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Friday, November 9, 2007

Preity Zinta


Preity Zinta born January 31, 1975) is an Indian film actress who has appeared in Hindi, Telugu and English language movies. A criminal psychology graduate, Zinta made her acting debut in Mani Ratnam's Dil Se in 1998, followed by Soldier in the same year. She won a Filmfare Best Female Debut Award for both films, and was later recognized for her performance as a teenage single mother in Kundan Shah's movie Kya Kehna. Following this, she went on to explore diverse characters, credited with bringing a change in the image of Hindi film heroine.

Zinta received her first Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance in Kal Ho Naa Ho in 2003. She played the lead female role in two consecutive top-grossing films in India—the science fiction film Koi... Mil Gaya, which is her biggest commercial success to date, and the cross-border romance Veer-Zaara, which earned her critical acclaim. She was later recognized for her portrayal of an independent, modern Indian woman in Salaam Namaste and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, overseas top grossers. Zinta has established herself as a leading actress of contemporary Hindi cinema.

In addition to being an actress, Zinta is a columnist, having written several columns for BBC News Online South Asia, and an active stage performer. She is known in the Indian media for publicly speaking her mind and openly expressing her opinions, occasionally surrounding herself with controversy.

Early life and Background

Born on January 31, 1975 in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, Zinta hails from a Hindu Rajput family of Rohru in Shimla district. Her father, Durganand Zinta was an officer in the Indian Army. Durganand Zinta died when Preity was thirteen in a car accident which also involved her mother, Nilprabha Zinta. Her mother survived, but was severely injured and consequently bedridden for two years. According to Zinta, her father's early death was one of her most terrible and helpless experiences and a significant turning point in her life, as she was forced to grow up. Zinta has two brothers, Deepankar Zinta and Manish Zinta, a year older and a year younger, respectively. Deepankar is a commissioned officer in the Indian Army, while Manish is settled in Los Angeles. Zinta, a self-confessed tomboy in the early stages of her life, was influenced primarily by her father. She studied at the Convent of Jesus and Mary boarding school in Delhi, later commenting in an interview with The Times of India, "But I didn't regret spending time away from them (family) because I had a perfect set of friends (at school)." As a student, she developed a love for literature, particularly William Shakespeare and poetry, which led to her taking admission in St Bede's College, opting for English Honours. She was interested in writing poetry herself, and specialized in sports, particularly basketball.

Zinta completed school at the age of eighteen and enrolled at the University of Mumbai. She initially studied for an English honours major, but later decided to pursue an advanced program in psychology. Although she earned a degree in criminal psychology at the St Bede's College in Shimla, Zinta later took up modeling. Zinta's first commercial for Perk chocolates happened in 1996 when she met a commercials director at a friend's birthday party. The director informed her that he had written a script for a commercial which would be ideal for her, and insisted that she attend the auditions. Afterwards, she appeared in several catalogs and other commercials, such as that of Liril.

Early Career (1998-2000)

In 1997, Zinta met director and producer Shekhar Kapur when she accompanied a friend to an audition and was asked to audition herself. After seeing her audition, Kapur insisted that she become an actress. She was originally scheduled to make her screen debut in Kapur's Tara Rum Pum Pum opposite Hrithik Roshan, but the filming was canceled; Kapur later recommended her for director Mani Ratnam's Dil Se.

Zinta started shooting for Kundan Shah's Kya Kehna, but its release was delayed until 2000. The delay of another film, Soldier, meant that her first release was Dil Se (1998) opposite Shahrukh Khan and Manisha Koirala. Her portrayal of a middle class Delhi girl earned her a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award nomination. She played her first leading role in the action drama Soldier, which was one of the biggest hits of the year. Zinta won the Filmfare Best Female Debut Award for her performances in Dil Se and Soldier.

