Priyanka Chopra reflected on her casting in Mary Kom and said that the role should have gone to someone from the northeast. She added that while she was hesitant to take up the film, she did so because she was ‘greedy as an actor’.
Mary Kom, directed by Omung Kumar, was based on the life of the eponymous boxer from Manipur who won several honours for the country, including an Olympic medal and multiple world championship trophies. The film released in 2014.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Priyanka said, “When I played Mary Kom, I was very sceptical taking it on in the beginning because she was a living, breathing icon and she made place for so many female athletes. Plus, I look nothing like her. She comes from the northeast of India and I am from northern India and we physically didn’t look alike. In hindsight, the part should have probably gone to someone from the northeast. But I was just greedy as an actor to get a chance to tell her story, because she inspired me so much, as a woman, as an Indian woman, as an athlete. When the filmmakers insisted I do it, I was just like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it.’”
Priyanka said that she prepped a lot for the film, from undergoing intense boxing training to spending time with Mary and her family. “I went and met Mary, I spent time in her home, I met her children, I met her husband. I had to spend almost five months training to learn the sport, which is not easy, by the way… And to physically alter my body as well, to get into an athlete’s shape. So, physically, it was really tough, mentally, it was really tough. Because I physically didn’t look like her, I decided to embody her spirit. So, I spent a lot of time with her so that she could educate me about what her choices were, why she made the choices that she did,” she said.
At the time of its release, Mary Kom was at the centre of a controversy for its casting choice, with some calling the decision to cast Priyanka instead of an actor from the northeast, ‘racist’.
Mary Kom won the National Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment in 2014. Priyanka also got several awards for her performance, including the Screen Award, Producers Guild Film Award and Stardust Award.