In September 2015, 7.1 million Americans tuned in to watch the first episode of Quantico. But the viewership had dropped substantially in Season 2 where the show was averaging a rating of 0.7 or 2.8 million viewers. It was ABC’s lowest-rated show renewed for one more season. In the third season, the show was averaging 2.4 million viewers per episode on a rating of 0.5. It obviously did not make sense to continue with a show that had lost its audience.
Priyanka did not say much about the show being cancelled other than posting a story on Instagram, where she was dubbing for Quantico. Her comment for the story read: ‘The last time I ADR for #alexparish (with a sad face). I’ll miss her!’
In the spring of 2018, there were speculations again that Priyanka was looking at a big Bollywood project. Perhaps she already knew that Quantico was about to be cancelled. Finally, it was announced that she would act opposite Salman Khan in Bharat, which was to be directed by Ali Abbas Zafar. The director’s previous works include Gunday (2014), and two films with Salman Khan—Sultan (2016) and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017). Bharat is scheduled to open on Eid 2019. Salman and Priyanka have worked on three films together, but not since God Tussi Great Ho in 2008.
They seem to have a friendly relationship. Salman used Twitter to announce the project. And he wrote: Priyanka Chopra #Bharat ... welcomes u back home @priyankachopra. See u soon ... By the way humari film Hindi hai;)
And to that, Priyanka responded: UP Bareilly (ki pali badi hoon mein)... #DesiGirl forever. Very happy to be a part of #Bharat and see all of u on set!!
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Director Ali Abbas Zaffar said that Priyanka was the right choice for the role. ‘What’s really important is that the character of the girl in the film is very strong and we wanted to cast a very strong actor, who can do justice to that role,’ he said. He added, ‘This is the homecoming film for Priyanka Chopra. Honestly, she was always my first choice for the film and she readily came on board.’
The Bharat project announcement means that Priyanka has not closed all her options in India. But her chances of getting ahead in the US depend largely on how well her two new Hollywood films work (A Kid Like Jake and Isn’t it Romantic?). And beyond that, will Priyanka look for another TV show in the US? It would certainly be in ABC’s interest to develop something else for her, so they can keep her in their family.
Will Priyanka get a serious role like Barfi! or Dil Dhadakne Do in Hollywood where the audience can see her beyond her beauty and sex appeal, and where her acting talent can be tapped? Can Priyanka get the kind of work that goes to A-list stars like Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts? Could she get the kind of films that Penelope Cruz got when she started her Hollywood career? After all, when Priyanka left India, she was at the same stage in her career as Penelope was in Spain in the mid to late 1990s, when she entered Hollywood.
‘I think someone would have to write that part for her and it probably might be an Indian woman writer,’ journalist Sheila Marikar says. ‘I don’t know if people who have written roles for Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman or Julia Roberts are going to be the ones who will write big roles for Priyanka. It’s a matter of finding the material. She is probably looking for an opportunity like that, but it has to be the right part.’
Her approach has been to reach the most number of people with the things she is doing. The strategy seems to be—the bigger the company, the bigger the network, the bigger the franchise, the better With director Madhur for her.
I ask Karan Johar the same question. ‘It’s tough I know, but then who thought she would be here? So I don’t know what to say. Today the sky could be her limit.’
But this much is clear. Given the way Quantico was promoted with Priyanka’s face as the main selling point for the show, the strategy will always be for her to get big projects on big networks, as opposed to smaller niche- market projects on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
Her approach has been to reach the most number of people with the things she is doing, including the television appearances and big budget movies such as Baywatch. She was in the Pantene campaign, with billboards all over California and New York, and even in TV commercials during prime time entertainment shows. The strategy seems to be—the bigger the company, the bigger the network, the bigger the franchise, the better for her.
Priyanka Chopra’s story does not end here. It is an ongoing journey that she is certainly enjoying. She is exploring new avenues, projects and challenging roles. And she continues to define herself, even surprising herself at times.
In May 2017, at the time of the release of Baywatch, Vogue magazine asked her seventy-three questions, including what she carries in her bag (a small Hindu temple with idols of a couple of Gods, to a bottle of Tabasco sauce). The interview is available on YouTube. Priyanka was animated, seemingly excited about the interview that was shot in one take as the star moved around in what appears to be her apartment in Manhattan.
And then she was asked, ‘If your life were a book what would the title be?’ Without batting her eyes, she said, ‘Unfinished!’
Excerpted from the just-launched book ‘Priyanka Chopra The Incredible Story of a Global Bollywood Star’ by Aseem Chhabra, from Rupa Publications. No of pages 237 Price Rs 500 (Hardback)