Most Hollywood animated movies feature stars well-known to U.S. audiences. But when Disney opens its 3-D film “Planes” on Friday, it will include a voice unfamiliar to filmgoers on this side of the world: Priyanka Chopra.
The Bollywood star, 31, voices Pan-Asian racer Ishani, a yellow-and-orange-hued flyer complete with a delicate green henna design on its nose, in the new “Cars” spinoff about a crop-duster that dreams of aerial stardom.
“It’s like breathing air into a cartoon,” the Mumbai resident said in a recent interview in Hollywood, where she had come for, among other things, the film’s premiere. Ishani “is this hot, sexy, confident girl in the world of boys.”
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Hugely popular in her native India, where many of her 4.3 million Twitter followers reside, Chopra has nearly 50 Hindi-language films under her belt. They include the well-received romcom “Barfi!” – India’s 2013 Oscars submission – in which Chopra plays an autistic character.
Chopra has been acting since she was 17 (when she won the Miss World crown for India). Disney executives approached her about two years ago to voice the character in the film, which includes a number of American stars such as Dane Cook and Teri Hatcher. The actress says she channeled Indian culture and inflections into Ishani while trying not to use the kind of exaggerated accents found in such Hollywood creations as “The Simpsons’” Apu.
The star said she found her new role an adjustment for more than just cultural reasons. “It was a very different experience,” she said. “Creating a character in a booth is very different than being on set.”
Chopra also recently added recording artist to her resume, which she was able to draw on in “Planes” with a musical ditty titled “Ishani’s Song,” a high-flying Bollywood-esque number that Ishani delivers as an answer to a journalist in the film who asks, “Do you really think the race can be won by a girl?”
Chopra has been collaborating with Western talent in her music life too. She penned the Hindi lyrics on her buzzed-about single “Exotic” with rapper Pitbull, and the track is produced by Grammy Award-winning Moroccan-Swedish producer Nadir “RedOne” Khayat, who produced Lady Gaga’s hits “Just Dance” and “Poker Face.” “Exotic” will be featured throughout the 2013 Guinness International Champions Cup as the soccer tournament’s official theme song.
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As for her other music, Chopra says an as-yet untitled American debut album is slated to hit shelves by the end of 2013 or in early 2014.
It features “an eclectic mix of genres,” she said, including ballads, electronic dance music and pop. The foray will officially launch Desi Hits! Universal under music moguls Anjula Acharia-Bath and Jimmy Iovine, in conjunction with Interscope Records, as they try to launch an Indian pop act on the American charts.
On the Indian film front, Chopra is cooking up a new gritty role with a planned biopic of Indian Olympic bronze-medal boxer Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom. Later this year, she’ll release Bollywood movie “Krrish 3” – a new installment in a popular sci-fi superhero franchise – and action film “Zanjeer.”
When asked whether Hollywood roles are on her to-do list, Chopra didn’t offer specifics, but said, “I love movies. It doesn’t matter to me what language it’s in.”