Zinta acted in two Telugu films, Premante Idera (1998) opposite Venkatesh, and Raja Kumarudu (1999) opposite Mahesh Babu. This was followed in 1999 by Tanuja Chandra's thriller Sangharsh, co-starring Akshay Kumar. The film was not a box office success, although Zinta's performance as a CBI officer, a woman of strong convictions, was critically acclaimed.

Breakthrough (2000–2002)

Zinta's first release in 2000 was the drama film Kya Kehna which was delayed since 1998. The film turned out to be a hit. The film was known for taking on the socially controversial themes of single parenthood and teenage pregnancy, and gained Zinta wider recognition as an actress both from the audience and from film critics. Her portrayal of a teenage single mother who tries to fight societal prejudice earned her a number of award nominations, including her first nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare.

Later that year, Zinta starred in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's drama Mission Kashmir alongside Sanjay Dutt and Hrithik Roshan. The film, set in the valley of Kashmir during the Indo-Pakistani conflicts, dealt with the topic of terrorism and crime. The film was the third highest grossing film of the year in India; Zinta played the role of Sufiya Parvez, a TV reporter and the male protagonist's childhood love; her performance was well received. The Hindu wrote, "Preity Zinta is her usual cherubic self and lends colour to the otherwise serious proceedings."

In 2001, Zinta earned positive reviews for her role in Farhan Akhtar's National Film Award-winning Dil Chahta Hai. Co-starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna, the film tells the story of three friends, with Zinta playing a young woman and Khan's love interest, Shalini. Three more 2001 releases featured Zinta, including Abbas Mustan's romantic drama Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, which was released after a one-year delay due to the trial of producer Bharat Shah (see below). The film was one of the first Bollywood movies to handle the taboo issue of surrogate childbirth. Zinta performed the role of a prostitute who is hired as a surrogate mother. Her performance in the film earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare. wrote of her performance, "Preity Zinta, who clearly has the meatiest part of all, makes the best of it. Her transformation from the cocky and unabashed prostitute to a sensitive and warm person is amazingly believable." She was soon recognized for her versatility as an actress, regarded for enacting diverse roles, and credited with bringing a new image for a leading actress in Bollywood.

In 2002, Zinta collaborated once again with director Kundan Shah, playing the main protagonist in his family drama Dil Hai Tumhaara, co-starring Rekha, Mahima Chaudhary and Arjun Rampal. Although it failed to do well at the box office, her portrayal of Shalu, an adopted daughter craving love, was appreciated by critics and earned her positive reviews. Taran Adarsh from noted, "...Preity Zinta, in an author-backed role, who steals the show with a sterling performance. Her scenes with Rekha (second half) and Alok Nath (pre-climax) are simply outstanding. Here's a performance that is sure to win accolades from the junta and critics whole-heartedly.

Success (2003 onward)

Zinta was the female lead in three of 2003's highest grossing films in India—The Hero: Love Story of a Spy, Koi... Mil Gaya and Kal Ho Naa Ho. Koi... Mil Gaya was the biggest hit of the year as well as Zinta's highest grossing movie to date, with a domestic gross of Rs 430 million. Kal Ho Naa Ho, a tearjerker directed by Nikhil Advani and written by Karan Johar, starring Zinta, Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan, was India's second biggest hit after Koi... Mil Gaya and the biggest Indian hit of the year overseas, earning over Rs 600 million worldwide. She played the role of Naina Catherine Kapur, an insecure and angry Indian-American girl, who falls in love with a guy who has a fatal heart disease. Her performance won awards, including the Filmfare Best Actress Award.

In that same year, she acted in Honey Irani's directorial debut, Armaan, alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor. The drama, set in a hospital, deals with the trials and tribulations among its personnel and its principal Dr. Akash, who is desperate to sustain the hospital financially. Zinta played Akash's schizophrenic wife, Sonia Kapoor, and received positive notices for her performance, as well as nominations for Best Villain at different award ceremonies. Taran Adarsh from wrote, "Preity Zinta comes up with another superb performance, essaying her part with utmost sincerity."

