PC Proved To Be Fierce And Flawed At Penguin India’s Annual Lecture

Posted by Ratnam Singh in Culture-Vulture, Feminism
January 2, 2018

Hundreds of fans, including people of all ages, were gathered in Siri Fort Auditorium on the evening of December 26, 2017, to listen to the globally recognized Indian actor Priyanka Chopra.

Fan or not, no one will deny the perseverance and grit through which she has made a spot for herself internationally. Priyanka, who has always taken pride in being a small town girl, said she has taken risks and grabbed opportunities while nobody was holding a safety net for her.

As befits her fierce persona, she talked with candour, without mincing her words in an attempt to make them sound more flattering. She also challenged the patriarchal approach of the media when dealing with women, which she proved later by making some sassy statements in the same interview. The inspiring lecture that she began, about 12 ways to break the glass ceiling, got subdued by the same old cliched questions asked in the ensuing interview.

Priyanka mentioned her three prominent qualities – being fierce, fearless and flawed – and said that she never compromised with her principles during this long journey. Minutes later, she proved her directness by striking back at the journo who was continuously asking for her opinion on current controversies, such as Padmavati. She got miffed and asked why she should give her opinion on an open platform, which will use her statements for publicity. She even asked the interviewer to throw those questions instead at the national leaders who are actually responsible for taking action. The crowd, which was already enthralled with her eloquence, echoed with the slogan, “That’s why we love you PC.

When we have such a celebrity, having so many success stories to tell, for an hour and a half, we could definitely utilize her presence better. The questions could have been more thought-provoking than just “When do you think of settling down and having children?” and “How much do the zeros on your salary check affect you as a person?

She responded the questions with effortless wit and elegance, but the questions such as, “Do you not plan to make a comeback in Bollywood as your last film was two years back?” got the real sass out of her. She played a little with the mind of the audience by tricking them into counting the years since her last film Bajirao Mastani, and then left everyone applauding by asking, “And do you remember how long has it been for Hrithik or Ranbir since their last films?” Left a little messed up, the journalist nevertheless carried on with similar questions.

You can love her or hate her, but you can’t ignore her, and she doesn’t care for those who have negative things to say to her. She said, “No matter what you do, there will always be a bunch of people upset with your work.” She is able to take the jokes very smartly and she proved it when out of nowhere, a man asked her to marry him. She replied, “Let’s just appreciate this proposal because it’s not easy to ask a girl for marriage. It takes a lot of preparation.

On one hand, she accepted that she had risen from scratch, while on the other she said that she feels blessed to be the daughter of her parents, who always supported her and gave her the silver spoon that she was not born with like others in the industry. She also took a soft dig at the prevailing favoritism in Bollywood by saying that you need to grab the opportunities whenever you spot them, but there are also times when you simply cannot do anything – just like she couldn’t, having been thrown out of several films by the directors and producers who wanted to cast their girlfriend or relative.

On being asked about her perspective on arm candy roles for female characters in Bollywood, she frankly accepted that although she did do such roles earlier in her career, that phase ended a long time back, when she decided to do roles that were beyond just being a filler for the hero and held individual importance.

To the critics who questioned the decision of Penguin India to invite Priyanka instead of someone from the publishing industry, she jokingly said that she came here for them who love and support her, and those who don’t like her talking can leave voluntarily. The critics’ argument of inviting a non-writer in an event that has hosted personalities like APJ Abdul Kalam and the Dalai Lama in the past sounds a bit preposterous here. While nobody can question the eminence of Abdul Kalam, I don’t know what book Dalai Lama has written.

She impressed the audience with her wise answers and an energizing speech. She also won the hearts by showing humble gestures thanking occasional shouts and compliments coming from the audience. While I was not a big fan earlier, PC won my heart too by not throwing any celebrity tantrums and being a simple and utterly humble person, who smiled spiritedly at all her admirers and cracked jokes and conversed casually in Hindi at times.