Celebrity activism often escapes the kind of scrutiny most political activism is subjected to. It is often seen as either positive or pointless — but rarely dangerous.
This makes Chopra’s mistakes potentially all the more costly. Rather than use her position as a US-based celebrity to broaden what it means to be an Indian celebrity, she has fallen into the same jingoistic role that her fellow countrymen are forced to adopt at home.
It’s this kind of failure that tempts many observers to insist that celebrities stay out of politics completely. Just look at the damage those ill-informed starlets can cause, they say, wading into issues they know nothing about. They should shut up and stick to entertaining us — in silence.
These are issues I have struggled with for years. I’m well known in my native Pakistan and (increasingly) internationally, I have an audience that I can influence. Speaking up as a young woman, and especially as an artist, in Pakistan is not easy, so I have to pick my battles carefully.
My intention when speaking about women’s rights, girls’ education, or supporting humanitarian charity work is to unite people — not divide them.
The only way to do this is to avoid the path of least resistance — populist rhetoric — and focus on the universal humanitarian causes that all sides can agree on.
This where Priyanka Chopra and others have made a mistake: by lending their name to racism dressed up as patriotism, they have done us all a disservice.
Some issues are too important to play politics with. One of those is Kashmir — a small, impoverished territory where now India has made its move, heedless of an international community keen to avoid conflict between two nuclear armed states.
The irony is that hyper-nationalist Indians who dance to the same tune as Priyanka Chopra believe these civilians to be Indian citizens, meaning that those crimes are being inflicted on their fellow Indians.
This in itself is a nonsensical message that has been lost in the mirror maze created by a marriage of film and propaganda in too much of Bollywood — a mirage that any fascist dictator would be proud of.
But it is human suffering that those with a platform must focus on. It also falls on other film industries, including my own in Pakistan, to counter the negative stereotypes pumped out in Bollywood.
That might be less lucrative or effortless than the alternative, but it is what humanity needs to see — on screen, and on the streets.
It is something I would love to work with my Indian colleagues on — including Priyanka Chopra.