Can Lady Gaga’s Managers Turn This Bollywood Actress into a Pop Star?

A team of top U.S.-based music executives and the managers of pop artist Lady Gaga are betting they can turn Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra into an international music star. They plan to release a full-length dance album featuring the entertainer in North America sometime next year.

The 28-year-old starlet has been working with top producers for several months, hoping to craft an artistically credible set of songs that can be marketed on the strength of her success as a movie actress. Working under the direction of Interscope-Geffen-A&M chairman (and “American Idol” mentor) Jimmy Iovine, South Asian music and marketing entrepreneur Anjula Acharia-Bath, Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter and others, Chopra recently recorded in New York and Los Angeles. She expects to write and record dozens of songs with producers over the next few months, before the team selects the songs that will actually appear on the album.

“I’ve always sung, but making your own music and actually doing this in a serious way was a big decision,” Chopra said. “It’s pop. I love pop music, so that’s the kind of music want to be able to make and I’m a dancer, so I want to make music that makes people dance.”

Chopra, who spent many of her teen years living with family and attending schools in Iowa and Boston, said she’s been interested in singing since she sang in choirs as a teenager, influenced by her father, who sang as an avocation.

Chopra’s new venture comes at a time in which record labels continue to struggle to make money in a digital world. Though the overhead costs for breaking a new artist internationally can easily surpass the seven-figure mark, the team and fledgling label behind Chopra have taken on the financial risk in the hope that Chopra’s fans in India, the U.K, and other parts of the world will rush to buy her music, which will help her also attract new admirers. They’re modeling their strategy on stars such as Shakira.

Iovine says he’s already encouraged by her media appeal, and has fully devoted himself to perfecting the music before he switches his focus to marketing.

“Marketing an artist with a (fan) base anywhere is easier than marketing an artist with no base at all,” Iovine said. “First you want to make a record that her base will respect and like and feel good about, but then you also want to make a record that can translate everywhere.”

Chopra was introduced to Iovine by Acharia-Bath, whose web site,, is known for fusing western and South Asian pop culture and for spreading the music of major pop stars like Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Akon to Bollywood-crazed fans across South Asia and the U.K. and across the world. The site, launched in 2006, is already a popular destination for fans of Chopra and Lady Gaga. Acharia-Bath is now making a name for herself in music circles a paid consultant who helps de-mystifies the nuanced South Asian market for pop stars and usher them to South Asians in different parts of the world and fans of the Bollywood culture.

Acharia-Bath established a relationship with Lady Gaga’s management team earlier this year. She heard a demo Chopra had recorded with well-known Bollywood producers Salim and Sulaiman. Since she had established a record company in partnership with Universal Music Group in 2010 to sign, develop and market recording artists with South Asian roots, she became curious about Chopra’s interest in music. She flew to India with UMG UK chief David Joseph and Andrew Kronfield, a UMG marketing executive. After they returned, her Desi Hits record label signed Chopra as its first major artist, and Acharia-Bath linked Chopra up with the Gaga camp, which is now managing her.

“We will drive it into the U.S., the U.K., and India, which is the footprint for Desihits,” Acharia-Bath said.

Iovine, who was heavily involved with the soundtrack to the hit South Asian-influenced crossover movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” was skeptical at first. He initially told Acharia-Bath that he would be unable to make a decision based on the music alone, and asked to meet Chopra face-to-face. As he would with any artist coming from outside the U.S., he wondered if her accent would be too heavy for some fans, and if American fans would accept her.

He said he got behind the project partially because he remembered working with a young Enrique Iglesias, watching him explode from catering to a core Spanish audience to becoming an huge international brand.

“The problem with most music today is it doesn’t have an idea. When Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, U2, Snoop Dogg, or Dr. Dre started, they were founded on ideas,” Iovine said. “Lady Gaga is an idea, and Priyanka has an idea. You know what it is as soon as you see it. It’s Bollywood, which we’re all fascinated with, crossing over into western culture.”

While a growing number of pop artists are using music and reality-based videos to create a buzz around their new releases, Chopra’s team plans to create much more content, seeding the Internet with interviews, and long-and-short form documentary style, behind-the-scenes footage that focuses on Chopra’s journey to becoming a pop star.

Chopra’s earliest recordings have mainly utilized modern dance beats. In addition to producers in India, she’s working with top American producers, including Rodney Jerkins, Jeremy Skaller and Wayne Wilkins.

If Chopra is able to convincingly establish herself as a respected singer, she will be a pioneer in South Asia. Currently, most of the top ten hits in India at any given time are songs that are featured in Bollywood films. Bollywood actors often break into song during musical interludes in these films, but they don’t actually sing. “Up to now, all the Bollywood stars have lip synched. They mime to the music that other people have sung,” Acharia-Bath said. “For them to see her be the first Bollywood actress that actually sings her songs will be really cool.”

Anthony Saleh, one of Mr. Carter’s partners at Atom Factory Inc., the company that manages Lady Gaga and other artists, has been working closely with Ms. Chopra for several weeks. Beyond selling music, he said the team plans to leverage her existing notoriety to tap into ancillary revenue streams such as corporate sponsorships, high-fashion modeling, film and television, concert touring, and music publishing. “We plan on developing her as a songwriter,” he said.