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Bollywood Actress, Preity Zinta TalkAsia Interview Transcript

Airdate: December18th, 2004

LH: Lorraine Hahn
PZ: Preity Zinta



LH: This week on TalkAsia: An Indian Bollywood actress who lights up the screen with her energy and irresistable charm. This, is TalkAsia.

Welcome to TalkAsia. I'm Lorraine Hahn. Indian bollywood star Preity Zinta is our guest this week. She can be bubbly. Tragic. Seductive. Or even a little nerdy. But no matter what role she's played, audiences have fallen in love with her performance. With over 20 films to her credit and several awards, Preity is at the moment on top of her game.

I recently caught up with Preity at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel in Hong Kong. I couldn't help but ask how she's handling all the adulation and pressures that come with being a top Bollywood Actress?

PZ: Well uh, you know, I must tell you that two things in India are religion -- one is cricket and one is movies -- these are two things. I mean, it's great it's absolutely fabulous when people come up and say 'my child is your biggest fan please take a photo with this child'. And the child is an 11 month old baby, you know. So um, but I think film is a part of the Indian way of life and it's been that since years and years and years. Actors in India have a very different equation than actors anywhere in the world with their audiences, and I think that's something really special about Indian movies. And it feels great; it's also a bit scary at some time. In the end of the day you are human, film is a job which is not an individual job you have tones and tones of people behind you -- you have a whole crew of people working. But, an actor is the face of a film so you get all of the good things but you get the bad things also. (LH: True, true) But it's great.

LH: What is it about let's say the film industry that you resent the most, on the flip side?

PZ: What do I hate on the flipside? I don't think I really hate anything that much. Um because when I got into this line I didn't know what to expect, at that point I was just trying to get my lines right trying to get the act proper. And I think, you know there's a line in 'Spiderman' and it says -- "With great power comes great responsibility" and I didn't realize that. But I think what I hate about being in movies is that you're always out in the media, the media is speculating about you. In India we have a lot of gossip magazines, tabloids -- I'm sure you have them all over the world. But you can't sue them, right? (LH: They all talk about the same thing!) Yes, they all talk about the same thing and they eat you for breakfast lunch and dinner. So, if that bit I could change I would change probably that bit.

LH: Are you pretty choosing in the roles that you undertake? (PZ: Yes, yes) What do you look for, how do you pick a role?

PZ: Well, primarily I think I would like to be part of a film that's progressive as well as entertaining, you know? Because in India we have a huge amount of audience that is not educated, and they really look up to films. They (something) movies, they look at actors. So I think it's important to do a film that's fun that's entertaining but has a message. And after that I'd like to do films that are different for me -- if I'm doing a love story then I want to do a war film, if I'm doing a war film then I want to do a story about an un-wed mother (LH: A variety?) Yes, a variety. I think variety is the spice of life.

LH: You have worked with many actors, or co-acted with many actors. Do you have any favourites?

PZ: Well, my favourite is always the recent one I'm working with (Both laugh). That way I don't get into trouble with anybody. But, (LH: What about Shah Rukh Khan? I mean we interviewed him as well...) But I think, I think one of my personal favourites is Shah Rukh, he's one of the best actors I've worked with -- he's amazing to work with. And the best thing about him is he's like me, he's really fast. I mean, we like to come there and...we did this film 'Veer Zaara', our last film together, and I had to give them 102 days for shooting and we finished it in 72 days (LH: Wow). And we finished ahead of schedule, it was great we'd come there and he'd tell me 'Preity, let's shoot two mars and we can get one day off' and I'd be like 'ok!' you know. And he's also a very selfless actor, he's very there as your co-star it's not 'this is my scene and this is my close up'. He's very there, and I think that's great.

LH: There's so much competition out there these days, how do you stay on top?

PZ: Well, there will always be competition, especially in showbiz. There's always someone younger and hungrier standing behind, you there's always someone with more contacts, there's always someone whose grandfather or father is a filmmaker. I think your job is just to be there 100% - you work hard and there are no shortcuts to success. You work really hard, you pick your choices, you make your choices you stick by them and then you just leave it. I think what's most important is you need to disconnect at some point. You work, you put your product there and then you forget about it. (LH: Relax) Because if you're too connected then there's always internal dialogue going on in your head -- 'is it going to work?', 'have I done the right thing?'. I think somewhere you need to disconnect (LH: Right just switch off and find something...) And take off, go for a holiday (LH: Right, and hide. Both laugh)

LH: Your latest movie, congratulations on the release by the way (PZ: Thank you) 'Veer Zaara'. Tell me about it, and why did you pick, you know, to do this particular film?

