12 years ago when global icon and the then Priyanka Chopra and her mentor-manager Anjula Acharia were getting off the ground to pave their way into Hollywood, they didn’t find many South Asian faces to represent the community as they find now. And to celebrate that, the power duo hosted a South Asian Excellence Pre-Oscars Celebration for the second year in a row, ahead of the big night.
This year’s edition of the Academy awards put a host of South Asian talent under the spotlight for their contribution to top-class cinema. Some of the names to have made it to the #Oscars95 included the documentary All That Breathes; numerous nominations for Everything Everywhere All at Once; the song Naatu Naatu from RRR; documentary shorts Elephant Whisperers and Stranger at the Gate; and shortlisted international feature Joyland. Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Acharia decided to up the spirit of encouragement by bringing together the community and celebrating their win in Hollywood. The celebration also intended to fuel more diversity in Hollywood by encouraging the community’s supporters and guests to work on more film and TV outings that include South Asian talent and storylines.
Hosted at the Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, the event was a gleaming affair with everyone shining through in the finest couture ensembles of luxury couturiers Falguni Shane Peacock. The designers, who made their international debut about two decades ago, have been one of the first Indian designers to dress some of the biggest names in Hollywood, spinning a glorious journey across the West and the East. Right from the hosts Chopra-Jonas and Acharia to co-hosts Mindy Kaling, Radhika Jones, Lilly Singh, P Sean Gupta—everyone arrived at the venue in handcrafted Indian ensembles crafted with feathers, sequins and intricate embroideries on traditional motifs. Both Falguni Peacock and Shane Peacock resonated with Chopra-Jonas and Acharia’s intentions and efforts of cheerleading South Asian talent and mainstreaming narratives focused on the community. And so they jumped at the first chance of being associated with the event. “It is no secret that the South Asians are immensely talented as their peers and so it only makes sense that the representation gets stronger with each passing year,” said Shane Peacock. Falguni Peacock, the creative director and the co-founder of the couture label, added, “We wanted to be associated in telling our people ‘kudos’, and congratulating them on the benchmark they’ve set with their contribution to cinema.”
The designers added it was an honour to dress the hosts and co-hosts of the event in exquisite Falguni Shane Peacock couture. “When we were planning this event at a nascent stage a couple of months ago, we knew we wanted to highlight the traditional Indian elements but in a contemporary way that would make a great evening ensemble. Our moodboards for everyone included either a sari or a Lehenga while keeping the colour palette according to their choices,” said Falguni Peacock. The designers revealed that Priyanka was clear about what she wanted and they enjoyed every bit of bringing it to reality. “She had mentioned she wanted something in white that would bring out the East-meets-West vibe. So, we crafted an ivory fitted Lehenga skirt and paired it with a chic corset top and styled it with a faux feather shrug to add an element of opulence to the look,” added Shane Peacock. The duo revealed that Anjula Acharia, Radhika Jones, Mindy Kaling and Anita Chatterjee wanted to drape the six-yard sari and they created one for each keeping in mind their personalities and individual styles. Giving the ladies a stylish company was P Sean Gupta of Paramount+ who sported a dark-hued Sherwani for the do.
The event was also co-hosted by co-hosts Malala Yousafzai, Kumail Nanjiani, Kal Penn, Aziz Ansari, Bela Bajaria, Joseph Patel and Shruti Ganguly. “We’re also here today to recognise and celebrate those who made this possible for all of us—many of us who hadn’t even begun our respective journeys, those who hustled for years to be seen and heard and to make sure that brown representation was here to stay, not just in front of the camera and behind it, but also those who fought the stereotypes to ensure our stories were not just a cliché but a true reflection of who we are. For those who fought for actors to have bigger, leading parts, and for those who fought for stories of South Asian descent. For those who were marginalised and were the exception rather than the rule,” said Chopra-Jonas as part of the opening speech. She was joined by Acharia, who said, “I always go back to the importance of writers, the originators of our stories. Stories that are not full of stereotypes and singular narratives, but show the diversity of our communities.”