Sunshine girl Zinta is back in films

Preity Zinta is Bollywood’s equivalent of America’s sweetheart. She’s charming and exudes that best-friend vibe. Perhaps that’s why certain directors have categorically told her that she can never look poor on the big screen.

“They felt I had this westernized, urban image,” said Zinta in an interview with tabloid!

“Even if I did films such as Veer Zaara or Heaven On Earth, people still labelled me as that chirpy, modern girl. It’s a tag that stuck even if I did serious roles,” she added. Instead of resisting the tag, the 38-year-old actress is now capitalizing on that sunny image. After a gap of five years, Zinta turns producer with romantic drama Ishkq In Paris, for which she has co-written the script with director Prem Soni. “I play a career woman who’s not over-the-top bubbly. There’s a lot of depth in my role. Every girl out there will identify with my character,” said Zinta, who cautions us not to expect a typical Bollywood song-and-dance film.

“We have kept the film realistic. I have always wanted to make films of substance,” said Zinta. The movie stills may not scream realistic (think Zinta in winter-inappropriate mini-skirts in the streets of Paris), but the actress is confident about its success. The film also features French actress Isabelle Adjani.

“It has been an incredible journey. All that could go wrong in Paris went wrong. When we were shooting, it was the coldest winter in decades and it wasn’t easy. Our director was diagnosed with cancer and he lost his loved one, so it got delayed further. But when my mother saw the full film, she just hugged me and said she was proud of me because I had made a clean film. That felt good. All’s well that ends well.” said Zinta.

“As an actor, I am in an interesting and exciting phase now.”
Three years ago, if you had asked me about what phase I was in, it would have been a difficult to answer. I was doing the same kind of roles. But now, I feel re-engerised and inspired. The break did me good. When you step away from doing something that you have always been doing and then your return to it, you have a different perspective. You get that desire and the will to strike at everything. When you see this film, I hope you see a different Preity.

But strangely, when one of my friends saw me on the big screen, she screamed: “you are back, you look the same.” That was funny and I felt silly at intellectualizing every thing. As a performer, I believe there’s a maturity to my performance. When you live in a studio, you live in a cocoon. But when you step out of that, there’s so much more to experience and absorb.

“Two things remained constant: No matter what roles I did, I was always labelled a bubbly actress. The second bit was that I can only play the urban, NRI chick.”

After I acted in Salaam Namaste and Jaan-e-mann, every big filmmaker offered me similar sunny roles. But I felt the strong need to experiment and have a good body of work. Having said that, if you look at my work I have probably done a variety of roles and taken risks early on in my career.

Remember, I started my career with an unwed mother story [Kya Kehna]. When Dil Se’s 20-minute role was offered to me, no heroine wanted to do it since it was not a main lead, but I took it on. Then, I went on to play a CBI officer [in Sangharsh] and a prostitute [Chori Chori Chupke Chupke]. But irrespective of what roles I played, that image of a bubbly girl who is always energetic stuck. Perhaps that’s because I have a similar personality. Even when I did roles that were not just about playing happy girls in films such as Mission Kashmir and Lakshya, I couldn’t shrug off that label. Also, people looked me up for playing Western, city-bred girl roles. I felt limited. Barring Veer Zaara and a few others, I wouldn’t get many typical Indian girl roles. Some people even said: ‘oh, you don’t look poor’. In 2008, I just decided that there will come a time when I am dead and gone and I only have a body of work to show. That was when I did films like Last Lear and Deepa Mehta’s Heaven On Earth. They were serious roles.

“Ishqk in Paris taps into modern-day relationships.”
The film is contemporary. I don’t play a teeny-bopper. I play a career woman who’s not over-the-top bubbly. There’s a lot of depth in my role. The tagline of the film [“This summer, don’t look for love”] encapsulates the spirit of the movie. We may have grown up wishing that [to] find Mr Right and live happily ever after. But when you grow up, you realize that it doesn’t work out in today’s day and age.

These days, you even break up with somebody with an SMS or when you date a woman you have ten other options. It’s that kind of generation where not everybody thinks their first relationship is their last one.

“We have kept Ishkq In Paris realistic.”
We were involved in the writing and we wanted our movie to reflect what was happening in 2013. I play a character called Ishkq. She’s half-Indian, half-French and is a fashion photographer. She’s confident and has been knocked down a few times in life. There’s a line that defines my character in the film: “Ishkq is a photographer and loves photography because pictures are perfect. They don’t change with time.” She loves perfection.

“It took us time to get in touch with Isabelle Adjani.”
We wanted her in the film at all costs. We tried getting in touch with her, but she was filming. So we sent her the script in English and also another one in French. A week after reading the script, she was on board.

“I love Salman Khan, he’s my closest and most solid friend.”
I am going to digress a bit here: I have always wanted to make films that are entertaining and progressive. We didn’t want to indulge in any publicity gimmick that’s cheap and vulgar. Salman’s appearance in the film is logically justified. Having said that, Salman did not read the full script. I told him about his role and his answer was: “anything for you Zinta”.

I kept asking him: “Don’t you want to know?” and he would respond: “It’s not like I am there from start to end”. But you should see the part that he’s in. His presence overshadows the music and the dancers. The scene where I see him on stage and jump up from my chair is what I have observed when people see Bollywood stars.

Preity’s guide to Paris:
Go up the Eiffel Tower: “Always go up the tower in the evening. Be there when the sun goes down, it’s the most stunning sight on the planet. Watching the city lights come up is amazing.”
Don’t miss the lock bridge: “It’s the most romantic spot in Paris. You will find lovers engraving their names on a padlock, leaving it on the bridge and throwing its key into Seine. It symbolizes eternal love.”

Hit any coffee shop, order crepes and people watch: “It’s great to watch the world go by in Paris.”
Shop on the Champs-Élysées: “Your trip is incomplete without visiting this fashion haven.”

Tip the cabbie: “It always helps because the French cabbies will insist on dropping you where they feel is right as opposed to where you want to go.”

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