PZ: Well, first of all it was directed by Mr. Yash Chopra, he's one of India's finest directors. His career spans over five decades and I think for me to be part of this film was an absolute honour. Second, I think the way people think, the way people think, is reflected in their art and is reflected in their cinema. There was a time with Pakistan we were going through a lot of problems, we had a war and we made movies that were war-oriented, we made a lot of films. And I think today with this script, we've reached a stage where people have said' ok, it's time to move on'. And I thought that was a great message to have in a film and I think what our governments can't do -- you know I think people blend better than governments -- what our government cannot do, our cinema can do and this film is truly doing that. It's doing beautifully everywhere, it's doing really really well and the kind of response we're getting from it is incredible so I think everybody looks at this film and goes 'ding!' so that's good. LH: Right, right. Focusing on the positive, right? PZ: Of course.

LH: A different angle to the ongoing problems

Lorraine on cam: Just ahead on TalkAsia-How a simple flip of a coin, changed Preity's life.


LH: Welcome back to TalkAsia. That was none other than Indian Bollywood sensation Preity Zinta in her first movie role from the film "Kya Kehna". Becoming a truck driver, astronaut, and even a nun had crossed her mind as possible career choices. But Bollywood never even made it on her list. Here's more of our conversation, with Preity.

LH: What was your growing up years like? I mean, were you a -- what kind of a child were you, were you a shy, were you as outgoing as you are now? (Preity laughs) Was there a little actress in you...?

PZ: I don't know if I want to answer that, I don't know if I want to answer that. But I was a total disaster I think. I was very very naughty, I was a total tomboy. And um, I got whacked around a lot, I was just really really naughty. (LH: Really? Somehow I can't see that in you. (both laugh)

LH: How did you end up getting into modeling?

PZ: Well,, I think totally by default actually. I think I was 14, 14 and a half. And this friend of mine -- not this friend of mine -- this friend of my aunt's actually, called up and said 'can you send Preity over? We just want to meet her' and they called me over and what had happened they were shooting this Swedish catalogue and the youngest model had fallen sick, she had got the runs, so they told me 'you're going to be a model' and I had these big eyes and I was like 'really?'. And I saw this gorgeous guy standing there and I was like 'wow, I'm going to model with him', and the next thing I know I was in the kid's section and he was in the papa section and I had to pose with him and I think that's how I started my first catalogue that I did. (LH: The list goes on, I'm sure). Yes, but I was never the pouty kind of model (Lorraine laughs). You know, the sweet, cute kind of model. I was never the hot one (LH: Nothing too sexy, hey?) No, no, I was never in that bracket.

LH: Now you went to school and graduated with criminal psychology, correct?

PZ: Yes, I actually did English honors and then I did an advanced program in criminal psychology

LH: What has that got to do with what you're doing now?

PZ: Nothing (Both laugh) But, I never intended to be an actor. It was not something I thought I would be, it was not something I dreamt of. I think it was my destiny to be an actor as Shekhar told me, because my best friend's boyfriend went to audition and I had an exam in the opposite building on male sexuality and I went to pick him up because we were supposed to share a cab, and the director saw me there and asked me to audition (LH: Just like that?). Yes, which I refused to, which I said 'I haven't come to audition' and he took the mic and he said 'everybody, this is a classic case of cold feet, look at her' and my face was all red and I don't know what I did, I did something out there and then he asked me to do the film and I said I was not an actor. And he gave me this big lecture on how I was destined to be an actor, so just to be cool I flipped this coin and I said 'ok, if I'm destined then heads I sign this film and tails I won't. That's as incredible and silly the story is, and it's true (LH: That's amazing). That's how I became and actor and then I got screamed at on sets because everyone was like 'where did she come from?', 'where have you got her from?'. But that's how I learnt on set.

LH: Can you remember the first job that you had?

PZ: Uh, acting? (LH: Acting). Oh yes, oh yes (LH: what was that like?) very tough, very tough. I remember it was my first film called 'Kya Kehna', it was a story of an un-wed mother and it did really really well at that point. But the film that first came out was a film with Shah Rukh, where I had a very small role and that was the one that got released first. But I remember I used to ask my director 'why do I have to do it like this?' and he'd be like 'i'm not talking about you, think like the character' and I'd be like 'ok'. So I think my director took me like how you hold he hand of a child, you know and you make them walk through this tunnel I would say because everything was alien and I realized that acting is not just talent there's a lot of technicality. You have to see that this is the focus points that's the light, you have to catch the light, you have to give your facing. So all these things I just learnt them, and I grew with every film.

LH: When do you think the critics first noticed you?

PZ: I think my first film. I was very lucky with the critics. But the critics are really nice to you when you start off, it's only later that they start badgering you.

LH: Is there a movie you feel most proud of, so far?

PZ: I think all my films. Maybe one or two I wouldn't be that proud of them because uh...but I'm still proud of everything I've done. I've believed in it, I've worked very hard. So even if it was not that great, I'd still be very proud.

LH: So no favourite?

