Preity Zinta: You walk into a man’s world and you are asked, what are you doing here?

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Preity Zinta
Preity Zinta

Actor Preity Zinta doesn’t like tardiness, and so, we are dot on time for this interview, although she still wishes we were 10 minutes early. “You know how in India, everything happens late,” she says as she poses for the photographer on the terrace of her Pali Hill home. “This light is perfect. We can’t take any pictures inside — there is no depth there, and there are too many mirrors.”

Zinta, who we remember for her performances in Dil Chahta Hai and Kal Ho Na Ho, and now as the owner of the IPL cricket team Kings XI Punjab, has a manner that’s easy and matter-of-fact, far from the nervous energy persona she has been stuck with.

Her trademark curls are in place and she seems content and raring to go. She smiles dreamily when we ask her about husband Gene Goodenough, with whom she has just spent time in Los Angeles, before heading back. And she already has her hands full — along with working on an emergency response service for women, she is also waiting for the release of her latest film, Bhaiyyaji Superhitt with Sunny Deol.

This is Zinta’s first Bollywood release in three years, but she has been in the news. Recently, she made headlines when it was speculated that the character played by Richa Chadda in the Farhan Akhtar-Ritesh Sidhwani produced web series, Inside Edge — a behind-the-scenes ‘fictional’ scoop on IPL — was based on her. She speaks of that and more. Edited excerpts from the interview.

Tell us about Kavach Safety.
Firstly, it’s not an app. It’s more of a holistic system that’s been made available through an app. It has many aspects to it. For instance, you can call for help from the police at the press of a button; there’s an insurance cover if for instance, you have to go to the hospital, and there is victim advocacy. I would launch it tomorrow, but I want to be thorough with the job. Our crowd funding will open at the end of month, so that people can donate, and we can get the app price down from R418 to R300. We will also be giving out free subscriptions to those who can’t afford it.

You recently spoke about being molested.
Do you know any woman in this country, who hasn’t gone through it? Why did it become the headline? The most misused word in the media is “molested”. It devalues the woman. The Delhi gang rape case bothered me. It was a turning point. I think it was the violence [that moved me]. So, I needed to give back — it’s not about doing better for people, but doing better for yourself.

What does the future look like for Kings XI Punjab?
We are waiting for the new digital rights to come through, and then a lot of things will fall into place. Ten years have passed. That’s quite impressive. I am working on a book too, about my journey in the IPL.

Are you still upset with your ‘portrayal’ in Inside Edge?
Considering I gave that interview [where she said she was upset] on a full moon, I think I sort of freaked out. But I think I am going to put it to rest. I don’t want my name associated with just about anything. After I reacted, my name stopped getting associated with it, so I am happy.

But being a woman in the IPL surely isn’t easy.
I have had to work thrice as hard in this field than in films. That’s because in the movies, I was a heroine. I was doing a girl’s job, and nobody tells you how to be a girl. But the minute you walk into a man’s world, you are asked ‘what are you doing here?’ I have been discriminated against lesser by the men and more by the media. I want all journalists who did stories on me to look back at what they wrote. I have kept cutouts [of the articles], because I never speak without doing research. Even the female journalists judged me, and I would wonder, I didn’t have to go through all this as an actor! Perhaps I would have if I had tried to be a hero.

With Kings XI Punjab spinner Axar Patel. Pic/PTI
With Kings XI Punjab spinner Axar Patel. Pic/PTI

So, what’s the best part of the IPL?
It’s rewarding, especially when you win the tournament. The journey has been great. I have worked hard with the boys. There are no short cuts. Wait for my book! But really, there are hardly any women — just the two of us [Zinta and Shilpa Shetty]. I don’t like it when people IPL-bash. IPL has opened a door, or a life, for sportspeople. Don’t malign things just to be controversial.

Coming back to the movies, where do you see yourself in the Bollywood landscape now?
It’s a gut level thing for me — all about how I react to something. How can I say yes to something, and then change everything about it? I don’t mind if it’s a 20-minute role, but I need to be able to visualise it. My motivation is not money — though I have done movies for money because I wanted to buy a house. I actually thought I was done with movies, but people on social media reached out and made me feel the love. I actually wanted to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur, which nobody does if you are an actor. But I realised being an actor is who I am, and I can’t forget that.

Has marriage changed you?
It has. I love my mother more. And, because I married an American, I have become more Indian. And now, I think for another person too. I think as a unit. Besides that, I am the same — because too much change is not good. It’s only change that is inspired by yourself that’s good.

Also see: Then and Now: Smriti Irani’s journey from a model to Union Minister
Then and Now: Smriti Irani's journey from a model to Union Minister

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