Priyanka Chopra made the nation proud when she won Miss World crown in 2000. Soon, it was Bollywood calling for her as she made her acting debut with a brief appearance in Sunny Deol-Preity Zinta starrer The Hero: Love Story Of A Spy in 2003. The following year, PeeCee bagged her first full-fledged role in Raj Kanwar's Andaaz alongside Akshay Kumar and Lara Dutta.
The actress played the role of Jiya, a vivacious young girl who falls in love with Akshay Kumar's character Raj. Andaaz was a box office success and the soundtrack of the romantic drama was also a hit with the masses.
Andaaz completes 18 years today (May 23, 2021). In an interaction with Spotboye, filmmaker Suneel Darshan who bankrolled this movie, walked down the memory lane and recalled his first meeting with Priyanka Chopra.
Suneel revealed that initially when the Quantico actress walked into his office, he was apprehensive about casting her in Andaaz as she didn't fit into the mould and perception of the star of his film.
He was quoted as saying by the entertainment portal, "When Priyanka initially walked into my office to meet me for this movie, I had a bit of reservation initially. She didn't fit into the mould and perception of the star of my movie. I had to launch that girl to become a star so I had to be convinced myself."
Speaking about how it took him a few minutes to change his mind, he shared, "Ten minutes into sitting with Priyanka and talking to her, I had observed a lot of things about her. One was her mellifluous voice. She is still such a brilliant talker and the way she presented the conversation was mesmerising. The way she smartly used her eyes and body language, she was an actress in total."
However, Andaaz wasn't the first film that Priyanka Chopra signed. "By the time she came to me, she had signed about four movies before and even started shooting for a few, I was told. But they never happened and were all shut down. She was in a phase when nothing right was happening and she was contemplating if nothing happened, what will she do. When you go through that, a lot of people don't accept you for the way you are. They don't see your finer points because you are going through a low," the director-producer told the entertainment portal.
Suneel Darshan said that he saw the same potential in Priyanka Chopra that he had seen in veteran actress Rekha.
He recalled, "I was very sure, along with my team, which included the actors and the technicians on the film, that here was a girl who had all the potential that I once saw in a person I had interacted with and observed from close quarters years ago. And that was Rekha. Initially when Rekha came, she actually was the person who evolved and I believed that Priyank Chopra, in the process, was going to evolve like nobody's business, and that is exactly what happened."
Post Andaaz, Priyanka Chopra and Suneel Darshan teamed up again for the 2005 film Barsaat which also starred Bobby Deol and Bipasha Basu.
Talking about their collaboration, he shared, "I did one more movie with her, Barsaat. I presented her in both the movies independent of each other, and I felt that her performance in Barsaat was brilliant. Then I noticed that she was growing and it was time for her to move on. I didn't meet her after that until she invited me to her wedding reception a few years ago. She introduced me to her husband, Nick Jonas, as the person who introduced her and gave her her first movie."
The filmmaker said that he feels a sense of pride when he sees where Priyanka Chopra stands today. "I feel very happy for her. The heroines I have worked with, I categorize them as Before PC and After PC. The girls that I worked with before Priyanka Chopra were Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Juhi Chawla and they were very different from Priyanka," Spotboye quoted him as saying.