Sorry to break it to you, Priyanka Chopra, but you’re a feminist

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bollywood actresses wish Priyanka luck for ‘Quantico’.

Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma and Alia Bhatt seem to have proven the adage ‘heroines cannot be friends’ wrong as they tweeted their support for Priyanka Chopra ahead of the premiere of her debut American TV series, Quantico.

Padukone, 29, who will be seen with Chopra in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani, tweeted: “Loads and loads of love @priyankachopra! #Quantico.” The 33-year-old Mary Kom star in turn praised Padukone’s upcoming film Tamasha, writing: “Thank you so much @deepikapadukone Tamasha looks awesome. The TV series has been making news in the Indian press for several months now exactly because of that face I saw: it features Priyanka Chopra as the lead character, making her the first Bollywood actor to headline an American show. Can’t wait” Quantico revolves around a group of young Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recruits, who are training at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. “Enjoy the butterflies @priyankachopra for #Quantico is about to explode for us. Hell, they even have encouraged it, with promos saying “Quantico is being called Grey’s Academy and How To Get Away With Treason.” Is anyone actually calling it that?

Priyanka Chopra’s debut international show, Quantico, gave us all this and much more in the pilot episode, telecast on Star World on Monday morning. But the initial desi pride I felt when seeing the billboard diminished significantly after I read this interview by Chopra in Refinery 29, a lifestyle website. “I don’t think it’s feminist, but it’s empowerment… It’s got very strong female characters, and I don’t think it’s a bra-burning feminist show where you’re like, we hate men, but we have really strong male characters, too… It gives females an opportunity to be equal with the boys, and I think that’s really progressive.” With these statements, Chopra has joined the ranks of educated, urban Indians who shun the word “feminism” like the plague. It had a heavy dose of drama, and a sprinkling of riveting sequences that left us wanting more (even though they gave us enough plot twists for a season, all packed in just the pilot episode). Yes, she sounds like the annoying Indian who adds a twang to their English because they flew over Dallas or had a five-hour stopover at New York’s JFK.

Actress Bipasha Basu shared a picture of billboards with promotions for Chopra’s show, and captioned the pictures: “Shine like a Diamond. #Quantico! Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) is a newly-minted FBI agent who wakes up in a pile of rubble after what looks like a massive terrorist attack in New York City ‘since 9/11’. Their first assignment is simple: Take a fellow recruit’s file, investigate to find the one fact that’s been removed, and then get him or her to confirm it during an interrogation.

She’s brought in for ‘interrogation’ by other agents because she’s the only survivor, and she’s told that the suspect is one of the 50 people Alex had her FBI training in Quantico with. These secrets may or may not be important because fast-forward nine months, and one of these recruits (maybe more?) will pull off the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. For the record, this is how Merriam Webster defines feminism: Or, in other words, the movement is about “empowerment” and social “progress.” It is about “strong” women and equal opportunities.

So don’t get too attached to anyone because he/she could turn out to be evil. (But at least we get a heads up unlike with Ward and the Agents of Shield switcheroo.) The pilot jumps back and forth between the early Quantico days and the day of the attack. And since Aunjanue Ellis, who plays Assistant Director Miranda Shaw, recommended keeping a chart of who we think is guilty week to week, that’s how I will recap. We also have Ryan Booth, the guy Alex made out with in his car just hours before landing in Quantico (unknowingly of course that he too is an FBI trainee). In that dense Caucasian fog that envelopes its television shows, Taraji P Henson and this year’s Emmy-winner Viola Davis are among those who have made huge strides for black actors.

There is also Eric Parker, a very serious Mormon and his roommate Caleb Haas, who is bad at physical training, shooting and more or less everything that has anything to do with being an FBI agent but is still there. Played by Priyanka Chopra, Alex comes to Quantico from Oakland, California, where she lived with her mother, whom she lied to about taking a train instead of a plane. Harry Potter‘s star Emma Watson famously said in her speech at the UN last year: “The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realised that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” Watson said. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

It’s so hard for a non-white actor to get noticed in Los Angeles that we ignored the detail that Kapoor, Nagra and Kaur have played leading roles in cinema, but are not considered worthy of anything more than minor parts by American producers. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” Perhaps Chopra, who not only has her heart in the right place, but also millions of young fans, should take a cue from her Hollywood peers as she makes her TV debut in the US, and overcome her allergy for the f-word. No doubt it helps that American producers want to cash in on Indian audiences, but still, that doesn’t mean Chopra hasn’t had to work hard for this win.

We cut back to the present, and Alex learns that the FBI agents do not want information from her but are merely stalling the process long enough to be able to arrest her. Watching the FBI do its thing in Quantico, one has to conclude that if the real FBI is anything like this on screen version, then it’s a wonder America is still standing. Never mind the fact that this intelligence agency has no idea that two people are passing off as one person (was it Christopher Nolan’s Prestige or Vijay Krishna Acharya’s Dhoom 3 that inspired Safran?). Yes, she isn’t all Raj Koothrapali (The Big Bang Theory) or Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (The Simpsons), who speak English in an Indian accent that we Indians too have difficulty relating to.

As they escort her away in handcuffs, she sees O’Conner — who is now being called “Assistant Director” — and pleads with him, but he doesn’t help at all. Second, a whole human being gets out of a van, in broad daylight, and “disappears” in a crowd — which is nowhere near the upturned van, incidentally — and no one notices? Alex definitely has some secrets, or at the very least her father does, but everything else pointing to her being the terrorist seems a little too convenient.

We first meet Simon (Tate Ellington) when he’s kissing a stranger on the street for the sake of a selfie, which he then frames and puts on display in his room at Quantico. He doesn’t get a ton of backstory in this episode, aside from what fellow recruit Nimah (Yasmine Al Massri) uncovers for their assignment: He’s a gay virgin from a staunch Zionist family. There’s so much recycling in Quantico, beginning with its use of an old Massive Attack number and moving on to familiar tropes, that the show doesn’t feel new. You may find yourself wondering if Abbas-Mustan were consultants on the project, because no one else is as committed to making cats cradles with plot lines. Quantico is also delightfully disconnected with reality and filled with over-the-top dialoguebaazi, which makes it all the more reminiscent of Bollywood.

In order to prove his right to be there, he wants to succeed with the interrogation portion of week one, so he grabs the file for “Elder Eric” (Brian J. Caleb is good at Mormon nicknames (“Joseph Smith,” “Romney”), but he’s terrible at discovering dirt on his fellow recruit, so instead he just taunts Eric with the unknown secret to disastrous results… see next page. However, if the first episode is any indication, most of Quantico’s acting talent ranges from mediocre to bad, and it doesn’t help that they’re made to say dialogues that contain phrases like “pontificating robot”. They’ll fill those grey t-shirts out much better, smoulder each time the camera focuses on them and have just as few expressions as the existing men on the show.

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