PZ: Favourite would be, I think, 'Veer Zaara' because it's my last one and I gave my life to it. I gave my life to it, I worked very very hard on it. It's the only film where I had to go through various various readings for my diction because I had to speak Urdu, and there was certain pronunciations I had to get right because it was live sound and I used to wake up in the middle of the night and go zarra hayha hahn and go back to sleep, because I would say khan and my director would say 'you cannot say khan it has to be hann. But you know, to say it without stressing on the words and if you've not grown up talking like that it's a bit tough (LH: Yeh, it's difficult). So I worked on it, but it was fun.

Lorraine on cam: Just ahead on TalkAsia- Preity's outlook on life, love and family. That and much more with the Bollywood Superstar, just after the break.


LH: You're back with Talkasia. That's a clip from the 1998 movie "Dil Say", Preity Zinta's first on-screen role with India's Bollywood King, Shah Rukh Khan. They've appeared in multiple hits together since then, including last year's award-winning Kal Ho Naa Ho, and the latest release, "Veer Zaara". When I asked her what are some of the biggest challenges facing female actresses today, she couldn't help but again-mention her favorite acting partner.

PZ: I think the same as anywhere else in the world. I think it's very competitive, I mean women especially even if you have to work 28 hours a day you are supposed to look as though you are fresh as a daisy, you know in the morning. Guys can look all grungy (LH: Unshaven) yes, and they are still macho and cool. I used to always think that women get the raw deal because if you have a 5am shoot call we have to get up at 2am get into hair, make up, wardrobe and then when we have these dances it's always the women that have to do these elaborate dance sequences. But I think I will change my attitude, because I did an action sequence with Shah Rukh in 'Veer Zaara' where we had to be suspended from this harness for 6 hours -- and it killed me, it totally killed me. I was just suspended and my director said 'ok you can come down dressed' and I said 'no, just finish it please' and I think it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life because you are just up in there hanging, you know, you have no balance. And that's when I realized the actors don't get it that easy, you know. We think that ok we have to get into hair, makeup, wardrobe and stuff but then they have to do this whole action sequences or whatever and where they say you have a casting couch or whatever. So I think people treat you the way you wan to be treated by them. I think if you stand there and say 'I'm ready to do anything' then even if someone has nothing to offer they'll still say 'ok, still do anything' you know, but might have nothing to offer. So I think that's anywhere in the world, not just in showbiz it's any job, it's just in our job the lights are on us. (LH: Correct, yes)

LH: You have managed to keep much of your private life, to a certain extent anyway, out of the media. How have you managed to do that?

PZ: Well purely because I think I'm here for the work I do not for the people I see, and I've tried very hard to keep it out of the media. But still there is speculation people always write about I'm dating this one I'm dating that one -- it's never correct because when I'm dating someone I'm always open about it. I just don't like to talk about it.

LH: How do you manage your personal time, your time you mentioned just now when you relax, and when you turn off and disconnect. How do you manage do you travel?

PZ: Yes, holidays. I like holidays, I'm a very outdoor person, I love sport. So I'll take off somewhere, usually I'll go to Australia, I'll go bush walking go down the southern coast. Anywhere, I can just go anywhere -- Thailand, I love Thailand, also I love going there. America, Europe --any place wherever I am I'll take off, switch off my phone hang out with my friends live a normal life.

LH: What about shopping?

PZ: Shopping is lots of fun (LH: And shoes?). Shopping is a lot of fun, but I hate trying on clothes because I think I've done too many costume fittings and trials. I hate trying on clothes. Shoes I love. I mean, I love shoes (both laugh). Anywhere, any place any time you take me to a shoe store.

LH: When I speak to you now I can see a lot of people write how level headed you have remained. How have you stayed so sort of grounded with so many people idolizing you?

PZ: Well, I think it's very important to remember that when I first got into this job, that it's a job in the end of the day. There's a lot of hard work that goes with it, but there's showbiz you know, you live in a bubble and I want to leave this profession at one point, I want to be married and have babies and go away. And if I don't realize that this is a job then I'll start believing that's I'm it -- and the day I start believing that will be the day I die, I think. Because I really don't want to be an ex-film star who lives in the past, and I've seen a lot of that around you so it's very important you take it as a job, you do it as a job, you leave it as a job.

LH: So, do you envision yourself doing this for a long period of time? (PZ: No) And then changing roles? (PZ: No) You don't, so marriage may be on the cards and family and that sort of set up

PZ: I want to have a family, yes. I don't want to be acting until I have gray hair and I'm coloring them and I'm holding my wrinkles and going (acts like an old person!) (LH: Or playing grandma roles, right?!) Oh no never, no grandma for me!

LH: What would you do?

PZ: I don't know, I don't know. But I do believe that in life opportunities come and they knock and its very important that you open that door, you go in that door and make the most out of it. So some opportunity will come for me somewhere, as of now I don't know.

LH: Indian Bollywood sensation-Preity Zinta. And that is TalkAsia this week. Be sure not to miss next week's very special edition of TalkAsia featuring some of the most unforgettable moments from our show this year. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Lorraine Hahn. Let's talk again next week.

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