One of the perks of moving to Hollywood—apart from a popstar husband, bit roles in movies and shows and an international profile—is an early-life autobiography. In the appropriately named Unfinished, Priyanka Chopra lifts the lid on her life thus far. Early life in India, before high school in NY, Indianapolis and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a hilarious episode involving a boyfriend, a closet and an angry aunt straight out of a ’90s teenage flick. Other highlights include a botched nose polyp surgery soon after her Miss World win in 2000, an unforgiving Indian press terming her ‘Plastic Chopra’ and being dropped from two films. But our Priyanka does own up to a few ‘corrective’ surgeries, and talks about making peace with a changed appearance—“this slightly different me”.
Back in the day, performing standards in music videos for female popstars were set impossibly high by Beyonce and Shakira—whose hips spoke only the truth. They both branched off to meatier roles as the years passed. A personal high for Beyonce was her standout set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, California, in 2018—a rousing celebration of freedom and the beauty of Black culture. ‘Beychella’, as her act came to be known, was documented in the 2019 concert movie Homecoming, directed and produced by Beyonce herself. Now, before a fiery sky painted as if by Munch, she appeals to our senses the old way, amidst a valley of Alpine flowers, in a latex swimsuit from her active wear brand. Subtract those weird silver spectacles, and we readily recognise the sylph that made cable TV so enticing.
She always looked fabulous, but behind those sparkling eyes and beneath that bashful, blush-ful smile existed something, we imagine, that didn’t dissolve in Bollywood’s murky waters. We believe that Dia Mirza is above the meretricious demands Bollywood makes upon lead actresses. We forgot what her last film was, or what she was up to, when she emerges—a resplendent vision in red Benarasi—as a bride for a second time. The groom in tow is her boyfriend, Vaibhav Rekhi, a businessman. The intimate ceremony in Mumbai, we are gratified to note, had as an invitee another actress we note for her enigmatic, reserved persona: the beauteous Aditi Rao Hydari.
For all its recently-acquired taste for gritty realism—usually expletive-laden jousts set in the dirt and grime of a dun-coloured north Indian town, amidst the loud chorus of love expressed for ‘strong scripts’, the beating heat of Hindi films rests in the simple cults, and occult, of the past. Those of us old enough to remember Sridevi’s wide-eyed, menacing mien from the film posters of Nagina, the twisting, simple tune of a snake charmer’s pipe and young enough at the time to be scared at Amrish Puri’s creepy villain, must rejoice. The shape-shifting Naagin, announces Shraddha Kapoor proudly, is making a comeback as a film trilogy. One needs to inhabit all kinds of roles, hints Shraddha through the delicious asymmetry of this velveteen gown. We reluctantly agree.