Parineeti Chopra stars in The Girl on the Train, streaming on Netflix from February 26
As a teenager growing up in Ambala, Haryana, Parineeti Chopra was clear about her ambition. She wanted to be an investment banker. But, life and destiny ordained otherwise.
A graduate of Manchester Business School, she returned to India to land a job at Yash Raj Films’ marketing department, a step that meant the end of her investment banking dreams and the opening up of opportunities in front of the camera. It was during this internship that she realised and understood what acting is and what encompasses an actor’s life.
“It takes intelligence to convince a billion people that you are that person you are playing on screen; and a different person every time,” she told me when we met back in 2012.
Parineeti also told me that when she gave the first shot for her debut film, Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl in Delhi, it was her 'first everything'. She was both nervous and excited. Since then she has starred with Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar and seen the ups and downs endemic to the career of a Bollywood star, with damp squibs including Daawat-E-Ishq, Kill Dil and Jabariya Jodi.
Chopra had to dig deep to find the troubled, alcoholic Meera, in the remake of Paula Hawkins’ book The Girl on the Train. She had the book and the 2016 English language adaptation starring Emily Blunt to refer to, but Chopra stuck to the Hindi language script.
“The script is what I had to ultimately shoot and I did not want to confuse myself with too much material. But, I did use some visual references from the original because it was a performance I liked very much. It helped me to get a few tips and to get into the character,” she said over a phone interview before the release of the film on Netflix.
The Girl on the Train was shot in the UK, a country Chopra knows well but returning there as an actor was 'surreal' for her.
“Being on those same trains and at those same places... I would stand and look around and say how life has come around. I was nostalgic, and it was amazing,” she said.
Perhaps one of the most layered and complex characters Chopra has attempted, having largely dabbled in the safe space of romantic comedies, Meera was also one of the hardest for her to come out of.
“I used to pride myself on being a switch-on-switch-off actor, but this one took a long time. Maybe bits of her are in me even now,” said the Ishaqzaade actress.
Recently, a number of films have put women’s stories front and centre. The narratives available to women artists are richer. When asked what she makes of this, Chopra replied, “This is a time where audiences are asking for a variety and not distinguishing between male and female talent. They want content that will keep them gripped. So as an actor this is such a cool time to be able to explore so much more. We get to work hard, do our homework, do so much more on screen, and that’s all thanks to the audience.”
In a few weeks her much-delayed Dibakar Banerjee directed Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is expected to release in the cinemas. The film has been on the release schedule since 2019. The 32-year-old said she does not revisit her work because she 'hates everything' and gets 'too critical' of her performances.
“I keep thinking why didn’t I do this scene in that way or I could have done it another way. Any art form is like that – you always visualise it differently,” she said.
She did not visualise her life as an actor with Bollywood stardom either but she appears to be seeking characters that propel her out of her comfort zone, including headlining a biopic on the life of badminton champion Saina Nehwal.