Leav­ing a Global Foot­print


India Today - - LEISURE - —Suhani Singh

Priyanka Cho­pra Jonas knows the fine art of liv­ing out of a suit­case. She’s in Cannes one day, in Ethiopia the next. She re­turns to the US, and in the blink of an eye, she’s back in In­dia. She isn’t com­plain­ing, though, at least not until she looks for that pair of red boots. “I hate not know­ing where my stuff is,” she says.

This time, it’s entreprene­urship that has brought Priyanka to Mum­bai. Re­cently, the ac­tor in­vested in Bum­ble, a so­cial net­work­ing app that she is also the brand am­bas­sador of. An app that one can use to make pro­fes­sional con­tacts, friends and also date, Bum­ble prides itself on allowing women to make the first move. With a mil­lion users in In­dia, and avail­able in both Hinglish and Hindi, Bum­ble says its zero tol­er­ance of “ha­rass­ment, hate speech and misog­yny” makes women feel se­cure on­line. Fea­tures like ‘hide your pro­file’ and ‘block-re­por­tun­match’ fur­ther pro­tect fe­male users against un­to­ward ad­vances.

Fund­ing and pro­mot­ing Bum­ble is Priyanka’s way of bring­ing about so­cial trans­for­ma­tion among women. Six months since its ar­rival, over a third of Bum­ble’s users in In­dia are women,

and 60 per cent of them are said to be us­ing the app for more than just dat­ing. “I’m re­ally a girl’s girl,” claims Priyanka. “I be­lieve that if we do not look out for each other, no one else will.”

When asked if the no­tion of romance has changed with dat­ing apps, she laughs. “I liked hav­ing op­tions. Not any­more, of course. But there was a time when Laila and Ma­jnu didn’t even see each other. To­day, we say, ‘I need my own space.’ Change is the most con­stant thing.”

These days, Priyanka only needs to men­tion a project for it to make head­lines. Mindy Kal­ing’s film on In­dian wed­dings will bring Priyanka and Hol­ly­wood to In­dia, and she is also work­ing on a Ma Anand Sheela biopic, be­ing de­vel­oped by Rain Man (1988) di­rec­tor Barry Levin­son. The re­al­ity dance show she’s pro­duc­ing with Nick Jonas, her singer-ac­tor hus­band, takes its in­spi­ra­tion from their own wedding sangeet. At the same time, she’s also pro­duc­ing a hor­ror film with Blum­house, a pro­duc­tion com­pany known for hits like Us (2019), Split (2016) and Para­nor­mal Ac­tiv­ity (2007).

While news of her trans-con­ti­nen­tal ca­reer makes Priyanka a source of con­stant in­trigue, her pres­ence on so­cial me­dia makes her ubiq­ui­tous. Her pop­u­lar­ity, how­ever, has a down­side. It places her high on the troll hitlist. Her re­cent ap­pear­ance at the MET Gala, for in­stance, gen­er­ated a slew of memes. Tri­namool sup­port­ers were par­tic­u­larly irked by one that re­placed her face with that of West Ben­gal CM Mamata Banerjee’s. “I have a sense of hu­mour,” says Priyanka. “I don’t get af­fected by some ran­dom per­son sitting at a com­puter. I de­vel­oped a thick hide very many years ago, well be­fore so­cial me­dia. I’m, in fact, a fan of the in­ter­net.”

Priyanka says she has in­her­ited much of her in­de­pen­dent spirit from her mother, Madhu, one of her clos­est friends and now a business part­ner. When it comes to work­ing with women, she says, “There’s a scep­ti­cism with which women’s abil­i­ties are greeted— we have to prove our­selves [more than men] to have a shot at the same thing. Till that changes, we’ll have to plough the ground to create op­por­tu­ni­ties for each other.”

Though Priyanka is al­ready a global icon, she says she still has In­dia on her mind. “My work in In­dia is the foundation of ev­ery­thing I am.” And in Oc­to­ber, The Sky is Pink, her first Hindi film in three years, will be re­leased: “I see it as a poignant piece of art. It’s beau­ti­ful, en­ter­tain­ing, funny, and at the same time, deep. I think it’s a com­pelling story that will travel.”

In be­tween her glo­be­trot­ting, Priyanka is also writ­ing her mem­oir, Un­fin­ished. “I must have jinxed my book by calling it Un­fin­ished, be­cause it’s just stay­ing un­fin­ished,” she laughs. “I have pushed my dead­line three times.” The ac­tor de­scribes writ­ing as “cathar­tic”. “I have never been so open about my­self and my feel­ings,” she says. Though she ends by ad­mit­ting, “I’m scared,” we can per­haps take heart. Fear has clearly never been too much of a road­block for Priyanka.

THE BUZZ Priyanka Cho­pra Jonas is the face of Bum­ble In­dia, as well as one of its in­vestors

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