Priyanka Chopra Further Success (2012–2014)
Chopra’s first film of 2012 was Karan Malhotra’s action drama Agneepath, in which she starred with Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt and Rishi Kapoor. Produced by Karan Johar, the film is a remake of his father’s 1990 production of the same name. In one of several accidents to happen during production, Chopra’s lehenga (a traditional skirt) caught fire while filming a sequence for an elaborate Ganpati festival song. She featured as Kaali Gawde, Roshan’s loquacious love interest in the film. Mayank Shekhar noted how much Chopra stood out in the male-dominated film. Agneepath broke Bollywood’s highest opening-day earnings record, and had a worldwide gross of ₹1.93 billion (US$27 million). Chopra next co-starred with Shahid Kapoor in Kunal Kohli’s romance, Teri Meri Kahaani. The film relates the stories of three unconnected couples (each played by Kapoor and Chopra), born in different eras.
Anurag Basu’s Barfi!, with Ranbir Kapoor and Ileana D’Cruz, was her final appearance of 2012. Set in the 1970s, the film tells the story of three people, two of whom are physically disabled. Chopra played Jhilmil Chatterjee, an autistic woman who falls in love with a deaf, mute man (Kapoor). Director Rituparno Ghosh considered it a “very, very brave” role to accept given how demanding it is for an actor to convincingly portray a woman with autism. To prepare for the role, Chopra visited several mental institutions and spent time with autistic people. The film received critical acclaim and was a major commercial success, earning ₹1.75 billion (US$25 million) worldwide. Rachit Gupta of Filmfare found Chopra to be the film’s “surprise package” and found her performance to be “the best representation of [autism] on Indian celluloid”. Pratim D. Gupta of The Telegraph noted that Kapoor and Chopra turn in two of the finest performances seen on the Indian screen, although he found her to be a “tad showy” in her part. Chopra received Best Actress nominations at the Filmfare, Screen, IIFA and Producers Guild Film Awards. The film was chosen as India’s entry for the 85th Academy Awards. Agneepath and Barfi! ranked among the highest grossing Bollywood films to that point.
In 2013, she lent her voice to the character of Ishani, the reigning Pan-Asian champion from India and the love interest of the main protagonist in the Disney Animation Studios’s film Planes, a spinoff of Pixar’s Cars franchise. Chopra, a fan of Disney films, had fun voicing the character saying “The closest I could come to being a Disney princess, I think, was Ishani”. The film was a commercial success, grossing approximately US$240 million worldwide. She played an NRI girl in the Apoorva Lakhia’s bilingual action drama Zanjeer (Thoofan in Telugu), a remake of the 1973 Hindi film of the same name, which met with poor reactions from critics and was unsuccessful at the box office. Chopra next reprised her role of Priya in Rakesh Roshan’s Krrish 3—a sequel to the 2006 superhero film Krrish—with Hrithik Roshan, Vivek Oberoi and Kangana Ranaut. Critics felt that Chopra had very little to do in the film. Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV writing that she “is saddled with a sketchily written role and is reduced to the status of a hanger-on waiting for things to unfold”. The feature became a box office success, earning over ₹3 billion (US$42 million) worldwide, to become Chopra’s biggest commercial success to that point and her fourth major hit in the last two years. She also appeared in an item number titled “Ram Chahe Leela” for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. The song, which took four days to rehearse, saw Chopra execute a contemporary mujra, that incorporated complicated dance steps.
In 2014, Chopra played the lead female role in Yash Raj Films’s romantic action drama Gunday directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, alongside Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor and Irrfan Khan. She portrayed Nandita, a cabaret dancer in Calcutta. Set in the 1970s, the film tells the story of two best friends who fall in love with Nandita. Gunday proved to be a box-office success, grossing over ₹1 billion (US$14 million) worldwide. Chopra next starred as the title character in Mary Kom, a biographical film of the five time world boxing champion and Olympic bronze medalist Mary Kom. To prepare for the role, she spent time with Kom and received four months of boxing training. The film premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, received positive reviews from critics, and her performance received critical acclaim. Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter criticised the film’s screenplay but praised Chopra’s “grit as an actress that she overcomes trashy set-ups like these and, punch after punch, fills the screen with real emotion”. Namrata Joshi from Outlook opined that Chopra’s sincere and earnest performance brings out Kom’s “determination as well as her vulnerabilities, and insecurities”, Mary Kom emerged as a commercial success, with revenues of ₹1.04 billion (US$15 million) at the box office. Chopra won the Screen Award for Best Actress, the Producers Guild Film Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and received another nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.