Parineeti Chopra is on a high right now. Her recent release Kesari, in which she plays Akshay Kumar’s love interest, sent the cash registers ringing by crossing the ₹100-crore mark in just 10 days. As I’m typing this interview at the Cosmo HQ, the film is still going strong at the box office.The other reason she’s on cloud nine is because she’s working on her dream role: playing the lead in ace badminton player Saina Nehwal’s biopic. “I’ve never worked this hard in my life for a role,” she grins. “I train every day so that I learn the game and look the part.” Speaking about biopics on sports stars, one can’t not mention Mary Kom, played by Priyanka Chopra Jonas [Parineeti’s sister]—the way Priyanka transformed her body for the role is something that’s still discussed. “You know, when she [Priyanka] was prepping for Mary Kom, I used to tell her that I’m so jealous because it’s something I really wanted to do...and look where I am today!"
“We are really close, Priyanka and I. Even though she’s my sister, I consider her a friend, and go to her for advice often,” she adds.
Parineeti goes on to talk about her other friends in the industry. “I love Shraddha [Kapoor], Sona [Sonakshi Sinha], and Alia Bhatt.” Interestingly, Shraddha was the first choice for Saina Nehwal’s biopic; she had even begun shooting for the same, but had to opt out because of unavailability of dates. But that hasn’t affected their relationship. “You know, there used to be a lot of talk about how women in Bollywood never got along, but the new crop of actors, both male and female, are all good friends. Since the time I started out, I’ve never been pitted against a fellow actress—we’ve only been compared professionally, and that, I feel, is extremely healthy.” I point out how this kind of sisterhood didn’t quite exist before... Parineeti nods in agreement. “Women have struggled a lot in our country, mainly because there was a very conventional patriarchal system in place, which is slowly dissipating,” she shares. “Just a few decades ago, there was a clear divide between men and women, and there was a sense of superiority that came with being a man. And because no-one was supporting women, they had to form this sisterhood to lift each other up.” But things are a-changing, she tells me, not just in India, but also all over the world. “Now even men are a part of this ‘sisterhood’, and they’re unabashedly supporting women—be it their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters—in whatever they’re doing. I think it has turned into ‘humanhood’ now—respecting human beings versus segregating them into different genders,” Parineeti elaborates.
But has that sense of equality also started showing in the paycheques in Bollywood, we ask her. “Pay gap is one term that’s been abused a lot. Yes, there’s a gap for sure. But you’re simply paid for the kind of numbers you can pull in as a solo artist. It’s a business, after all. If a male actor can get you a blockbuster opening, he’s being paid that much, and if a female actor can do the same, she’s demanding a similar amount, too. And let me tell you there are many actresses in the country who demand and command that kind of sum...and are getting it, too. It’s purely on merit basis now,” she weighs in.