Priyanka Chopra’s star has risen in recent years thanks to her starring role in Quantico but prior to her appearance on American TV screens she featured in some of Bollywood’s best films of the last few years.
Priyanka Chopra is one of Bollywood’s biggest stars. The multi-talented actor, producer, singer and philanthropist who got her opportunity in Indian cinema after she won Miss World in 2000 will be known to most as Alex Parrish in the ABC thriller Quantico, becoming the first South Asian actress to lead the cast of an American drama series. She also played Victoria Leeds in Seth Gordon’s comedy Baywatch. But the Bollywood star boasts a body of work prior to her transition to Western TV screens that made her one of Indian cinema’s most highly paid and popular actors. Here we look at the best…
10. Bajirao Mastani (Bhansali, 2015)
This lavish historical romance from 2015 sees Priyanka Chopra play widow Kashibai. She’s a supporting character in this tale of love between the Maratha general, Baji Rao I and Mastani, princess of Bundelkhand, but she’s great in the role and was bestowed Best Supporting Actor at the 61st Filmfare Awards (the Oscars for Hindi-language films). Indeed, there’s some nice humour from Chopra which proves balance to the epic romance that plays out and like so many films where she’s a support character, she often steals scenes she’s in.
9. Don (Akhtar, 2006)
Priyanka Chopra plays Roma in this remake of a 1978 action film of the same name. The film is a contemporary update that challenges modern themes and gives Chopra a strong female protagonist to stretch her acting chops. Don also showcases the talents of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan which ensured it was a commercial smash hit. There are lots of twists and turns which keeps you glued to the story with Chopra’s performance getting plaudits from critics who were getting to know just how good an actress she is.
8. Dil Dhadakne Do (Akhtar, 2015)
This enjoyable comedy drama features a dysfunctional family on a cruise celebrating a wedding anniversary. All being in one place at one time brings out some skeletons in the closet as the ensemble of characters work out their differences for better and for worse. Priyanka Chopra plays Ayesha Sangha Mehra, one of the daughters of the Mehra family, and gets her teeth into a role that offers depth and drama from a female perspective.
7. Jai Gangaajal (Jha, 2016)
Jai Gangaajal is the follow-up to the 2003 crime film Gangaajal which did not feature Priyanka Chopra. Here she takes the lead role as a newly appointed Senior Inspector who is up against antagonists on the street and in her department. It isn’t original stuff but western audiences will recognise the crime drama themes present is so many Hollywood police stories. This is one of those films that boasts a strong performance from its female lead rather than anything new in plot, theme or approach.
6. What’s Your Raashee? (Gowariker, 2009)
Talk about acting range! In What’s Your Raashee, Priyanka Chopra plays 12 distinct characters. Based on playwright and novelist Madhu Rye’s novel Kimball Ravenswood, the film sticks closely to the source as a man is tasked to marry within 10 days and agrees to meet 12 potential brides. The film might outstay its welcome at three and a half hours but Chopra is a delight throughout. She alone makes this film worth watching. Moreover, the film was worthy of a Guinness World Record as Chopra’s portrayal of 12 characters was the most by an female actor in a single film.
5. Mary Kom (Kumar, 2014)
This biopic of the life of Indian boxer Mary Kom sees Priyanka Chopra star in the eponymous role. The film is noteworthy for the criticism Chopra’s casting received for perceived racism within the industry. The real life Mary Kom is from north-eastern India, deriving from a minority ethnic group largely underrepresented in national mainstream media and within top authority such as government. Chopra must be given plaudits for delivering a strong performance, displaying athleticism and emotional melancholy. The role also showcases the actor’s diverse acting range.
4. Fashion (Bhandarkar, 2008)
Priyanka Chopra would win a whole host of awards for her role as an ambitious supermodel who experiences the highs and lows of the Indian fashion industry, the context of which displaying themes that will resonate with audiences in the West. The themes of feminism, female individualism and authority also make this film a must watch.
3. Barfi (Anurag Basu, 2012)
Barfi featured in Top 10 Films’ list of Bollywood Films for the Beginner. It’s a great film and one of the highlights of Priyanka Chopra’s Bollywood career. It’s a bittersweet tale of Murphy “Barfi” Johnson (a mute and deaf Nepali boy from Darjeeling played by Ranbir Kapoor) and his relationships with two women, Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz) and autistic Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra). There’s a refreshing celebration of character, each person given room to breathe, their layers as defined and bright as the production design. Some of Bollywood’s stand out performances can be found here. Kapoor would get all the plaudits if it wasn’t for Chopra stealing the scenes she’s in.
2. 7 Khoon Maaf (Bhardwaj, 2011)
This is one of Priyanka Chopra’s finest performances. Vishal Bhardwaj’s black comedy based on the short story Susanna’s Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond sees Chopra’s multi-layered character work her way through marriages that leave her unsatisfied and searching for self-fulfilment and personal satisfaction. It is in her own destruction of these relationships – through murder- that makes this film so interesting and her femme fatale character so engaging.
1. Kaminey (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2009)
Undoubtedly one of the most entertaining films of Priyanka Chopra’s career, this Indian caper features the actress alongside Shahid Kapoor and Amol Gupte in a tale set over one day involving drugs, corruption, racial injustice and politics. Set against the backdrop of the Mumbai criminal underworld, this stylish, clever and innovative film has sparks of genius that, through humour and violence, reminds of Tarantino or Scorsese. It’s one that sticks in the memory thanks to its energy and unique quirks. Chopra gets to play the beguiling Sweety, a political goon’s sister who is feisty, tough and ready for a fight, refusing to be forced into marriage and determined to protect her lover whose baby she carries. Chopra said of the part, “You don’t get to work in a fantastic movie like Kaminey and play someone like Sweety every day”. She’s right.
Written and Compiled by Amilia Totten
Over to you: what are your fave Priyanka Chopra films?