Interview: Preity in Dubai

How did Heaven On Earth change the popular actress? Plus what she feels about fame and paani puri

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Deepa Mehta and Preity Zinta introduced their film Heaven On Earth to a gathering of international film directors, actors and film buffs at the recently concluded 5th Dubai International Film Festival.

The movie is about the travails of Chand, a young Indian woman, who has to deal with an abusive husband and a mean mother-in-law, besides life in the completely foreign land of Canada. It straddles two worlds – Chand’s world of violent reality and her much richer and more lovingly imaginative world, that will eventually help her find true freedom.

Masala! had a chat with Preity, who recently won the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the Chicago International Film Festival for her role.

Could you identify with the character of Chand in Heaven On Earth?

I am someone who believes in standing up for myself and also for the person next to me, so it was very difficult to play Chand. But the strength inside her is so powerful. Heaven On Earth is about hope. You don’t need external forces to help you out – it’s within you. It’s about how you use your imagination and will. That is something common to all survivors.

This movie will be an inspiration for women the world over…

I think this is a film that women and men should watch. One very famous woman I know, and whose name I won’t mention, came up to me after watching this film and said, “Every woman has seen domestic violence from some male family member or another.” She then went on to reveal that she had seen her father beat her mother. And I couldn’t help but think about my father and what a great job he has done. He has taught me to reach for the sky but keep my feet on the ground. Where I have reached in my life is due to him.

Do you feel vindicated as an actor after winning the Silver Hugo?

I don’t care about being vindicated and all that. I had never played a rural woman, and I was dying to do it. When I agreed to do Heroes, everyone was telling me not to do it. Similarly with Heaven On Earth, everyone told me it was a wrong move and it’s ‘not up your sleeve’. But how do they know what I am capable of? I have always done what my heart has desired – and so I went for it. I truly believe that we should not fear failure because failure teaches you more than success. And what’s the worst that can happen? You will fail. So what?

How do you deal with fame?

I can’t worry about what others think. If I come across an article on the Internet that is nasty, then I just turn off the computer.

You wake up tomorrow and you aren’t famous – what is the first thing you do?

I’d go for the longest walk and eat paani puri on the streets. I am a mountain girl; I love to walk. When there is an argument, I can’t scream and fight. I need to go out for a walk and clear my head, so that when I come back I can have a civilised conversation. But in India that is no longer possible – which is why I love to go on holiday. I will go anywhere on holiday… the place really doesn’t matter!

Which of your screen characters can you identify with most?

While I don’t think there is a role that I can completely identify with, there are elements in each that I can. Amber in Salaam Namaste is a lot like me, but I would never be in a live-in relationship. And Naina in Kal Ho Naa Ho to a certain extent – if she were not always so pissed off [laughs]. But I think Preeti in Dil Se may have been the closest in most ways.

Did you plan your IPL move?

I don’t plan anything in life. I take it as it comes. I wanted to get into sports at some time but there were no plans. The opportunity came and I grabbed it.

Do you have a stylist?

I don’t have a stylist, but my good friend Surily (Goel) is someone I turn to for advice. If I like two dresses, then I will ask her to select one. She will choose one and then I will end up wearing the other one [laughs].

Preity Zinta’s year ahead

Preity will be seen in 2009 in Har Pal opposite Shiney Ahuja and directed by Jahnu Barua, who previously directed the critically acclaimed Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara.

A change of image

Preity was overheard saying that she is so sick and tired of being construed as bubbly, that she has got bubbles coming out of her ears. Heaven On Earth will see her in a completely different mode.

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