Preity Zinta: Ishkq In Paris is NOT a comeback
After a sabbatical of four years, Preity Zinta is all set to reboot her acting career with a light-hearted romantic comedy Ishkq In Paris. Apart from being the lead actress in the film, Zinta is also making her debut as a producer with this film.
In this long conversation with Sonil Dedhia, the 37-year-old-actress talks about her involvement in the Indian Premier League (IPL), why she thinks this is not her comeback, and why she decided to venture into production.
Prem Raj directs you for just one song in Main Aur Mrs Khanna and you give him the responsibility to direct your first production Ishkq In Paris?
Prem had first approached me for Main Aur Mrs Khanna but I wasn't signing up for any film at that time.
I told him to come to me only if he had a role that's interesting and not run-of-the-mill like that of an NRI or a simple village belle etc. And that too if the film is being shot in India as at that time I was doing IPL and I had almost stopped working in films.
Heroes was the only film I did during that time because the shooting schedule was of only 10 days and that too in Punjab where I was most of the time because of the IPL.
I have known Prem for 10 years. We were always friends.
When he came to me with this script it was titled just Paris. I decided to produce the film. I wanted to make a small budget film with two newcomers. We decided to write it together. I really did like the basic premise of the script.
Image: Preity Zinta
'Film production is almost crisis management'
This is the first time you are involved in production. What is the most difficult part of producing a film?
Everything was exciting because it was the first time and everything was difficult because it was the first time.
Film production is almost crisis management. When we first shot in Paris, it turned out to be the coldest year in 65 years! The temperature went down to minus 23 degrees. We would forget our access (mark) where we first shot because there was massive snowfall during that time.
We struggled most for continuity. Then we shot in a train and it broke down. We went to shoot in a museum and it had a strike, the airport had a strike. The cold made life so difficult in that part of Europe that the whole system shut down.
Another difficulty was that I was working with a new actor. When you work with somebody new, you have to give him or her time and space.
We are used to doing the shot in one go but the newcomer isn't. If I was just working as an actress I'd have just focused on myself but here I needed to focus on a lot of other things.
How did you choose Rehan Malik who is making his debut in the film?
Prem did most of that process. I usually see the final product. I am not a person who can sit through auditions.
At some point when we were working together a director called me for a film and I told him I would read the script. Prem asked me whether I was working in films again and I said I am still thinking about it.
So he offered me work in my own film.
I was hesitant. It didn't seem like my zone. But the idea kept running through my mind and eventually I chose to work for it.
Image: Rehan Malik and Preity Zinta in Ishkq In Paris
'I have not made this film with any expectations'
When you came on board, did you make any changes to suit your image since it also happens to be your comeback film?
I didn't think of any image. I always believe that as an actor I can add a lot of things to a role but the role itself has to have its own definition.
We focused more on the script. Yes, it did go through some changes when I came into the picture. Audiences know me and have seen me for a long time and I do have an established image.
You have always chosen to do unconventional roles. But you chose to produce a romantic comedy. Were you just making a safe choice?
So do you want me to kill the hero? (Laughs) With Ishkq In Paris there was no thought of conventional or unconventional.
I just wanted to make a film with some sensibility. It can't just be all fluffy and frothy sans any meaning.
Life today is very fast. But fast doesn't mean there isn't depth in people any more. You still want the simple things in life that make you smile. It is just that the way of getting those simple things has changed.
From a producer's point of view, do you think this genre was commercially more viable than any other genre?
I have not made this film with any expectations. I have made it with a lot of sincerity and hard work.
Any film you make with a lot of hard work and good intent will work. Aamir Khan started his production house and made a kid's film Taare Zameen Par, which was really unconventional. But there was truth to it. He made it earnestly and with conviction.
So I think you just have to be honest with what you do. Sometimes your hard work pays off and sometimes it doesn't, but that's the chance you've got to take.
Image: Preity Zinta
'Salman is like the trump card of my film'
Any particular reason to rope in Salman Khan for the film despite your being on good terms with his rival Shah Rukh Khan?
I am probably the only actor who is friends with almost every actor.
Now to prove that to the media do I have to call all of them? We needed somebody so I asked Salman. He said yes, so what do I do? (laughs).
I went to him, he saw the song and took a brief of the film from me and agreed to do it. He adjusted all the dates and in between gave me a few days for the song. He is like the trump card of my film.
So this wasn't a give and take between the two of you since you did a song for him in Main Aur Mrs Khanna?
I don't look at it that way. My relationship with Salman isn't from Main Aur Mrs Khanna. We have been friends right from the time of Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega.
We have gone through various ups and downs together—from those court cases to the tapes. There's so much history we share.
He has always stood like a rock with me. Even when the IPL fiasco happened he was one of the only people who came forward ready to help me whichever way I wanted, emotionally, financially etc.
The fact that Prem did his first film with Salman also inclined us towards him.
Image: Preity Zinta and Salman Khan in Ishkq In Paris
'Comeback is what Sridevi is doing'
What is more challenging, making a comeback or starting new? And do you think actresses have a shelf life?
First of all I don't think I went anywhere. I am not making a comeback.
Comeback is what Sridevi is doing. My entire career wouldn't be as long as the break she took to return to celluloid.