In 2004 Zinta acted as the TV journalist Romila Dutta in Farhan Akhtar's war drama Lakshya, co-starring Hrithik Roshan. The film was based on the historical events of the 1999 Kargil Conflict, and Zinta's character was modeled after the TV journalist Barkha Dutt, the only female reporter covering the events. She received mixed reviews; wrote about her, "Zinta has quite a good role and a good deal of footage in the film, and she does a fairly decent job of it without ever being spectacular." Later that year, Yash Chopra chose her for the lead female role of Zaara in the love legend Veer-Zaara opposite Shahrukh Khan, which was the biggest Bollywood hit of that year in both India and abroad, earning over Rs 750 million worldwide. The film, which relates the love story of an Indian officer and a Pakistani woman, received a significant reception worldwide, and Zinta's portrayal of a Pakistani girl was praised. She received her fourth nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare, and won Stardust Star of the Year Award for the second consecutive year. Variety magazine wrote, "Zinta, the most interesting young actress of her generation, is her usual lively self as the willful Zaara." Veer-Zaara was Zinta's second highest grossing film and third major hit in two consecutive years, and marked her entry into Yash Raj Films, one of the largest production houses in Bollywood, which helped consolidate her status in the industry.

In 2005, which saw her appear in two movies, her first release was the folk comedy Khullam Khulla Pyaar Karen, co-starring Govinda, a production which had been delayed since 2002. The film received negative reviews and poor winnings at the box office. Zinta's role was small, and was not well received. Her next release was Siddharth Anand's comedy-drama Salaam Namaste, co-starring Saif Ali Khan. The film was another Yash Raj big budget film and went on to become the year's biggest hit overseas, with revenue of Rs 430 million internationally. It is the story of two Indians who live together without marriage. Zinta played the female protagonist Ambar, a single modern young woman who leaves India to make her own life in Australia. The film was well received by critics, and Zinta's performance earned her nominations for Best Actress at a number of award ceremonies. Taran Adarsh wrote, "After Kya Kehna, Preity Zinta accepts the challenge of portraying an unwed mother yet again in Salaam Namaste. The actor is terrific, delivering her most accomplished performance to date. Her lip locks with Saif Ali Khan will catch a lot of people unaware, but that's the sign of a thorough professional."

Zinta received further success in 2006, starring in Karan Johar's drama Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna along with an all star cast that included Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukerji. The film became one of the biggest box office hits in India, earning Rs 464 million, and grossed over Rs 445 million overseas, the biggest Bollywood hit in the overseas market ever, which simultaneously became her fourth overseas top earner in four consecutive years. The film tells the story of two unhappily married couples in New York, and a resulting extramarital affair. Zinta played the role of Rhea Saran, a stylish and modern fashion magazine editor and her performance was appreciated by critics. One critic wrote "Preity not only looks gorgeous, but the dedication to her role shows at vital points. Her penultimate scene with Rani Mukerji, when she confronts her at the marriage reception, is fabulous." and concluded, "Preity looks glamorous and in a couple of scenes, manages to overshadow King [Shahrukh] Khan too." She then starred in Shirish Kunder's romantic musical Jaan-E-Mann, a story of two guys in the US loving the same girl, co-starring Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. The film received positive reviews from critics, yet performed poorly at the box office.

In 2007 Zinta portrayed the character of a British Pakistani young woman, Alvira Khan, in her third Yash Raj Film, Shaad Ali's comedy Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, alongside Abhishek Bachchan, Bobby Deol and Lara Dutta. The film was a critical and commercial failure in India. The film did better overseas, especially in the UK. She received mixed reviews from one extreme to the other; The Times of India criticized her, saying that, "she is too plastic as the Paki-Brit girl".

Later in 2007, Zinta began working more with art film directors, and turned towards neo-realistic cinemas, known in India as parallel cinema. She acted in her first English film, Rituparno Ghosh's The Last Lear, as a struggling theatre actress opposite Amitabh Bachchan. The film premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, and was well received. The first reviews were positive, with one critic writing "It's great to see her doing a completely natural role. She played her role with real dignity and it was a pleasure seeing her getting back to her initial style of acting". On her first art film, Zinta said "I did think with art films that they don't pay you, they don't feed you, but I was wrong, and I'm so happy to be here". As of October 2007, she is set to star in Jahnu Barua's forthcoming film Har Pall.

