Time and again, Bollywood has searched its first ‘female hero’, a face that would tell the world that Bollywood is progressing.
For long, this was Sridevi, reknowned for her onscreen charisma to carry a film alone, without a ‘male hero’. With more and more women-centric characters being churned out, now we don’t actually have to search for a ‘female hero’. Rani Mukerji, Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut, Alia Bhatt — there are many.
But then, the dynamics of Bollywood didn’t actually change. We've got many strong women characters on screen. Off screen, we've got many women in the industry, in all aspects of filmmaking, but are they calling the shots?
Like Priyanka Chopra does?
The way she makes it clear that she doesn’t pay attention to whatever is being talked about her professional and personal lives?
And that’s why we thank Bollywood for producing at least one Priyanka Chopra who can say 'no' to a Salman Khan film — for whatever reason.
After rumours of their alleged affair, Priyanka and Akshay Kumar never worked together. (File Photo: India Today)
Bollywood is driven by an internal camp system where Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are the two biggest pillars. Not to forget Karan Johar. Mostly, heroines have to juggle among all these camps to remain significant in the industry.
Priyanka, not having any familial foothold, too did that for a while.
After delivering back-to-back hits with Akshay Kumar, while rumours of their alleged affair were rife, Priyanka did Salaam-e-Ishq (2007) opposite Salman Khan. Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004) was the movie which featured all three of them: Priyanka, Salman and Akshay.
Before Salaam-e-Ishq, Salman, Priyanka did God Tussi Great Ho (2008) with Salman Khan, which apparently made her a heroine of the 'Salman Khan camp'.
Bharat is not the first Salman Khan movie Priyanka has rejected. (File Photo: India Today)
SRK also stopped working with Priyanka Chopra amidst furious gossip. (File photo: India Today)
But later, she refused to do Main Aurr Mrs Khanna (2009) opposite Salman. If rumours were to be believed, at that time, she was moving to 'the SRK camp', donning Don and its sequel. It was almost the same time when SRK and Priyanka were spotted together in most Bollywood parties, leading to gossip over their alleged affair.
This time too, like it happened during the Akshay Kumar episode, the episode ended with ‘no more films together’, and it is said that at that time Priyanka Chopra was almost boycotted by the industry.
Her Bollywood career was written off as no actors wanted to work with her anymore — and Kareena Kapoor emerged as a clear winner in an invisible race between the duo for the Bollywood crown.
There was a twist in-between. An unnamed report in a tabloid quoted an unnamed friend of Priyanka Chopra, calling out star wives saying, “Women insecure about husbands should sort out troubled at home, and not attack Pee Cee.”
This, in 2012, provoked Karan Johar enough to take to Twitter and seemingly slam Priyanka — without naming her.
Using their hired PR machinery and hiding behind so called "friends" to get news into tabloids is nothing but spineless and lame!!!— Karan Johar (@karanjohar) April 3, 2012
And that was a showdown, which opened the doors of Hollywood for Priyanka.
She started with a music album and then went on to be part of Quantico.
(Re)Born in the USA: The showdown in Bollywood opened the doors of Hollywood for Priyanka. (Photo: Priyanka Chopra's Twitter)
Meanwhile, she lost her father but despite that, she went about her life unhindered, brushing off controversies, be it her choice of dress in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, or at the Meghan-Harry royal wedding, or why was she chosen to play Mary Kom instead of a Manipuri actress, or why she was now the face of Assam tourism, etc. And it never actually ended — she even had to apologise for the onscreen activities of Alex Parrish. Her romance with pop singer Nick Jonas, 11 years younger than her, and her exit from (again) a Salman Khan film too raised questions.
But by now, the actor has adequately made it clear that she leads her life on her own terms.
She is not apologetic for quitting a film at the eleventh hour while she is still part of another Bollywood film. Neither is she coy about toppling the ‘normal’ age pattern of marriage.
Conspiracy theories are still doing the rounds that Priyanka’s engagement coincided with the dates when the Bharat team was shooting abroad.
Also, the fact that Salman’s sister was on the guest list hinted that Priyanka is strategic enough to not burn bridges with the Salman camp entirely.
But who cares?
Not Priyanka Chopra, for sure. Side-stepping the small stuff, Bollywood's biggest superstar is out winning the World.