Shah Rukh Khan
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Priyanka Chopra’s enormous success in the United States of America looks as if she went there, sang a few singles, got some press and fetched an ABC television show. Priyanka is a delight to watch, whether it’s in an interview, film or television show. She is charming, well-groomed, and oozing with confidence. However, the truth is, it takes much more than aspiration and charm to achieve the kind of success Priyanka Chopra has managed to, in such a short span of time.
Priyanka Chopra was approached by Anjula Acharia-Bath of Desi Hits Universal, a venture that used to be run in collaboration with Universal Music Group and fully-funded by them. Anjula and her husband had been working on closing the gap between American and Indian artists over time. They’d executed a bunch of collaborations – Lady Gaga with Salim-Sulaiman for ‘Born This Way’ performance, Sonu Nigam’s desi version of the song ‘I Wanna Go’ with Britney Spears. While these were successful, they certainly were not long lasting. Anjula realised that America needs a South-Asian role model.
It helped that Priyanka Chopra had lived in the USA during her childhood. The actress was sufficiently familiar with America’s pop culture. There was another plus – Priyanka could sing! Anjula used Priyanka’s vocal prowess to cut singles with Pitbull and Will.i.Am, perform at the National Football League – a show that’s unanimously watched by the entire country! The more people saw her they wondered who she was and where she came from. Priyanka lent her voice for Disney’s film ‘Planes’ and she was made the face of Guess. Anjula’s first step was successful – to generate curiosity.
But, just singles and collaborations wouldn’t have made the cut. To make her a representative of contemporary South-Asian culture, Anjula had to do more. She had to convince a Bollywood A-list star to take up television in a country she’s not known in at all. It took time. Anjula had to plan and architect ways for Priyanka to meet some of the crucial decision makers in the biggest companies. Executive Vice President, talent and casting at Disney ABC TV Group, Kevin Lee, shared Anjula’s vision of bringing a Bollywood star on American TV.
It took a year to seal the deal. Lee sent Priyanka Chopra 25 pilot scripts and PeeCee chose Quantico from the bunch. She loved the character of Alex Parrish. But, problems had just begun. The way entertainment works in the US and how it does in India is very different. With lawyers, managers, middle-persons, schedules and plans it took a lot of back and forth to structure how the long distance factor would work out. Since, Priyanka’s schedule was full already, it took quite a while to fit Quantico in her agenda. But, Anjula managed to fulfill her dream. A Bollywood star was finally a household name in America. Quantico airs Sunday night prime time. It doesn’t get more mainstream than that!
By Aditi Mukherjee
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