“Are You Done Venting?”: How Priyanka Chopra Went from “Desi Girl” to “Patriot”

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“Are You Done Venting?”: How Priyanka Chopra Went from “Desi Girl” to “Patriot”

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Rarely does a week go by without everyone’s favourite desi girl hitting the headlines. The nation’s NRI cousin, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, is usually making the news for her adventures with the Jonas Brothers clan, which includes not only the beloved boy band members, but also her jethani Sophie Turner, of Game of Thrones fame. You might think, however, that in a week dominated by the serious geopolitical situation that is playing out in Kashmir as the Indian government clamps down on Article 370, Chopra has no place in the news cycle. But you would be wrong.

These days, Piggy Chops isn’t causing a buzz over her exotic family holiday snaps on Instagram, or her attendance at one of her hubby’s gigs. Chopra was speaking at Beautycon LA, a massive cosmetics industry trade show, when a member of the audience, Ayesha Malik, confronted her with a question. Malik, a Pakistani-American, called Chopra out for a tweet she made back in February when Indo-Pak tensions were running high. Following the attacks on CRPF forces in Pulwama, India retaliated with cross-border air strikes in Balakot, and Chopra had, unforgivably it seems, tweeted “Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces.”

According to Malik’s impassioned speech at Beautycon, Chopra’s message was tantamount to pouring fuel on the flames of a potential nuclear war. She pointed out that Chopra, a UNICEF ambassador, failed to advocate for peace — a bit of a tall order, given that fellow celebrities like Gautam Gambhir, now predictably a BJP MP, were openly calling for war with Pakistan. By comparison, it’s a yogi-level stretch to frame Chopra’s response as anything more than an acknowledgment of those servicemen who carried out the Balakot mission. Chopra’s parents, too, used to be army officers. 

Of course, Chopra could easily have explained as much to the aggrieved young woman. Whether it’s her stake in women-centric networking app Bumble, her UNICEF-affiliated activism on behalf of girls worldwide, or her personal life, Chopra’s brand is all about being an outspoken woman who encourages others to be vocal and fearless. And yet, when Malik did exactly this at a public event, it didn’t sit so well with Piggy Chops.

By comparison, it’s a yogi-level stretch to frame Chopra’s response as anything more than an acknowledgment of those servicemen who carried out the Balakot mission.

Chopra began by condescendingly asking Malik if she was done “venting.” She followed up by stating two seemingly obvious and unrelated positions: That she is not “really fond” of war, but is also a patriot. “Girl, don’t yell,” she chastised Malik, sounding like an offended dude in a social media comments section. “Don’t embarrass yourself. We are all here for love.” 

Naturally, Chopra rounded off her statement by claiming that she has many Pakistani friends. And thus, what could have been a simple response to Malik’s over-the-top accusations became a turning point in the Priyanka Chopra career graph. 

After all, Chopra, unlike some of her less-illustrious contemporaries, is not known for being a right-wing darling. She’s been a soft target for trolls for her in-between accent; her work in the US, especially when she acted in a plot line about Indian terrorists in TV series Quantico; her young, foreign husband; and for wearing a short skirt while meeting PM Modi. But with a tweet and a speech at Beautycon, Chopra has suddenly been lauded by these former detractors as a nationalist champion who put a Pakistani in her place. 

Mere weeks ago, Chopra was being dragged on Twitter for a paparazzi photo of her smoking a cigarette, even though she (A) has asthma, and (B) is an Indian woman, two pre-existing conditions that certain sections of Indian society believe disqualify you from enjoying a smoke. A lot of these erstwhile critics have become her staunch defenders since Beautycon. It’s an unexpected twist in the tale for Chopra — and her desi girl reputation is soaring higher than ever.

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