Personal Life

Zinta used to visit her native town Shimla when not busy in shooting. In 2006, Zinta moved into her own home in Mumbai. Zinta identifies herself as not of a very religious nature. During an interview with The Times of India, she commented, "But I believe in good deeds, in karma, I don’t believe in going to temples. For me, religion is very personal. It’s all about having faith...We have heard and read that all religions are equal. Now I am increasingly believing in this." Zinta narrowly escaped death twice in late 2004. The first occurred after an explosion at a Temptation concert in Colombo, Sri Lanka; the second occurred during the Indian Ocean earthquake.

During her years in the Indian film industry, Zinta has been the subject of media speculation and numerous controversies, which put her among the most controversial celebrities in Bollywood. In 2003, Zinta was a witness in the Bharat Shah case and his links to the Indian Underworld. Bharat Shah was the financer for the 2000 film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, in which Zinta starred. In 2000, Shah and the producer of the film, Nazim Rizvi, were arrested for having connections with Chhota Shakeel, a Mumbai underworld boss. Unlike several of her colleagues, Zinta stuck by her earliest statement in the court. She informed the court that she had received threatening phone calls from the mafia, attempting to extort money from her while shooting the film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, who told her that she would have to bear the consequences if she did not pay up. Zinta testified that she had confided in Nazim Rizvi about the threatening incident: "He told me not to worry and that everything would be alright. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him if I have any further problems." After that, she was given police protection and was forced to stay out of the public eye for two months. Thirteen other witnesses before her, including celebrities Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, were witnesses in the case but they soon retracted their statements. Zinta was the only witness not to have turned hostile, and her courage to testify was appreciated by the nation. Consequently, she was a special recipient of the annual Red and White bravery awards, for the "Courageous Act" of standing against the Mumbai Underworld. On receiving the award, Zinta said: "To be brave is not to be fearless. It is when you fear and you get over it, then you can be called brave. I am human. It is not that I fear nothing. But getting over a fear is a continuous process and I have been successful so far".

Zinta dated model Marc Robinson for one year in 2000. According to Zinta, they remained on good terms, later commenting in an interview with Filmfare, "We aren't seeing each other anymore, but I have very, very fond memories of the times we were together and I'd like to keep it to that." In February 2005, Zinta began dating the Bombay Dyeing heir, businessman Ness Wadia. Their relationship is frequently reported in the media, and is often subject to speculation in the press of a possible engagement. In December 2006, Ness Wadia was reported to have attacked several construction workers at Zinta's residence in Bandra; reportedly, a woman was critically injured and a child was hurt. Zinta reacted angrily at hearing these rumours on a news channel, declaring strongly it was not true. Zinta lectured the press on how they should conduct themselves, "Please do your homework before you report anything to the nation. You cannot target me and my boyfriend just because I am a film star." She challenged the press and offered Rs 1 million to whoever could find an injured woman. The press found nothing and the rumour was considered to be false.

In March 2007, there was an alleged crisis in Zinta's relationship with Wadia when actress and singer Suchitra Krishnamurthy cited Zinta as the cause of her divorce with Shekhar Kapur, alleging that Preity was having an affair with her husband. Although initially silent on this issue, on further accusation by Krishnamurthy, Zinta retorted, "It is unfortunate that I am bearing the brunt of someone else’s paranoia. She’s clearly unstable and I wish her a speedy recovery." She issued a statement that she had met Kapur only five times in 10 years and demanded that he step into the picture and clear her name from this controversy. Since then, this controversy has come to an end. The tabloids have often linked Zinta with other Bollywood stars, but she has strongly denied these rumours.

Also see : Preity Zinta Gallery


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