After 'Quantico', is Priyanka Chopra's brand value declining in Bollywood?
Duff & Phelps’ 2015 celebrity valuation report pegged Priyanka Chopra as one the most valuable celebrity brand in India with her fee at Rs 7 crore per endorsement.
“My command over both English and Hindi is remarkable and that’s why I feel I can balance my Bollywood and US TV careers very well. I’m able to deliver characters and roles in both the milieus with equal ease,” Chopra, who was recently in the Capital to launch an adolescents’ nutrition campaign for the ‘Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Programme (WIFS) under the Union health ministry, told ET Magazine.
A twin-track career that calls for straddling two continents can, however, be exhausting, and present its own challenges.
“American TV is a culturally different world from Bollywood where characters think and talk different. It’s a different country and a different world but I love the challenge, along with the thrill of people’s curiosity about me and my world. And it’s through this inquisitiveness about India and Indian cinema that I’m being able to introduce people in the US to Hindi films,” she added with enthusiasm.
Anjula Acharia-Bath, a Silicon Valley-based angel investor and partner at venture capital firm Trinity Ventures, who was the catalyst in launching her in Quantico, feels Priyanka is turning out to be a South Asian role model in western pop culture.
Rising to the Challenge
“Supporting Priyanka’s US TV career was a personal decision for me. I had always dreamed of a time when seeing someone who looked South Asian on TV in the West would be the norm,” says Acharia-Bath. She points out that Priyanka first caught her eye a decade ago — “when I wasn’t even in the entertainment biz — in the Bollywood movie "Bluffmaster" doing a hip hop spoof. “I loved her energy and swag and thought if there was anyone who I’d pick it would be her,” Acharia-Bath told ET Magazine.
A few years later when she became an investor in the entertainment business she “trusted her gut” on Priyanka as she felt she had what it takes to impact pop culture in the US. Since 2010, she has been driving Priyanka’s career in the US and has worked with the Bollywood star on various deals, including her pop albums, one of which featured rapper Pitbull; an appearance in the National Football League (NFL) Network’s 2013 Thursday Night Football season, where she was the sole opening act; becoming brand ambassador for iconic fashion brand Guess; and finally playing the lead in Quantico on primetime US TV, which is now off air and scheduled for a second season.
Bestriding two diverse worlds of entertainment also means that Priyanka has to appeal to two very different sets of audiences.
Acharia-Bath feels that she will rise to the challenge seamlessly. “She loves to entertain and thrives on challenge and I think that alone has allowed her to straddle careers in two continents. She’s always chosen path-breaking roles in Indian cinema and has the acting chops to do it, so I see absolutely no reason why she couldn’t amplify that on a global level.” Acharia-Bath added that Chopra will continue to entertain in Hollywood and Bollywood, because her talent is not limited by geography or culture. “We live in a digital world where old rules regarding geography and territories don’t apply.” In her avatar as a global star, Acharia-Bath feels Priyanka is doing the right thing in caring to use her influence to do good in the world — another trait that sets her apart from many of her counterparts in Bollywood.
As a goodwill ambassador of Unicef for almost a decade, Priyanka lends heft to health issues of young adolescents — especially girls — in India. “Unicef is a platform that I use to voice my opinion about things that are important to me. I feel it’s very important to have an opinion and to use my voice for a reason; I feel strongly about the need to invest in India’s youth and young girls since we are the youngest country in the world. Besides, I also adore kids,” Chopra explained. But she also added that her role at Unicef was something she did as an individual and because she felt she needed to support the cause. “This is my individual choice and I don’t want to be judged for it — this is not my job, which has always been and will be to entertain people.”
Sceptics, however, point out that the 33-year-old Priyanka may be in the midst of a makeover and addressing a different market, as she may have peaked in Bollywood, and stands to be edged out by the newer stars on the block. Brand expert Harish Bijoor says: “Priyanka is today a replaced entity in Bollywood and her brand value is already diminished in India. She does desperately need three big hits to make a comeback. And that seems tough if one looks at the funnel of her pending work.”
Malini Agarwal, founder of MissMalini Media, an online network for Bollywood, fashion and lifestyle, does not agree. “Priyanka’s brand value has not diminished just yet in Bollywood and in 2015 she was part of two much-talked-about films, "Dil Dhadakne Do" and "Bajirao Mastani". She rounded 2015 off with the trailer of "Jai Gangaajal" which, albeit a comparatively small film, made people sit up and take notice,” Agarwal says.
A Global Youth Icon
While Chopra is the first mainstream female actor from Bollywood to make it big internationally, Agarwal feels that the role in Quantico is an extension of Priyanka as a global brand. “She had already taken steps towards being an international icon with her musical career (she collaborated with international artists and spent quite some time in the US) and Quantico just further cemented her as an international icon,” Agarwal added.
Bijoor reckons an American TV drama is certainly a bit of reinvention for a Bollywood star. “Priyanka has entered American bedrooms and drawing rooms with Quantico. That’s as intrusive a presence as it gets.
How she settles in with the A m e r i c a n mind, mood, and psyche is for one to see as the TRPs of the show build, climb and establish.” He adds that Quantico can do little for Priyanka in I n d i a , a n d “hopefully a lot more in the US.”
How far her popularity as a TV star in the US will go towards a reinvention of Brand Priyanka still remains to be seen, feel experts. “While it is a first for any Indian celebrity to make it to a mainstream, primetime television show in the US, and to be at the helm of all episodes as its primary protagonist, I think we would need some more time to see how Ms Chopra uses this as an opportunity to build her brand,” says Varun Gupta, managing director, Southeast Asia, at Duff & Phelps Corporation, a global corporate finance advisory firm.
Gupta adds that while the success of Quantico has been unprecedented — a little over 7 million viewers watched the pilot episode — it is likely that viewership comprises a large number of the South Asian diaspora all over the world. “We have seen something similar with Shilpa Shetty in the UK, and she used her popularity on the Big Brother television show to expand her brand through a clothing line, perfumes and multiple endorsements. We could see something even bigger with Ms Chopra, considering that she is amongst the biggest stars in India at present and her popularity as an international actress of repute is increasing,” Gupta added.
A career that may be on a similar flight plan — although she is not as mainstream an actor as Priyanka — is that of Nimrat Kaur, of Lunchbox fame, who’s built a following of sorts in her American TV debut with the political thriller series Homeland. The actor, who is reportedly preparing for another international project, plays an ISI agent in the series’ fourth season.
Duff & Phelps’ 2015 celebrity valuation report pegged Priyanka Chopra as amongst the most valuable celebrity brands in India with her current endorsement fee range at between Rs 4 crore and Rs 7 crore per endorsement, putting her amongst the highest paid among Bollywood’s women stars.
“For Ms Chopra, her popularity or perception as a bankable star in India has not seen any diminution, as evident from the recent success of her most recent films. If anything, Ms Chopra probably has less time to involve herself with brand endorsements owing to her international commitments and that could be the reason we are seeing less of her endorsing brands in India,” Gupta added.
To be sure, Priyanka may have become the face of Guess two years ago, but back home she isn’t averse to launching lesserknown brands. For instance, the Suratbased Rajhans Nutriments zeroed in on Priyanka to launch its premium dark Swiss chocolate brand Schmitten. Says a company spokesperson: “Priyanka has gone the extra mile to become a global youth icon. She represents a sense of breaking stereotypes and adds a touch of elegance to our luxury chocolate brand.”