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Priyanka Chopra reveals startling truths about pay disparity in India, abroad

Speaking to an American magazine, Chopra said, 'If an actor is getting 100 bucks, the conversation will start with max, like, 8 bucks. The gap is that staggering'.

Photo: Priyanka Chopra Instagram

Sonal Pandya

Even while she's shooting for the third season of her American television show, Quantico, in Ireland, actress Priyanka Chopra has squeezed in a hectic day of travel to the Indian capital, New Delhi, for 16 hours for a UNICEF India event. Chopra is a goodwill ambassador for the global organisation and has travelled to Zimbabwe and Jordan to bring awareness to children's rights.

While on her flight, Chopra shared her interview with American magazine InStyle where she revealed some startling truths of how actresses are treated, even after they make it big. InStyle spoke to Chopra as part of their series highlighting the wide gender parity between men and women, and especially for women of colour. Actresses America Ferrara, Mo'Nique and Ellen Pompeo were all featured on their 'Equal Pay' series.

The actress, who was in Dublin, told InStyle her experiences of being shortchanged against her male counterparts both in India and abroad. "In America, we don’t talk about it as brashly, whereas in India the issue is not skirted around. I’ve been told straight up, if it’s a female role in a movie with big, male actors attached, your worth is not really considered as much," Chopra stated.

She gave the example of an upcoming Hindi tentpole film, where the filmmaker bluntly told her there was no budget for her in it. Chopra said, "A producer-director said to me, ‘Well, you know how it is in these big tentpole movies with the big boys. This is the budget for the girl, and we can’t move beyond that,’ which was, like, a measly five percent of what [the male lead] was getting."

“I feel it every year, especially when you’re doing movies with really big actors, whether it’s in India or America. If an actor is getting 100 bucks, the conversation will start with max, like, 8 bucks. The gap is that staggering," she said.

Even in the US, where she's the star of her own primetime show and cast in three Hollywood films, including Baywatch (2017) with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Chopra said she still finds it hard. She's faced rejection because of the colour of her skin.

"Somebody [from the studio] called one of my agents and said, ‘She’s the wrong — what word did they use? — ‘physicality.’," She recalled. "So in my defense as an actor, I’m like, ‘Do I need to be skinnier? Do I need to get in shape? Do I need to have abs?’ Like, what does ‘wrong physicality’ mean? And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, ‘I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who’s not brown.’ It affected me.”

She stressed the importance of changing things at the casting level. Better, strong lead roles for women have to be written and people have to do more than just talk about the pay gap and actually begin to find a solution to it. Furthermore, audience have to be open to watching women as the heroes. "Nothing will change until we break the stereotypes of gender in our normal, day-to-day life," she said.

Chopra is joining the voices of other actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Ellen Pompeo who have been vocal about the need for equal pay in the film and television industry. The actress optimistically told InStyle, "It’s going to take years, but we’re doing it. Our voices are louder. We’re standing by each other despite the fact that only a few women will eventually get the job. And I’m hoping that through the fight, it’s going to change for the next generation. I hope I’m a part of that revolution."