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Priyanka Chopra Jonas Has Personal Connection to Sexual Assault Documentary “To Kill a Tiger” (Exclusive)

The actress joined Mindy Kaling and Dev Patel as an executive producer of the Oscar-nominated feature ahead of its Netflix debut

<p>Taylor Hill/WireImage; Courtesy of the NFB and Notice Pictures Inc.</p> Priyanka Chopra Jonas in 2023;

Taylor Hill/WireImage; Courtesy of the NFB and Notice Pictures Inc.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas in 2023; 'To Kill a Tiger'

Priyanka Chopra Jonas has joined a project that is near and dear to her heart.

To Kill a Tiger, filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s documentary about a sexual assault survivor in rural India, is nominated in the best documentary feature category at Sunday’s Academy Awards.

Chopra Jonas, 41, who signed on as an executive producer ahead of its March 10 streaming premiere on Netflix, has multiple reasons to “catapult the conversation that this film starts,” as the actress exclusively tells PEOPLE.

Related: Everything to Know About the 2024 Oscars

“I seek and attach myself to work that really pushes the conversations of issues that I feel close to or passionate about, and sexual violence against women definitely is one of them,” says the founder of the production company Purple Pebble Pictures. “In India, we say one-third of women in India have experienced sexual violence, and that statistic has to be higher because of underreporting.”

To Kill a Tiger takes audiences inside one Indian farmer’s quest for justice after his 13-year-old daughter is raped, but Chopra Jonas points out how universally its depiction of “a worldwide epidemic” resonates. “The justice systems in many parts of the world are not the most empathetic to the victims and put them through trauma all over again,” she says.

Chopra Jonas also sees Pahuja’s documentary as a call to action for men. “The film speaks to not just survivors, but their allies as well, men supporting women,” explains the Citadel star. “It’s very interesting to have a window into that and to see how a father fights his entire community, the justice system, against what he's told is the norm for his daughter's rights.”

Ranjit, the farmer and father waging that war, was “very inspiring,” she adds, “knowing how deep-rooted these societal norms are.” Chopra Jonas was born in Jharkhand, India — the same state in which To Kill a Tiger was filmed. “That's what a village in India looks like," she says. "It's very authentically shot.”

The actress saw the movie soon after its 2022 Toronto International Film Festival premiere, and she remembers Ranjit’s struggle moving her to tears for even more personal reasons. “I lost my father in 2013 and he was my biggest champion,” she says. “Ranjit and his quiet resolution — my dad was that kind of champion for me.... There is something about just having a dad that's your champion. That's such a universal feeling.”

Related: Sounding Off on Physical, Emotional & Sexual Assault: 20 Stars Who Gave a Voice to the Voiceless

<p>Elisabetta A. Villa/Getty</p> Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the Rome premiere of 'Citadel' in 2023.

Elisabetta A. Villa/Getty

Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the Rome premiere of 'Citadel' in 2023.

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It’s in that spirit that Chopra Jonas and her fellow producers, including Mindy Kaling and Dev Patel, are “bringing it to its glory on Netflix right before the Academy Awards.”

“I'm very happy to be a part of a group of EPs who are Indian and have come together to support Nisha and her journey to the Oscars,” she says of the “incredible” Pahuja. “We'll be championing her, Mindy, Dev and I.”

As for To Kill a Tiger’s Oscar recognition, Chopra Jonas says it’s another encouraging sign we’re living in “a great time for global cinema.”

“I am so excited to be a part of the entertainment industry at a time where films from all over the world are being accepted,” she says. “Subtitled movies are winning Oscars in main categories. As an artist that started my work in India and had a major career there, I really believe in [being] at the forefront of bringing cinema and filmmakers from different parts of the world into mainstream entertainment, into Hollywood.”

<p>ONF/NFB</p> 'To Kill a Tiger'

ONF/NFB

'To Kill a Tiger'

To Kill a Tiger, she adds, epitomizes that sea change: “Many of the people that I know who have seen it feel like they're looking at a world they have never seen or known. And that's the beauty of cinema.”

Related: Priyanka Chopra Jonas Celebrates Hindu Festival in Sweet Photos with Daughter Malti

It’s why Chopra Jonas will continue to “put my head down and work” as a film producer and activist. “I'm not one to think about what legacy I'm going to build,” she says when asked about passing on values to her two-year-old daughter, Malti Marie, whom she shares with husband Nick Jonas

“The work will speak for itself,” she adds. “To be attached and work with filmmakers like Nisha and be telling stories like To Kill a Tiger, I hope that's my legacy.”

To Kill a Tiger will launch globally on Netflix on Sunday.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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