By: Saumyaa Vohra; Styling: Amandeep Kaur; Photographs: Errikos Andreou
When Parineeti bursts into Le15 Café in Mumbai, post-shoot, her energy is infectious. The music, that'd been tempered for the sake of the interview, is upped a few decibels again when she states she has no intention of doing this on an empty stomach. When she uses the phrase "I'm a foodie!" it's not a generic, empty, celebrity statement—it's a theorem proved hence by the flurry of platters, laden with everything from caramel tarts to eggs Benedict that seem to materialise on the table Beauty and the Beast style, accompanied by the fond smiles of waiters that know her well. "You have to eat this!" she declares, as she spoons some darkened chocolate into liquescent salted caramel and 'makes the perfect bite' for us. As her limbs extend across the table, ladling morsels of a miscellany of food onto the plates of each crew member, it becomes clear that Parineeti is a star in the original sense of the word.
We move away from the impromptu smorgasbord to finally get down to our chat, and, as she dabs away with tissue at some egg yolk that had sprung out in rebellion from her poached egg onto her dark dress, she mentions that (despite the dramatic weight loss that got everyone's tongue a-waggin') she never quite renounced her love for food—just changed its ways. "I used to be an emotional eater—and a closet eater, at that. I'd eat when I was alone, pounding food. I was that person." Changing that was doubly taxing because "I was never motivated enough to go to the gym. Even as a child, I didn't care for sports. I hate that physical strain on my body—so I've got to look after what I eat all the more."
Getting to this milepost with her body is something she feels has been instrumental in her graph as an actor. "To act like visual appeal doesn't play a part in your success as an actor is just BS—and I completely stand by it. Looking good has everything to do with acting! As actors, it's part of our job description to be attractive, to be aspirational. I can't be a chubby war hero, or a chubby gymnast—and I wasn't simply chubby, I was obese." When we pooh-pooh the thought, she firmly persists. "No, I was obese. Lets not slink around it. 86 kilos is not chubby. A UK size 16 is not chubby. I've struggled with weight my whole life, and in retrospect, some of my characters (specifically, Kill Dil and Hasee Toh Phasee) would've been more authentic if I'd been thinner."
Her career, though, has far been from 24/7 sunny-side-up. "I had several films that didn't do nearly as well as I expected, and when work is going badly—you start to question everything. I started to feel incredibly low and insecure." But the stalwarts of support in her life are always there to break the fall. "Maneesh [Sharma] and Adi [Aditya Chopra] are like my family." She laughs as she reminisces the most ridiculous rumours that she's heard about herself in context to them. "I'm constantly being linked to Maneesh, and I remember reading that I apparently paid Aditya five crores to give me my first film. Yeah, because he so needs the money!" she scoffs. Preposterous implications of bribery notwithstanding, her prowess as an actor is nonpareil (if critics are to be believed).
But Parineeti wryly mentions that there's one tattoo on her public image that she can't seem to wash off. "Don't call me 'bubbly'! I hate it! If anyone introduces me as 'the bubbly Parineeti Chopra', I won't come on stage. Change your introduction. Now." She also feels she's universally believed to be this "ditzy 'dumb Punjaban'. Honestly, I don't like the word 'goofy' but I'm just being funny. And that's the impression it seems to leave."
In this moment, we sense her comfort and swoop in to ask her (on the arrogant assumption that this interview is going well) if she's had some interviews that perhaps haven't. "Oh, I've been misquoted so often! You can tell, sometimes, by sitting in an interview that the journalist is screening your tirade for those three words that you'll say that scream 'sensationalism'," she grins.
She breaks with interview-composure for aching vulnerability at our next segue, however—at the mention of 'heartbreak'. Everything else she tells us from then on about her views on relationships—from the kind of girlfriend she is ("very emotionally involved, traditional and with intent to marry!") to the qualities she's most drawn to in a man ("honest enough to say things like 'you look f*ckall today!'") to the kind of man that floats her boat, if you'll forgive the nautical reference ("I've dated two men in the past, both solid men from middle-class backgrounds who want to eat dal chawal and don't think they're too cool for school. I'm attracted to simple boys.") it all pales in comparison.
She describes heartbreak as "the worst thing any human being can experience". "It's worse than the death of a family member. It's literally like a disease you have to overcome, that has only two causes—either he's rejected you, or he's chosen someone else. And there is no greater pain than that. I went through it for nine months, and I wouldn't eat for days..."
She's trying to stay a-grin, but her eyes have started to glisten ("I want to cry, but I'm not going to," she says, through a ruptured smile). "I woke up every day with a tear-stained face, feeling like my insides were crumbling. But it's kind of like a disease—one you can overcome, though. Nothing makes you feel better until you wake up one day, and just do. And then, you finally feel like yourself again."
1. I can never understand how anyone likes seafood.
2. The accessory I own the most of is rings.
3. The most depressing thing ever is the film P.S. I love You. It breaks my heart.
4. The first competition I won was a singing competition when I was either two or three.
5. In my closet, you'll find way too many sneakers and shorts.
6. The one thing I could never give up eating is pizza.
7. I'm surprisingly good at housework. I like to clean.
Hair & Make-Up: Marianna Mukuchiyan at Toabh Model Management; Assisted By: Sanjana Ghai; Production: Gravity Productions Pvt. Ltd.; Photographer's Agency: DEU: Creative Management; Yacht Courtesy: Aquasail, Mumbai