In between winning Miss World in 2000 and totally killing it on Quantico, Priyanka Chopra has also cultivated a supes successful Bollywood career. Although it’s a common path for pageant queens to parlay their wins into acting in the huge Hindi-language film industry in India, Priyanka’s international recognition has eclipsed most. She’s acted in more than 50 films, and she’s recently added to her star power by flexing her producer muscles, too. To celebrate this boss babe’s many accomplishments, I dove deep into the archives and came up with my ultimate top ten list of Priyanka’s ten best Bollywood flicks. Get your popcorn ready!
Don is a remake of a ’70s action flick with an unusual female lead: Roma is a fierce martial arts expert on the hunt for the mafioso who killed her brother. In the new version, filled with twists and turns, Priyanka reworks the character of Roma into a 21st-century vigilante, kicking butt in all-leather-everything and trading quips with the hero, Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan.
A lot of people bash this experiment in fantasy, but Priyanka rises above the haters. Chopra takes on the role of warrior/spirit guide, responsible for helping the hero fulfill his destiny by saving the world. Think Hermione Granger or Yoda, but with musical numbers and very grown-up pleather costumes. Watch it for Priyanka’s killer accessories and badass action sequences, including a very Bond-worthy entrance.
Fashion is a soapy, campy drama about the rise and fall of a supermodel, full of crazy clothes and bitchy one-liners. Chopra’s portrayal of ambition, success, collapse and redemption won pop culture and government awards. Fashion, deserving of its own signature cocktail, is perfect for trashy fun on a girls’ night in.
The Mumbai underworld has captivated movie-makers for years: it’s a huge cosmopolitan city where people can easily disappear and corrupt officials look the other way (plus, decades ago, Indian mob bosses actually financed films!). Kaminey is one of the best, mixing crime and violence with humour and romance. Chopra plays Sweety, the sister of a political thug, but her Sweety is no goody. She gets pregnant before marriage, fights off her brothers’ goons and defends her boyfriend, the good son in a pair of twins mixed up with the drug trade. The overall effect is Dickensian with a very modern top coat.
What’s Your Raashee? (2009)
Chopra plays 12—yes, 12—different modern Indian women in this film, all the potential brides of a man in a hurry to marry. She makes each woman distinct, assisted by (but never relying on) the costume department. Watching the same face matched with so many different personalities can certainly be dizzying, so I can only imagine what that was like for Chopra. Check out all of the Priyankas, each with her own dance style, below.
7 Khoon Maaf (2011)
This is probably my very favourite Priyanka Chopra role—I have a soft spot for dark comedy and complicated women, and 7 Khoon Maaf covers both. Chopra’s Susanna works her way through a string of very different husbands, none of whom satisfies her. I don’t want to spoil it, but the fact that Susanna dances in a graveyard should be a biiiiiig hint as to why her husbands don’t stick around. Priyanka’s performance is focused and fascinating, and the success of the story was largely dependent on her acting chops.
Barfi!, a story as sweet as its namesake Indian dessert, cemented my faith in Chopra’s ability to shine in roles that are neither typical romantic heroine nor bland Barbie doll. She plays a young autistic woman in a relationship with a deaf and mute man. These characteristics never define the roles, but they do force the lead actors to express themselves in creative ways, and both of them rise to the challenge. Chopra also deserves respect for trying something v. far from the glamorous image she had when she entered the beauty-obsessed film industry less than a decade earlier.
Mary Kom (2014)
When Chopra was cast in this biopic of a world champion boxer from northeastern India, many felt that racist beauty standards and her sure-fire box-office appeal led to her getting the title role—a situation akin to when Emma Stone played an Asian-American pilot in Aloha. India is a very diverse country, and real-life Mary Kom is from a different ethnic group than Priyanka, a minority population that is politically and culturally underrepresented. However, Chopra definitely gives the film her all, and she combines strength and tenderness to make Kom, an Olympic medalist, relatable. The story has all the tear-jerking moments of any sports movie—tough coaches, useless officials and community pride. It’s impossible not to cheer when she punches sexism and the struggles of balancing work, marriage and motherhood square in the face.
Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)
Each member of this dysfunctional family is pretty on the outside, but a total mess on the inside. As the owner of a successful business, Chopra lets the cracks form slowly but painfully in her perfect façade—she’s trapped in a dead marriage by family pressure, and she struggles not to fall for her first love all over again. Bollywood doesn’t tend to give daughters as much drama as sons, so this film scores points for some great tension between Chopra’s over-achieving character and the hollow socialite world of her mom. A note for Bollywood lovers: you’ll recognize her dad as the gameshow host from Slumdog Millionaire and her mom as the daughter in Monsoon Wedding.
Bajirao Mastani (2015)
If you’re still missing Downton Abbey, the passionate love triangle, luxe palaces and glittering costumes in this grandiose period drama will make your heart sing. Set among little-known historical figures from the 18th century, Chopra plays the cheated-on wife of a great warrior. Her dignity is the perfect contrast to her husband’s unhinged lover. Most of the sizzle happens with the other pair, and it’s strange to think of Chopra as the least sexy person in a film, but her regal comportment shows who’s the queen.