Desi Girl’s journey from Bareilly to New York

The Asian Age.  | Aseem Chhabra

“He was seen smiling and in a second everything he had put me through flashed through my mind.”

According to Priyanka, Bryan Adams had a ‘certain daal-chaawal (humble)’ quality Bryan Adams/Courtesy: Guess, Inc.

On Monday, 24 January 2011, there was an income-tax raid at Priyanka Chopra’s apartment... At 7.30 am, when the officers rang the bell to her apartment, the door was opened by a ‘sleepy Shahid Kapoor, who was wearing nothing but shorts’.

In January 2001, a 37-year-old Indian woman living in Dubai came up with a bombshell allegation. She claimed that she was sexually abused by Priyanka’s father, Dr Ashok Chopra, when she was 12 years old. In a lengthy interview with Savvy magazine, the woman — Shivani Saxena — alleged that the repeated incidents of abuse happened when Dr Chopra was posted in Ferozepur, UP, where he worked as a junior officer under her father, Dr Suresh Chandra Saxena. There were unsettling sordid details in the allegation.

“He started acting strangely,”  Saxena was quoted by Gulf News as she narrated the first such incident that happened at her home when she was allegedly alone with Dr Chopra. “When I tried to resist his advances he gagged me and sexually assaulted me. He even beat me up. It was very painful and quite traumatic. He left me totally shattered. While walking out of my room, he threatened to kill me if I told my parents or friends.”

Priyanka Chopra: The Incredible Story of a Global Bollywood Star by Aseem Chhabra Rupa, Rs 500

...Saxena added that she was young at that time, hence afraid of Dr Chopra, and she tried to suppress the trauma, although she did share it with her husband at the time of her marriage. Then, as she watched

Dr Chopra on television around the time of the Miss World pageant, all her suppressed memories resurfaced. She had moved on with her life, she said, when she realised that her tormentor was Priyanka Chopra’s father. “He was seen smiling and in a second everything he had put me through flashed through my mind.”

Saxena gave various statements to the press and at one point she indicated that her intentions were noble. “It’s more than just a personal crusade now,” she was quoted in a report in the Telegraph (published from Kolkata). “I want to show other women that the stigma must lie with the assailant, not the victim, and for that, the truth must be told.”

The Chopra family was shocked and denied the allegations. Priyanka was even asked about the allegation by the press present at her homecoming party in Bareilly...

Saxena’s lawyer filed a lawsuit again Dr Chopra, who, in retaliation, also went to court. At one stage, Saxena indicated that some compromise could have been worked out. Later, she told Gulf News that it was too late for a settlement. “Now the news is out in the media, I cannot do anything,” Shivani said. Meanwhile, Dr Chopra told Gulf News that the allegations were “bizarre and a total concoction.” Some people claimed that it was Saxena and her husband’s attempt to extort money from
Dr Chopra...

It was during the Kaminey shoot that Priyanka reportedly became close to Shahid Kapoor. Shahid’s much public relationship with Kareena Kapoor ended while the two were still making Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met (2007). That would also be Shahid’s most successful film to date.
Perhaps the root of their relationship was the kissing scene in Kaminey. At least that was what Karan Johar suggested in his Koffee With Karan segment on 19 December 2010 with Shahid and Priyanka as his guests...
Karan: So did the chemistry steam after that?
Priyanka: I think we always had chemistry once we met…
Shahid: Once we started talking. We hadn’t spoken until then.
Priyanka: I think we have had and we still do.
Karan: And that will continue?
Priyanka: Of course.

In the same episode, Karan kept digging for more and asking if the two actors were dating. At one point, Shahid said the only reason he wanted to be on the show was to clarify if he and Priyanka were dating and then, he turned to her and asked, “Are we seeing each other?” And Priyanka responded, “No, we are not.”

The fun and the banter continued between the host and his two guests. Karan asked at a point, “What’s the big deal?” So Shahid turned to Priyanka and said, “I can’t take the decision without you being involved. It is about the two of us.” Priyanka finally responded, “I will answer this question. I don’t like answering questions about my personal life, I never have and I never will. Until I come to the point where I feel that this is something I want to talk about.”

...Next month on Monday, 24 January 2011, there was an income-tax raid at Priyanka Chopra’s apartment. (There was also a simultaneous raid at Katrina Kaif’s apartment.) As the practice goes, the income-tax officers gathered in their office at 6 am and were then led by senior officials to Yari Road. It was only fifteen minutes before the raid was conducted that the officers and the accompanying police were told which apartment and whose apartment they had to enter. At 7.30 am, when the officers rang the bell to Priyanka Chopra’s apartment, the door was opened by a “sleepy Kapoor, who was wearing nothing but shorts”.

In the late summer of 2015, I began to notice a phenomenon — first in the New York City subway stations, then on buses and at bus stands. There were large images of Priyanka Chopra across New York City — staring at us, an FBI badge against her pink full lips. The word “QUANTICO” was typed in bold capital letters across Priyanka’s face. Friends started mentioning seeing the same posters in Los Angeles, Florida, Chicago, Washington DC and elsewhere in the US. I saw a huge billboard in downtown Toronto. A friend even informed me that he saw the same ad behind a bus in Shanghai.

It was thrilling, yet hard to believe. Priyanka Chopra — the Desi Girl of Dostana — had her face all over New York City. And hardly anyone in New York City, other than desis like me, seemed to notice it first...

One day, during the shooting of the show on the steps of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, a crowd had gathered and people were taking pictures of Priyanka. Entertainment Weekly’s reporter Shirley Li, who was there to cover the shoot, heard this conversation between two women. “Who is it?” Shirley heard the first woman ask, as she pushed to get a better look.

Her friend shouted back, “It’s Selena Gomez!” To which Shirley commented, “Nope, not even close. It’s Priyanka Chopra, one of India’s most beloved celebrities (though still a relative unknown in the US) and the lead on ABC’s new action thriller Quantico.”