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November 20, 1997


Preity pleasing

V S Srinivasan

Preity Zinta. Click for bigger pic!
Pretty, vivacious, there is no reason Preity Zinta cannot have her run of Bollywood for some time at least. The question is whether the Liril girl, who has started off with plum roles in Shekhar Kapur's Tara Rum Pum Pum, Kundan Shah's Kya Yehi Pyar Hai and Soldier with Bobby Deol, can maintain those standards, the half-life of filmi debutantes being what it is.

Things haven't been helped by the controversies she has got into, and the people she has been linked with. And that she stays alone, in a secluded area, far from the arclights and the glamour-struck masses.

She starts off a trifle snobbishly, a fact we'll put down to initial defensiveness. And begins telling us how she sees herself.

"I am not here for the money; I have a lot of it at home. I am here just because I like to be here. It is fun doing what you want to do in life. I am quite outspoken, but then if I don't like you, I won't yell at you. I shall just ask, 'Who are you?' I don't believe in double standards." So there.

Preity Zinta with Chandrachur Singh in Kya Yehi Pyar Hai.
Before you can get in another word edgewise, she sets off again, this time to clear those myriad controversies surrounding her.

"I have been linked to Kishen Kumar by some stupid gossip magazines and newspapers. Even though you haven't asked me this question, I want you to print that I have no affair with that guy. One magazine also said he bought me a house in Juhu.

"But you can see I live here and I have been living here in this small room ever since I came to Bombay. But then, I am so rich that I can buy 10 houses like the one people claim Kishen bought for me." Well, well, that puts another rumour at rest. But wait, she hasn't quite finished yet.

"Please, I just know the man. And Kishen is the last person whom I would like to have an affair with. I don't mind if they say I have an affair going with Tom Cruise, but not Kishen Kumar. No way!" A little uncharitable the lady is, but her vehemence is, perhaps, understandable.

She is as selective of her films as of the men allegedly in her life.

Click for bigger pic!
"I have innumerable offers," but since she only wants good roles, she's being mighty picky about them. The mistake new girls make, she tells you, is that they start signing up left right and centre. Some films click, some don't. "And the ghosts of all those flops haunt you till eternity. So it is better that I refrain from doing such films at all."

Which is why she picked films like Shekhar Kapur's TRPP. In the fun film, she's playing a bubbly girl, that is, herself, says Zinta, and as she grins, the cute and wide dimple sinks soft and deep into a silken cheek.

But the role that has her jumping is the one in Kya Yehi Pyar Hai with Saif Ali Khan and Chandrachur Singh.

"In the first half of the film, I go for a Casanova (Saif) and is made pregnant by him. But he doesn't want to marry me. I'm aghast but then a friend (Chandrachur) provides solace and even agrees to marry me. By that time I have already decided to raise the child by myself."

Click for bigger pic!
But the protagonist marries the good Samaritan and spurns Casanova reformed. A dream role, says Zinta, for a newcomer, one in which she had sufficient opportunity to display a whole gamut of emotions.

Zinta was born in Himachal Pradesh, where her rich grandparents were part of the high and mighty. "I never had to lift a finger to do anything. Everything came on a silver platter."

It was only in Delhi, where she went to do her bachelor's in psychology that she began modelling to earn a little pocket money. It was also then that she came to Bombay, where, presumably, the Bollywood bug bit and she agreed to do a role for Shekhar Kapur.

The family was stunned, but accepted the fact since it was the famous Shekhar Kapur who was her director. And before they knew it, she had two more movies and the Liril ad on her portfolio.

Zinta seems to know that if things go wrong, she still has a home to go back to. So as long as the going is good, she plans to keep going.

"I know why I am here. I know that I can go back to HP whenever I want. I can study, manage the farmhouse and do a lot things."

Her family wants her back, and the pleas increase every time rumours of her alleged affairs appear in print. Much like she did before, they believe everything they read in the gossip mags.

Amidst all the glamour and glitz, Zinta's studies have already taken a beating.

"I have just missed my paper recently. Earlier, I used to be always studying and my friends thought I was wasting my time.

"Now I am always busy and they tell that I have become a star," she says, with a helpless giggle that has just the tiniest hint of suppressed vanity, and disbelief that she is where she is now.

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