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Was livid when asked to sign non-pregnancy clause: Priyanka Chopra on bias against women

The actress spoke openly on a number of issues in her recent interview with NDTV's Barkha Dutt, but what stood out was her confession that the world, and the film industry, are biased against women. 

Shriram Iyengar

When Priyanka Chopra speaks about the identity of women, few would dare question her credentials. A star by right, and now a global Indian personality, the actress has paved a path on her own merit. Having spoken about the difficulty of forging out a career as an independent woman, Chopra opened up on the difficulties of choosing career over family, while ignoring some ridiculous clauses.

Speaking about women being looked as 'mothers' rather than career women, she said, "I was signing a contract for a big corporation a couple of years ago, and there was a clause in that they could terminate it if I got pregnant. I was livid. How could you tell me I could not get pregnant.. Not sick.. not overweight.. just pregnant!!"

Chopra went on to say, "Their logic was that I would not be able to deliver the project on time. I was fine with working when I am pregnant. We had a big argument over it. I said 'Alright, if I can't deliver when I am pregnant, you have the right to terminate my contract. If I can deliver, and you don't want me to, then I have the right to terminate. That's the world we live in. It is going to take a very long time for people to start seeing women differently. Right now, it is an absurd idea."

The Indian film industry also discriminates against women said the Mary Kom star. She confessed: "It was unequal to me, at least, when I started. I was told women are dispensable, changeable, They can be pulled in and out of the movies. Initially in my career, I had a tough time. Subconsciously, I wanted to be someone who wouldn't be replaced so easily, and I made the choices that I made in my films based on that. But it's not just the industry, it's the world we live in." 

Chopra also agreed that women find it more difficult than men in the world. She declared that the world is 'lopsided', and constantly tries to put 'women in their place' with smear campaigns. "Women go through a lot more. Boys have an easier life when it comes to that. Boys are called studs. We are called some other word that starts with 's'. But it's the world you live in, you know. You have to keep talking about it," she added.

"The easiest place to put 'a woman in her place' is to shame her. People do that all the time. Sexual innuendoes, body shaming is the easiest way to pull down a woman. I was lucky to be taught by my parents to chat back. I am someone who puts people in their place. I am not trying to say I have accepted it, I haven't. The whispers are there, but they are not loud enough to get to me. My family is extremely supportive," she said.

Of course, this does not mean that Chopra is not subjected to the usual judgments by relatives and 'aunties in the neighbourhood. An important question put to Chopra was the wrongful perception of ambitious women. She said, "Ambition is like a curse word for a woman. My dadi used to say it to me 'Parathe nahi banane aate hain. Kaam pe jaati hai har roz. Kaun karega shaadi?' When a man is ambitious, he is called driven. When a woman is ambitious, it's a bad thing. It is the irony of the world we live in. People still do it in a passive aggressive sort of way. People tend to be patronising. If a hero feels good at a movie doing well, and struggles when the movie is not doing well, why shouldn't I feel the same? " 

This struggle between the familial image and her career has been a constant struggle for the Bajirao Mastani actress. However, she said that her choice to be a career woman was in no way a hindrance to her idea of 'the perfect family'. She said," I always knew I would be a career woman, and it fit in with my family portrait. I have never known women that don't work. The image of the perfect family fell within this structure." Coming from a family of strong, career oriented women, Chopra admitted it was the only way she pictured her family as working, She said, "My parents have always been proud of my ambition, and encouraged it. My family is full of very ambitious strong women. My mum's sisters are all doctors, engineers. They are all like overachievers. My family was raised like that."

With her second season of Quantico going strong, there is no question that Chopra has earned her position as one of the leading faces of Indian cinema and entertainment in the West. In an industry where perception matters, it is refreshing to see Chopra take on the trolls with such elan and grace. Kudos, we say.