"There have been so many box-office successes in my career. Don, Krrish, Fashion, Waqt, Dostana, Aitraaz, Andaaz, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi..." Add Mary Kom and Bajirao Mastani to the list for both box-office acceptance and credibility in her performances, and it turns platinum. "I've been blessed with so many films that have worked really well. When a film doesn't work, it breaks my heart because for me, all my films are Mughal-e-Azams, each one bigger than the other."
What she didn't ever disclose was how close she came to breaking point in her relentless fight to the top. Her handsome co-star, her first major A-Grade hero, Hrithik Roshan did.
"I have never known her to seek validation or recognition for how hard she works," underlined Hrithik. "Priyanka always came across as a fun person, always cheerful," he stated. "And amazingly spontaneous as an actor. Painfully hard working, without being pretentious about it. She, I assume, was taught by her parents to never allow herself to be seen as needy or dependent or weak. This quality of hers struck me as something out of the ordinary for a girl, hell, even for a guy those days," he chuckled.
"I remember shooting in the hills of Manali, this was way back in 2005 for Krrish. It was extremely cold and the air was lacking sufficient oxygen. Some crew members had even fainted. Suddenly we saw Priyanka go limp. She was about to fall but a few people standing close by rushed to lift her up and carry her back to the warmth and comfort of the hotel room. I rushed to make sure she was safe and taken care of but to my surprise, what I saw was an indignant Priyanka, half-conscious but unmistakably furious at being seen as someone who needed help! Even as her body, still limp, showed no signs of co-ordination, she continued shouting at the lifters to put her down. They did that, eventually. It clearly reflected a deep desire in her to always be seen as strong, independent and self-reliant. It was admirable and I was impressed."
"When we saw Aitraaz, we were relieved because we found a fresh face which wasn't one bit afraid of the camera," said Hrithik. "She was confident and in Aitraaz we saw an actor who could project both sides of the human psyche - goodness and humility plus cunning and vindictiveness - which was rare."
For an actor who himself sought a challenge every time he signed a film, Hrithik was generous in commenting, "I often compliment Priyanka on her ability to almost mutate into the perfect person to fit any situation, person or environment. Almost like a chameleon. Only in her case, the transformation is of the intellect and is driven by a generous heart to make people around her comfortable. She could just as easily dumb herself down as she could intimidate, depending on the person or situation."
As an actor who's spiritually inward looking, Hrithik had something to add about Priyanka: "She has been unmistakably primed from her childhood to be where she is today." He reviewed her success before cautioning, "Learning from my own experience of worldly success and how little it serves towards genuine happiness, I truly hope and wish Priyanka is putting in as much power and drive towards her own inner fulfilment too."
He added thoughtfully, "I think she is and I am very happy for her."
She was happy too, after Krrish took her where she'd always dreamt to be - in the top commercial bracket.
Excerpted with permission of Om Books International from Priyanka Chopra: The Dark Horse by Bharathi S Pradhan. Pre-order here.