Today when I am thrilled to know that Priyanka Chopra has been awarded with Padmashree on the occasion of the 67th Republic Day of India, I could not resist reminding myself of the cover page of the Navbharat Times dated 20.01.2000 which contained the photos of three young very charming girls winning the Miss India contest for the year – Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra and Diya Mirza who had stood 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in that annual beauty contest for that year. In those days, I was posted at Tarapur Atomic Power Station (Boisar, Maharashtra) and used to visit the newspaper stand some two kilometres away from my residential quarter every morning to buy a Hindi paper for myself. And I still remember the three photographs published together in sequence on the cover page of the newspaper. Later in the year, all three of them went ahead to bring laurels for the nation by winning Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss Asia-Pacific contests respectively at the international level and within a period of time, all three of them joined Bollywood. Diya entered the fray first through Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein (2001) whereas Priyanka and Lara shone through Andaaz (2003). However Andaaz was the debut movie of Lara Dutta but not Priyanka Chopra. The debut movie of Priyanka Chopra was The Hero (2003) in which Preity Zinta was the main female lead.Priyanka Chopra faced many problems in the initial years of her career. Firstly, she belongs to the old-fashioned city of Bareilly in UP and the governing politicians of the state were not very happy that a girl from a traditional Indian family should walk on the ramp in scanty clothes and then join filmdom to perform on the screen in similar kind of clothes. Due to this outdated thinking, the laurel she brought for the nation (which includes the state as well as the city) was not recognized in her own region. In the film line, she arranged a person named as Prakash Jaajoo as her secretary who took more interest in her personal life then in shaping her career through proper liaison with class-1 producers. Being very young, Priyanka could not decide her priorities properly in the initial couple of years of her film career. She had to lose a couple of movies also in which she had been cast at the outset. Later only, she understood that she was not in the cine-world to make friends or develop personal relationships and she learnt to be professional, drawing a vividly clear line between her personal life and her professional life. She kicked the unscrupulous Mr. Jaajoo out of her secretaryship and became completely professional, not allowing anybody to interfere with her personal life or play with her image and career (though she had to fight Mr. Jaajoo in the court because he was demanding some undue money from her against the secretarial services which he never rendered to her).Thereafter, she allowed neither her personal relationships with Aseem Merchant and Herman Baaweja nor her alleged affairs with Akshay Kumar and Salmaan Khan to affect her professional life. And then a changed Priyanka won accolades (and awards too) for her bold negative role in Subhash Ghai’s (Abbas-Mustan directed) movie – Aitraaz (2004). After playing the role of Roma in Farhan Akhtar’s Don (2006), a coveted role that was played by the legendary Zeenat Aman in the original Amitabh Bachchan starrer Don (1978), Priyanka got a role in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion (2008) which was similar to her own life, i.e., a small town girl entering the City of Dreams to make it big in her life, getting misguided first, then learning to use personal relations to climb the ladder of success, then going astray when success goes to her head but finally coming back on track, setting everything right again. And Priyanka got into the skin of the leading lady of Fashion (Meghana Mathur). When everybody was expecting the Filmfare Best Actress award for the year as going to Aishwarya Rai for Jodha Akbar, Priyanka surprised everybody (including Madhur Bhandarkar who jumped with astonishment mixed joy in the auditorium) by winning this award. And then the much bigger and respected award, i.e., the National Award for the Best Actress also fell into her bag of awards.Fondly called as Piggy Chops, Priyanka has always remained an underrated actress and despite getting critic’s praise as well as winning awards, she has so far not been considered a great actress which is an injustice to her. She has performed well even in the movies which have neither done well on the box office nor got admired by the critics, viz. Barsaat (2005), Yakeen (2005), Drona (2008), What’s Your Raashee (2009), Pyar Impossible (2010) etc. I did not like Kaminay (2009) but Priyanka’s performance was outstanding in that. When I saw Saat Khoon Maaf (2011) and was stunned to see Priyanka’s performance in the highly complicated role of Susanna, I got a feeling that this simple Bareilly girl had finally come of age, expanding the boundaries of excellence for herself with each succeeding movie done by her. And then Anurag Basu’s Barfi (2012) not only scored on the box office but Priyanka also got a lot of accolades for her scintillating performance in the difficult role of an autistic girl. Quite recently she has won hearts in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much-talked-about Bajirao Mastani (2015) also, playing the role of Kaashi Bai, the wife of Peshwa Bajirao.And now when Priyanka has been honoured with the coveted civilian award of India – Padmashree, I am not only feeling good for her as I have been her admirer since the days of Andaaz and The Hero but also observing that time and again it is reaffirmed that you may meet several people in personal life, become friends with them, fall in love with a person of opposite sex and get emotional about him / her, nevertheless you have to be completely professional in your approach towards your career and your dedication to your work has to be untainted if at all you have to enjoy the coveted fruit of success. And nothing succeeds like success, that’s an eternal truth.
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