarely into her lap sooner than any of us could predict.
"But Rohin!" you may cry peevishly, "I'm still not convinced that Priyanka has what it takes to turn in a Tony-winning stage performance."
Well, here's the deal with that: What we've learned from Chopra's work is that she's a chameleon. Whether that's a shlocky Shondaland-esque soap like Quantico or a cinematic tour de force like Barfi!, she has the depth, range, and talent to pull it all off.
Furthermore, she's able to sing and dance as well. At this level of the game, the theatre world is Chopra's for the taking. We all know that she only goes where her work takes her: So, will Broadway come calling when she's in between films and has just wrapped her first of season of Quantico?
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