I recently heard about an article that said Rani was making a comeback too! This is all media terminology. I don't think there is any comeback.
I had worked hard for many years only to reach a point where I said to myself: now what? I have worked with the best of filmmakers, done the best of films, now what?
When you reach that place you move to another zone. When I came to the industry I'd said that films are a part of my life. But I don't see my whole life as a film.
One day I made up my mind to do something new. I always wanted to run a sports school. That's when the idea of a cricket club came in.
At the time it meant an investment of five million dollars which I thought I could do. Two of my partners put in half the money and I put in the other half.
When I bid for a team everybody was surprised. Once I bought the team I realised I knew nothing about it. People just considered me to be dumb, which annoyed me. So I worked in the IPL, I went to Harvard, I did business school. I did everything I could to learn this business and then I got obsessed with IPL as it was something new I was doing.
Now it's been four years. My company is doing great. I don't see myself doing anything more.
It's difficult to do anything in this life if you want to do it well. There's no hard and fast rule that because you have done one thing well you will do the second thing well too. In fact, the second time you have to put in more effort.
Image: Preity Zinta
'I did go a little over budget with my film'
You have been a successful actress and a successful businesswoman with IPL. What has it taught you?
That there is no shortcut to hard work.
The second thing that I learnt is that you will always be criticised for your work.
Some people might admire you and some will be jealous but there is always criticism.
I am a very competitive person. I do things to prove something to myself and not to the world. The competition is with yourself.
Irrespective of your profession I believe it is always good to wish good for everyone. I also learnt that life is ruthless. Even if I think in my mind that I am a good actress, I still have to give a good performance in all my films.
Also, I think people always remember the one wrong thing that you have done against the ten good things.
Today, when I see that a film's budget is Rs 20 crore I don't feel astonished. I am not saying it in an arrogant manner but IPL has taught me to think big. Teams in IPL get a budget of Rs 60 crore to buy players during the auction season.
As a producer was it difficult to manage the whole crew? There were reports that you went over budget for the film.
I did go a little over budget with my film. I couldn't have done anything to stop it. We were shooting in Paris and Prague and we faced the coldest winter Europe has faced in the last 65 years.
I remember some years back I was shooting in South Africa and suddenly there was a storm and the whole set was demolished.
The producer had to put up the whole thing again. At the time I just enjoyed it because I got a day off. Today I realise how difficult it is if the film is delayed even by a day.
Image: Preity Zinta
'I don't play games, I've always been honest and forthright''
You have proved yourself as an actress. Now that you are coming back after a gap of four years how has the industry received you?
I learnt one thing in the industry—that when you are nice to people, people are also nice to you.
Someone from the industry has told me that I am nice with all the people and that is why I am friends with everybody.
Even when people don't get along with each other I am friends with them because I make my own individual relations with people.
I have always been honest and forthright. I don't play games. If a filmmaker approaches me and if I don't like the script, I clearly tell them that I can't see myself fitting into the character, rather than give lame reasons and delay by saying I don't have dates.
You have always spoken your mind. Has it ever backfired?
No, it has helped me. It has put me above the rest. I have also learnt to shut up at times when my opinions are not required.
I would like to share my opinions with someone who appreciates them. I have grown up and matured with time.
Image: Rehan Malik and Preity Zinta in Ishkq In Paris
'Ranbir is on his way to become a superstar'
Has your film career been affected by your interest in the IPL?
I made an investment of around Rs 40 crore in IPL five years ago, which is a lot of money. I had never seen that much money in my entire life but I wanted to be a part of it because I was really excited.
It was my team and my project. I made a clear choice that I would give complete attention to one thing and I chose IPL.
The same thing happened when I had signed my first film Solider. I was shooting for the film and at the same time I was in my final year of studying criminal psychology. I told the producer that I will give my exams.
We were shooting in Rajasthan. I left the sets for eight days to give my exams because that's what my parents wanted me to do.
You are also writing a book. Tell us something more about it.
The idea of this book came from a thought about accountability in the media. I'll give you an example: the other day I came off a flight and got hounded by people and a lot of photographers who were trying to actually pounce on me and push me.
I had caught the flight after shooting non-stop for a night and got delayed for two hours because our bags hadn't arrived. We are also human beings. Photographers could have requested me and I have never said no to them.
The next day newspapers carried a picture of me covering my face and saying that I was hiding something or I had done something to my face.
The book will have all the fake articles published about me across all the newspapers.
It will have an explanation of each article along with the journalist's name. I want to clear all the wrong stories written about me.
My mother reads them and gets upset, which is very unfair. I don't want my kids to read these articles in future and feel bad about their mother.
The book is very much in demand and every publisher is after it. The book will also have incidents from the business world including IPL. A lot of actors have also approached me with their fake articles and they want me to put it in my book.
Who do you think from the current generation has the potential to be a superstar?
The media should not tag actors as superstars from their very first film. They should be given time to prove themselves.
Aishwarya, SRK, Salman are superstars and one person who I think is on his way to be a superstar is Ranbir Kapoor.
He is a superb actor. I have seen all his films and I would say that he is really good.
Image: Preity Zinta